The Baltimore cohort enrolled in the Inner City Capital Connections program previously met in person at Morgan State University, but the pandemic has forced the program to go virtual. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a national nonprofit dedicated to inclusive economic prosperity for under-resourced communities, is inviting Baltimore small business owners to apply to its Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) program. ICCC will allow the entrepreneurs to participate in a tuition-free, 40-hour mini-MBA program that combines executive education, webinars and one-on-one coaching. The deadline to apply is Friday

“The goal of the entire program is to create sustainable small business ecosystems that can eventually create wealth by their owners, help close the racial wealth gap, help reduce concentrated poverty and create something that can truly revitalize these neighborhoods that have not had a cohesive strategy for a long time,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of the ICIC. 

This is the fourth time that the ICCC program will be run in Baltimore, and Grossman attributed its success to the strong relationship ICIC has built with local partners. The organization’s primary relationship is with the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development, and the office has nominated over 800 small businesses to participate in the program this year. 

From their participation over the years, the 232 ICCC alumni in Baltimore have averaged a 57% growth in revenue and raised over $3.2 million in capital. In 2020, 88% of the Baltimore cohort was Black, indigenous, or person of color-owned, and 62% of the businesses that participated were owned by women.

Steve Grossman, CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, runs the mini MBA program. This is the fourth time that Baltimore will be involved in Inner City Capital Connections. (Courtesy Photo)

“ you’ve got a huge number of businesses that are potentially poised for growth if they have the resources to grow,” said Grossman. 

Thanks to sponsorships from Kaiser Permanente and the Abell Foundation, business owners will incur no costs to participate in the program. Kaiser Permanente’s funding for the 2021 Baltimore cohort is a part of its $100 million commitment that the health care company announced last June to advance racial equity and help small businesses owned by people of color overcome systemic economic disadvantages, according to Celeste James, executive director of community health. 

“One thing that we know is that there is a connection between health and wealth. People who are well educated and have access to economic opportunity tend to be healthier,” said James. “Given that connection, Kaiser Permanente has made a commitment to support and improve economic well-being as a part of our health care model so this support of small businesses is tied to that understanding.” 

Bree Jones, founder of the Baltimore equitable development company Parity, participated in the program in 2019 after being nominated by Kaiser Permanente, and said she enjoyed her experience. Jones attended ICCC’s national conference at its headquarters in Boston and there, she won the “gentle” Shark Tank pitch competition. She remains in touch with business owners she met there, and they continue to send her resources to help her in running Parity. 

“It’s a good opportunity to meet other small business owners in the ecosystem and build connections,” said Jones. 

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