Inner City Business Growth

ICIC’s knowledge of urban entrepreneurs and small business growth is based on more than two decades of research and practice. Our research leverages data and learnings from our four urban business initiatives, which are programs dedicated to supporting the growth of inner city businesses. We survey the fastest-growing inner city companies annually and capture important information on how inner city companies access capital.

This unique knowledge and data, combined with our network of more than 12,000 inner city companies and thousands of organizations that support inner city businesses in every major city across the country, allows us to develop truly unique research insights on inner city entrepreneurs and strategies to support the development of urban businesses in the areas that need them most.

Our most recent research, Helping Entrepreneurs of Color Grow their Business: Early Insights from the Ascend 2020 Initiative, completed with the support of JPMorgan Chase and in partnership with the University of Washington Foster School of Business’ Consulting and Business Development Center, identifies the strategies needed to help entrepreneurs of color overcome the unique challenges they face as a result of structural biases in entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Read our Executive Summary, released at the Congressional Black Caucus 48th Annual Legislative Congress in Washington, D.C. in September 2018.

The Big Impact of Small Businesses on Urban Job Creation: Evidence from Five Cities (2016) highlights the economic power of businesses with less than 250 employees in five cities—Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. We find that small businesses are a critical source of jobs for residents in inner city neighborhoods. City leaders need to support small business growth in their cities with the same resources and intentionality that is devoted to the attraction and retention of large businesses. In this report, we outline a playbook with five strategies city leaders should implement to maximize small business job creation in their cities.

Read Next City‘s take on this research in their post, Where Small Businesses are Powering Inner City Neighborhoodsand learn more via our blog in Governing

Read about how this research is informing JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward initiative in The Atlantic’s blogsCities Need Small Business Growth Strategies, and Incubating Progress, One Small Business at a Time.

In 2019, ICIC and JPMorgan Chase updated the Big Impact report to examine small businesses in ten cities—Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Houston, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle. The 2019 update reinforces the important findings of the earlier report, including the importance for local governments and economic development organizations to continue the prioritization of strengthening and growing small business ecosystems.

Read our Executive Summary blog post, released in August 2019, which highlights ICIC’s research that small businesses remain vital drivers of job creation in cities across the U.S.

Creating Inclusive High-Tech Incubators and Accelerators: Strategies to Increase Participation Rates of Women and Minority Entrepreneurs (2016), also sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, identifies the barriers women and minority entrepreneurs face in accessing high-tech incubators and accelerators and makes the case for why solving this issue is critical to increasing the numbers of these underrepresented entrepreneurs. This report also sets forth a set of strategies that incubators and accelerators can adopt to address the barriers and become more inclusive.

In October 2017, ICIC hosted a national conversation based on this report at the Roxbury Innovation Center in Boston. Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, the Boston Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Catalyzing Inclusivity in Incubators and Accelerators featured an exciting lineup of expert speakers, and convened 150 entrepreneurs and leaders from across the U.S. You can view the full program here and learn more by reading our recap blog.

Financing Growth: A Practical Resource Guide for Small Businesses (2015), sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, is a concise guide for businesses exploring outside capital sources. Today’s entrepreneurs have perhaps more capital options to choose from than at any other time in history, with new financial products and organizations being created each year. While this influx is exciting, it complicates an already difficult issue for entrepreneurs: How can businesses find the “right” capital to support their growth?

Our 2014 report, The Missing Link: Clusters, Small Business Growth and Vibrant Urban Economies, was used as a framing document for JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward initiative, which offers critical support for urban entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them. Missing Link analyzes small business development strategies in the nation’s ten largest cities and makes the case for cities to align their programs and strategies for supporting small businesses with their cluster growth initiatives.


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