Inner cities in the United States account for 15 percent of all unemployment, 23 percent poverty, and 34 percent of minority poverty. In Hartford, approximately five percent of adults are unemployed and over 31 percent of all city residents live below the poverty line with 76 percent of those being minority residents.
Research shows that there is a significant gap in access to capital for many inner-city entrepreneurs, especially among minority- and women-owned businesses. According to the United States
Minority Business Development Agency, minority- and women-owned businesses receive lower loans at higher interest rates and are denied loans at a rate of 42 percent, compared to 16 percent among white-owned businesses. Connecticut organizations working with small and medium-sized businesses, including the Regional Advisory Committee, which is developing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), acknowledge the need to provide additional support for businesses ready for a second stage of growth.
The Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) Hartford area program was first seeded by a $25,000 grant provided through the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. To fully implement the program, the Hartford Foundation awarded the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) a two-year grant, $275,000 to bring the ICCC program to Harford and its surrounding communities.
“The Hartford Foundation has invested substantially to support education, job training, and workforce development programs to provide residents with the skills they need to obtain living-wage jobs,” said Hartford Foundation President Jay Williams. “In our latest strategic plan, we are focusing on reducing disparities based on race, place, and income. We know that one of the greatest challenges facing low-income people of color and women in urban communities is finding jobs after they have developed their skills. Local businesses drive our region’s economy, and this new program provides the additional knowledge and resources needed to increase business revenue, which can help grow our local economy and create new jobs.”
Implemented in 13 cities, including Boston, Baltimore, Chicago, Memphis, and Philadelphia, ICCC supports diverse business owners in building capacity for sustainable growth in revenue, profitability, and employment. ICCC provides a tuition-free 40-hour leadership-training program that includes an educational seminar and webinar series, where participants learn strategy, leadership, team building, entrepreneurial finance, marketing, and financial options from top business faculty, CEOs, and capital providers. The program also offers one-on-one coaching with local and virtual mentors ranging from small business bankers to top consulting firms. At the culminating national conference, participants apply their training to connect with different capital providers, including private equity, venture capital, angel funds, and commercial banking.
“Hartford’s small businesses serve our community, employ our community, and they’re a crucial driver of growth – but in far too many cases they don’t have enough access to capital and support they need to grow,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “This groundbreaking partnership will give Hartford small businesses access to the full range of services offered by Inner City Capital Connections, from one-on-one coaching to connections to lenders, and we’re excited to bring it to Hartford after its success in cities like Boston and Philadelphia. I want to thank the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for their crucial, strategic investment in this program and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City for their partnership.”
ICCC partners with local organizations serving Hartford area small businesses, city officials, local anchor institutions, and community lenders to nominate business owners to participate in their program. More than 50 individuals representing local financial institutions, hospitals, higher education, nonprofits, and business organizations attend a breakfast hosted by the Hartford Foundation on February 25 at the Chrysalis Center. These partners and other leaders were convened to nominate business owners for the program. The ICCC Hartford area program begins with an all-day Opening Seminar on May 29.
“These are companies that on average have been in business about 16 years, but they’re stuck,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. “No one has ever taught them strategy, marketing, team building, or entrepreneurial finance. No one has ever introduced them to the different kinds of capital and helped them create a pitch deck where they could go to a lender or investor and say, ‘Here’s how much I need, here’s what I need it for and here’s how I’m going to pay you back.”
The Hartford area program will target small- and medium-sized businesses that have been in operation for at least two years, and have a strong growth potential, that need guidance on getting access to capital and building their capacity. ICCC is designed to address the needs of urban entrepreneurs identified by its research in accessing capital, leadership and management education, and enhanced business networks and visibility.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $758 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.