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The Strength of Small Business: Stories of Resilience and Impact

Table of Contents

Our Impact

Funders & Sponsors

IC100 Winners & Hall of Famers

Nominators

Health Crisis Survey Results

Member Stories

2020 has been an agonizing year in our nation’s history. 

COVID-19 and its devastating impact as well as the resurgent racial justice and equity movement have challenged all of us to confront systemic racism wherever we find it. Just as the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) was founded in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles uprising to revitalize America’s underserved inner cities, this is a defining moment when our extraordinary nationwide ecosystem of small business owners, partners and colleagues is embracing what Martin Luther King called “the fierce urgency of now.” Our collective commitment can be no less than eliminating concentrated poverty and closing the racial wealth gap in the United States.

Despite the often insurmountable barriers they faced this year including unprecedented business closures and lack of access to critical capital, the thousands of small businesses we work with every day have been the real heroes and change agents. Overwhelmingly BIPOC- (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and woman-owned, they demonstrated resilience, innovation, kindness and generosity in the imaginative ways in which they’ve responded to the crisis. They knew they had to pivot in an unprecedented economic environment and they did. Their inspirational stories and bold displays of leadership showcase the qualities that small business owners needed to survive in 2020. In our first-ever organization-wide annual report, we’re pleased to feature ten of their stories which collectively demonstrate the strength of character, entrepreneurial spirit, and unshakeable commitment to community-building that are the essence of the American dream.

At ICIC, our team of forty professionals has experienced a year of transformation and growth. The pandemic necessitated a reexamination of our research priorities as well as our programmatic work, all of which transitioned to virtual delivery. Building long-term growth plans gave way to helping small businesses develop strategies to lead, survive and thrive. Developing resilience to address a once-in-a-lifetime crisis meant prioritizing business recovery, capital relief solutions and one-on-one coaching to help navigate uncertainty and pivot to new strategies appropriate for a radically-changed and unstable business environment.

We published pioneering research about the vulnerability of each of the more than 70,000 U.S. neighborhoods to the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis with a principal focus on high-poverty areas whose residents are primarily people of color. For the first time in many years, our research team examined concentrated poverty in America’s metropolitan areas and concluded that it “is not only a problem of big cities; large under-resourced communities of high poverty and low income exist in many suburbs and smaller cities, too.” That conclusion led to a policy brief “It’s time for a Comprehensive Approach to Fighting Concentrated Poverty,” developed and written against the backdrop of our heightened awareness and understanding of how systemic racism creates and sustains high levels of poverty in disproportionately Black communities.

Despite the confluence of crises we’ve experienced in 2020, we remain convinced that building sustainable small business ecosystems in under-resourced communities in support of our shared mission of inclusive economic prosperity will continue to accelerate small business growth, create good-paying jobs and increase the flow of capital to those who need it most. We’re grateful for the extraordinarily generous support we’ve received throughout this memorable year and look forward to an equally impactful 2021.

Steve Grossman, CEO