St. Nick's Urban Mall Supporting Small Businesses in Urban America

Inner City Businesses: Urban Entrepreneurship Success With Assisted Initiatives

Overview of Washington DC

Overview of Washington DC

The American inner city is easy to ignore, particularly with non-inner city urban centers thriving and bustling. But for those who are looking to stay local and true to their inner city neighborhood, such as Washington D.C., starting up a business in hopes that it grows and flourishes can be a daunting task without their proper resources, avenues and strategies in place. The truth of the matter is, revitalizing such inner city business activity is crucial for local employment opportunities, which have a rippling effect on the economy of the state and the country as a whole.

This revitalization can come after peeling through the veils of negative images of inner city opportunities. The fact is, there is plenty of opportunity for healthy businesses to grow in inner city cores, in cities like Washington DC., and it is only through acknowledging and accepting this fact that economic development can begin and soar. Dealing with present hurdles and disadvantages of inner city business locations is also an important challenge that must be dealt with – this can only be done with the help of agencies associated with the government or other non-profit organizations to provide the knowledge and financial assistance to properly plan, execute and invest in successful inner city businesses.

Washington corridor

Washington corridor

There are always government agencies that can be tapped into for assistance for capital and other managerial assistance. The SBA (Small Business Administration) has been working to boost entrepreneurship in various U.S. inner cities in underserved markets. In areas suffering from unemployment and poverty that were historically ignored, the SBA has been making efforts to reach out to these centers and bolster entrepreneurial success in order to create new jobs, attract private investment, and create a more stable economic base.

Part of the problem that inner city businesses are facing is the difficulty in gaining access to the capital necessary to get their business off the ground without fizzling out soon after take-off. As such, the SBA has modified its loan program to make it much simpler for lenders and borrowers to use funds necessary for inner city business ventures. In fact, according to the SBA’s Office of Advocacy, inner city businesses are the largest source of new jobs in inner cities. With such promise, it’s essential to continue to provide inner city business owners with the financial means and planning requirements necessary to continue its growth.

To further enhance the efforts of revitalizing inner city business growth, the SBA has also been working along side with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) to support the financial and enriching needs of up-and-coming inner city businesses.

For almost 20 years, ICIC has been studying inner city economies in 100 U.S. areas, in addition to providing consulting services. From this, ICIC has uncovered a set of strategies and best practices in order to assist inner city companies to grow and create employment opportunities for locals in their communities.

Urban Centre in Washington DC

Urban Centre in Washington DC

ICIC uses an approach to help identify market opportunities for retailers looking to open up shop in particular urban centers. This organization also helps to promote access to much-needed capital so that inner city businesses owners can get off to a healthy start. ICIC also educates business owners and managers to give them the tools necessary to continue to lead their company to grand success.

But it is the private sector that truly needs to be mobilized to play a central role in developing the economy in these inner city centers. The good news is that the private sector has finally taken notice of the potential of inner city business success, and the positive ripple effect it can have on employment for locals and on the economy of the entire city as a whole. As such, investments have already begun in inner cities of Washington DC and other American inner cities to break down negative perceptions of inner city economy and eradicating long-standing problems in these areas. With continued efforts, private sectors and other organizations can start turning from direct financial and managerial help to preparing and training the business owners of these inner city companies to promote a healthy business environment.

FoBoGro - One of Washington's Fastest Growing Inner City Companies

FoBoGro - One of Washington's Fastest Growing Inner City Companies

Case in Point – FoBoGro

Every year, ICIC puts out a list of 100 of the fastest growing inner city businesses in the country. These companies are being run by some of the most innovative and hard-working entrepreneurs, who are also creating solid job opportunities for many locals. These Inner City 100 companies are literally putting inner city America to work, while revitalizing these communities at the same time.

FoBoGro – or ‘Foggy Bottom Grocery’ – is an inner city Washington D.C. grocery store and sandwich shop that gas rapidly grown into substantial profits since its inception. This bustling business got some assistance from investors who believed in the integrity of the inner city business model, through the George Washington University alumni network. Owners Kris Hart and Devlin Keating initially purchased this dwindling business, and used all resources necessary to turn it around into a million dollar company. Kris and Devlin were able to realize a 33% growth over 5 years, and turn out $1.1 million in revenues in 2010.

Initially a grocery store, Kris and Devlin added an eatery aspect to it to attract even more customers. Located near a local college, FoBoGro offers students a one-stop-shop for all their grocery needs. To take things a step further in support of the community, this grocery store employs local college students to help keep the economy going in this area of Washington D.C.

It’s a fact that inner city businesses create 3 times more jobs for inner city locals than other businesses outside these areas. This proves that not only should private investors look more favorably to these inner cities for economic investment and expansion, but also that inner city businesses can thrive and enjoy amazing competitive benefits.

Overcoming the Undervalued Inner City Economy in Miami

Miami at a glance

Miami at a glance

Trying to convince retailers to open up shop in Miami’s inner cities can be a tough sell. The perception is that inner cities in Miami – and other parts of the country – simply don’t have the purchasing power nor the wealthy population necessary to justify risking a business investment.

And such is the case among inner cities everywhere – the negative stigma attached to these neighborhoods across Miami and the rest of the country has made it tough for retail business hopefuls to not only start up their businesses, but to growing and maintaining some level of success. It’s for reasons like these that inner city businesses need assistance from a variety of sources.

In an effort to dispel these myths of Miami’s inner city, Social Compact – a Washington, DC based non-profit organization – conducted some research to see if there is any truth to this stigma and stereotype of the lack of opportunity with Miami’s inner city neighborhoods. As suspected, the population in these areas is actually much higher than assumed, with an average household income also much higher than what was previously anticipated.

Miami's skyline

Miami's skyline

These numbers present a picture that is much different than the one that many people and businesses have of these inner city communities – suggesting that the U.S. Census and other traditional sources are not giving Americans a correct depiction of what the demographics really are like in these areas. Rather, the research conducted points to more vitality in such undervalued ares, giving retail business owners great hope to achieve success and profitability with their business start-ups. What is required is for organizations to provide solid support to the needs of the communities, without displacing any citizens.

The Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resource’s Small Business Development is an organization that helps to improve and boost small businesses’ participation on County contracts. By co-ordinating and implementing different inner city business programs to help retail businesses and other business types with technical aid and other financial assistance, the growth and contribution of these inner city businesses will only help to grow and boost South Florida’s economy.

The Miami Dade College (MDC) School of Business has invited minority and female-owned businesses from many of Miami’s most undervalued communities. The goal for these programs is to provide free training to such business owners to help sharpen their business skills and provide them a wider knowledge base about their business and their consumer market.

This is key for business owners in Miami’s inner cities, as there appears to be a large gap between the knowledge required to be successful, and the knowledge actually held by these business owners. Such a gap can be detrimental to the vitality of such inner city businesses, which is why closing this gap is on the agenda at many of the MDC programs.

Miami's inner city neighborhoods

Miami's inner city neighborhoods

In addition to government programs helping various retail business start up and thrive in their community, there are other programs available to help the small business entrepreneur. The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the country that has been providing a variety of types of assistance to underserved inner city businesses across Miami, and across the country as a whole.

For two decades, this organization has been putting local small businesses in Miami in touch with the necessary sources to aid them in building, thriving and realizing huge potential and success in their field of expertise. ICIC members will communicate with business owners and help them to establish the proper channels through which to attain their business goals.

Business plans are laid out for businesses to help teach owners business sense and how to stay competitive in their market. This organization is also responsible for helping inner city business owners in Miami to gather the necessary capital needed to realistically get their business off the ground. The knowledge that ICIC has on inner city success factors has been developed through continuous research and specialized urban networks, making ICIC an invaluable tool for any inner city business.

 

Roger Duarte of George Stone Crab in Miami

Roger Duarte of George Stone Crab in Miami

George Stone Crab – A Perfect Inner City Miami Success Story

Back in 2008, a young Roger Duarte decided to enter into the stone crab market, selling and delivering his finds to local businesses. He was looking for a business opportunity that allowed him to be alone in a small market, as well as one that required a small initial capital investment. By 2009, Roger began buying hundreds of crabs, and selling them to markets for a much lower price than other stone crab suppliers and retailers were selling them for. After marketing his business through t-shirts, players, and all kinds of other forms of advertising, he still wasn’t making much. In fact, he was in the red for a while.

But with some assistance, a little business sense and some hard work, Roger quickly grew his Miami inner city business to over $1,000 per day, eventually teaming up with others in the business. By doing so, Roger was able to raise over $200,000 in capital to pay back his initial investments in a matter of 2 months. Roger was able to make such a success of his inner city business that in 2010, a group looking to purchase a 30% stake in the business valued George Stone Crab at $4.2 million!

It’s important not to overlook the potential in markets within Miami’s inner cities, and other low-class neighborhoods across the country. Even with possible lacking services in Miami’s inner cities, the residents there are still spending money, making business opportunity in Miami’s inner cities a positive one.

Assisting Inner City Business Initiatives in Philadelphia

Welcome to Philadelphia!

Welcome to Philadelphia!

It’s a negative stereotype that seems to loom low on inner cities across the country – a picture of low income, minimal opportunity neighborhoods that are quickly overlooked when it comes to businesses investing and building in such areas. But research suggests otherwise – inner cities across the country are showing great potential for positive growth of retail and other business types.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for example, the overview of business opportunities and growth are encouraging. The benefits and assets of inner city businesses throughout this city are increasing. A large portion of these local businesses are averaging substantial revenues, upwards into the millions annually. In essence, many of these inner city companies are much more profitable that other businesses of similar size in non-inner city locations.

Starting and building an inner city business can be rather challenging, however, as overcoming negative stereotypes is a hurdle than many entrepreneurial hopefuls have experienced. In order to counter such hurdles, governmental and non-profit organizations are increasingly stepping in to provide financial assistance and managerial guidance to retail businesses that have a smart business plan and a solid work ethic.

City of Philadelphia

City of Philadelphia

Government business plan assistance is available to businesses looking to start up and grow in the city’s inner city neighborhoods. The Business Services for the city of Philadelphia provides entrepreneurs with sources to look to that provide both financial and management assistance.

Business plans are one of the single most important tools for business hopefuls to start with in order to get started on the right foot and get the business off the ground. Defining the goals, keeping on target, obtaining adequate financing and managing the growth of the business are all aspects that inner city business owners will be able to obtain with the sources linked from Business Services. Many sources are also geared specifically toward minorities and women who are looking to start up a retail business that have added hurdles to overcome.

ICIC – Leading the Way to Inner City Business Success Stories

The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City is a not-for-profit organization that leads the country in helping to build and improve the health of inner city economies and businesses. Founded in 1994 by Michael Porter, Harvard Business School Professor, this organization helps to strengthen the financial well-being and economy of inner cities by giving local businesses with as much valuable information in their particular field about opportunities in the urban market.

Philadelphia skyline

Philadelphia skyline

By promoting a dynamic inner city marketplace, ICIC is able to provide local businesses with insider information about market analysis and opportunities available in specific sectors. This organization has guided countless inner businesses to help them grow and thrive in their particular industry.

ICIC developed the “Inner City 100″ – a ranking of the country’s fastest growing inner city businesses. This program supports growing businesses and highlights the success that they achieve. The success stories that have been documented have inspired other local businesses to follow suit, given the incredible support provided by ICIC. Not only are these businesses thriving financially, but they are providing positive stimulus in their surrounding communities.

Inner City Businesses in Philadelphia – Opportunities Abound

To illustrate the effectiveness of business programs – both governmental and not-for-profit – on inner city business start-ups, Sneaker Villa of Philadelphia is a shining example. Now re-named “Villa”, the sneaker and clothing retailer was ranked as one of the fastest growing inner city businesses according to ICIC’s Inner City 100.

Villa - An example of success in Philly

Villa - An example of success in Philly

Owner and founder Jason Lutz started this business form the ground up, with big plans of dominating the local market in his neighborhood. Starting with his first store in the gritty downtown core of Philadelphia’s inner city, Jason now operates 25 stores in a variety of states, including New Jersey, Delaware and Ohio. Business is fairing well for Jason, with Villa’s 2008 sales nearing $40 million.

Not only is Villa a dominant force in the retail sector of inner city Philadelphia, it is also a positive force for improving the health and vitality of its surrounding community. Not only is Jason’s business thriving financially, but his business is also paying it forward to locals and residents looking to make a name for themselves too. Villa puts on management training programs for those looking to learn sales strategies and build connections to improve the state of lower-income neighborhoods.

There is no denying the fact that the dynamic and ever-changing scope of American inner cities will have a broadening effect on their economic base. With initiative from governmental and non-governmental programs and agencies, inner city retail businesses are definitely in a position to grow and thrive with the continual increase in opportunities as service providers continue to step in to provide financial assistance and creative guidance.

A Picture of Opportunity for Inner City Businesses in Boston

Boston Business District.

Boston Business District.

With the continuing shift in demographics in cities and neighborhoods across America, small businesses are seeing changes with the continual evolution of the economic landscape. With inner city businesses working hard to be profitable and successful, they still are struggling to gain access to the precious capital that will give them the opportunity to truly flourish and positively influence those directly involved in the business as well as the communities around them.

Painting the Picture of Opportunity for Small Inner City Businesses

The picture of inner city businesses is stereotypically a negative one – these companies are often mistaken for small, largely unprofitable, struggling businesses that do nothing more for the community than make attempts at cash grabs to bail them out of financial hardships. Although some small inner city businesses do falter from the start, many of these businesses are set up to show potential for growth and prosperity. Not only do these companies have to overcome challenges of gaining assistance with capital, but they must also overcome the negative stereotypes that surround such companies.

Boston city scape

Boston city scape

It is often this picture of negativity that shadows over these small inner city businesses that keeps them from receiving and taking advantage of services and programs that would help them flourish and become the profitable businesses that their owners, employees and neighborhoods need. Through sifting among data on inner city businesses, it becomes clear that these small businesses do not get their needs met adequately enough through traditional financial services, which is a great problem that needs to be addressed in a different way.

Meeting the Needs of Small Businesses

In 1994, Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter coined the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a non-profit organization with a goal to help inner city businesses develop their plans, grow at a healthy pace and thrive in their field. Research is constantly being conducted by this organization to come up with specific strategies aimed at helping inner cities thrive in their communities and neighborhoods, and provide a positive impact in these areas. By using the expertise and values of both teams of student consultants and corporate advisers, ICIC aims to get the private sector to become involved in the inner city in a corporate, business-like manner.

Boston business district

Boston business district

Rather than simply making donations or charitable gifts to help get local businesses out of a hole, ICIC believes that the most valuable and useful contribution to these inner city businesses from the private sector is as businesses helping businesses. A unique set of programs are developed to promote this type of private-sector activity in many cities across the U.S.

In addition to organizations such as the ICIC, government-funded programs have also been huge incentives for small businesses run in Boston’s small communities to reach success. The CDFI Program helps entrepreneurs with providing loans and other financial services in areas where these types of resources are lacking. Community Development Financial Institutions invest Federal money into businesses, as well as provide consumer loans for added business capital assistance. It is common practice for CDFI’s to utilize funds granted by the government to use as leverage to match funds from other potential donators.

jp licks

J.P. Licks

A Small Business Built From the Bottom Up

J.P. Licks, in the urban area of Jamaica Plain in Boston, is a great example of a small business that took its success to new heights. Back in the early 1980′s, founder Vince Petryk took out a loan to open up an ice cream parlor in the community of Jamaica Plain. Employing mainly local area employees, J.P. Licks is still in business, and has opened up other parlors across Boston. Local patrons know the parlor well, allowing this small inner city business to have a positive imprint on its community. Beginning as a neighborhood business, this thriving ice cream parlor continues to maintain a positive image witin the community in which each parlor operates.

The 70% + inner city businesses that find themselves under-capitalized have resources to tap into. With the government funded and non-profit organizations out there that are dedicated to helping small businesses succeed, it’s time for urban businesses to face their challenges and access capital by any means available. The promise is there – as is shown with the many small businesses that are thriving in many Boston neighborhoods.

Helping Inner City Businesses Grow in Chicago

Some of the tallest buildings in Chicago

Some of the tallest buildings in Chicago

Inner city business has been a subject of concern, among the many other issues that affect inner cities and the neighborhoods within them. In an initiative to help inner city businesses thrive and succeed, various groups have been developed to help countless entrepreneurial hopefuls realize their dreams of running a successful business that they have worked hard to get off the ground. Yet after the task of actually setting up shop is the ongoing need of support to ensure continued success of such businesses, which effect not only the owners and employees directly involved, but as a neighborhood and a city as a whole.

One such national organizations that identifies a number of inner city business that are in need of some assistance is the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC). Such a national program analyzes the needs across inner cities and their business, and identifies where the need of growth capital is. This organization will then match these businesses with private funds and debt providers. With such efforts, companies have been able to raise millions of dollars in capital. This is amazing success, considering the fact that most inner city businesses tend to only have less than a quarter of the capital they actually need to compete in their respective industries. ICCC organizations are really making their mark on struggling businesses all over the country.

In the city of Chicago, the Neighborhood Small Business Growth Strategy was recently unveiled by Mayor Emanuel targeting small neighborhood businesses. In this latest initiative from the Chicago government, ensuring that every part of the great city of Chicago can benefit from the growth and success of such small, inner city businesses is of utmost importance.

Chicago is home to some amazing architechural designs

Chicago is home to some amazing architechural designs

Plans are in the works to provide Chicago’s 73 neighborhood chamber of commerce with a variety of resources and services that they can avail to help grow and build upon their businesses. Such strategies will help to strengthen connections between small business owners and their communities, as well as promote such businesses from customers all over the city. Small inner city businesses are also promoted to become advocates for safer neighborhoods as well, making the small, inner-city business plans and strategies an all-encompassing effort to make these areas flourish.

In addition to the Neighborhood Small Business Growth Strategy as laid out by the city’s government, a Small Business Advisory Council is also being developed that will involve a panel of leaders from various small businesses, as well as business educational groups, chambers of commerce and entrepreneurs.

The diverse group of experienced professionals in such a committee will provide a voice to the inner city small business owners from all sections of Chicago. Such activity will hopefully allow these voices to be heard more loudly at City Hall, providing a prompt and direct response to such needs. The focus for these inner city businesses is to grow and expand their business and focus on their brand and their product, rather than having to worry about how to cut through all the red tape at City Hall.

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline

In addition to governmental assistance with small businesses getting off their feet, other non-governmental organizations are also stepping into help these small business owners get their businesses off to a healthy start. SCORE Chicago provides counseling, management consulting and small-fee workshops to assist inner city business owners get the loans they need to start setting up shop and get their businesses growing steadily and profitably. Business plans and blueprints for developing a solid business are also provided by SCORE, helping business owners prosper and avoid the pitfalls that many small business owners fall into. More than 25 locations of SCORE can be found across the city of Chicago.

To illustrate how inner city businesses have all the potential to do well and thrive in Chicago, take LaSalle Network for instance. This staffing and recruiting firm was named the 2011 inner City 100, as one of the fastest growing urban businesses in the U.S. according to Fortune Magazine. This company is driving economic prosperity and developing jobs for locals in their neighborhoods and surrounding areas, which not only boosts local economy but also adds a positive edge to the morale of the area as a whole.

Small businesses thriving in Chicago

Small businesses thriving in Chicago

It’s clear that the business models that LaSalle Network runs with have helped shape their business to what it is today, providing a blueprint for tomorrow’s economy as well as today’s. With some efficiently run inner city businesses like these, it gives incentive for others to do the same and follow in the footsteps of such a successful business story.

Taking advantage of a variety of programs – either government run, private or non-profit – can really provide the tools and resources necessary to get an inner city business up and running smoothly and successfully. With no shortage of hard work, it is possible to build a business, no matter what part of the city you might be setting roots in.