Symposium recognizes successful inner city firms
The Roxbury-based Initiative for a Competitive Inner City has been helping urban entrepreneurs and inner-city businesses for 20 years. For the last 15, the organization’s signature event has been the Inner City 100 Symposium and Awards, which highlights 100 of the fastest-growing businesses located in U.S. inner cities.
This year, the event is set for next month and will feature a new format ICIC is hoping will help winning businesses advance further in their specific industries.
Scheduled at the Seaport World Trade Center in South Boston on Oct. 15–16, the Inner City 100 Symposium and Awards is a two-day event that not only honors inner-city businesses for their growth, but also provides urban entrepreneurs with management education seminars, networking opportunities and a showcase to highlight company products and services.
The Inner City 100 list is published annually in Fortune magazine after the winners are announced at the awards celebration.
According to ICIC spokeswoman Mary Duggan, the fastest growing businesses are determined based on revenue growth over a five-year period. She said the power of the awards program is that it demonstrates the success of inner-city businesses.
“A lot of people think businesses can’t survive in the inner city,” Duggan said. “We want to showcase businesses that are really thriving in the inner city.”
Duggan said that past Inner City 100 winners have had tremendous success and help inspire political and business leaders, academics and the media to recognize and support the economic power of inner-city businesses. The program has helped trigger a number of investment programs targeting urban entrepreneurs, sparked a nation-wide support program for inner city businesses and been part of movements to stimulate change in city communities.
Traditionally, the awards have honored the overall 100 fastest-growing businesses in inner cities, regardless of industry or sector. However, ICIC has changed the format this year so that the list will be comprised of the 10 fastest-growing inner city businesses in 10 distinct industry sectors.
According to Duggan, the hope was to give winners further recognition among their industry peers by ranking them within specific industries.
“We want to provide more value for the winners and help them connect with their industry peers.” Duggan said.
The change was made based on feedback on the awards program from CEOs of the honored businesses in recent years.
Winners will be ranked this year in the following 10 sectors: construction; manufacturing; professional services; food and beverage; retail; media and communications; software and information technology; transportation and logistics; healthcare and biotechnology; arts, entertainment, recreation and tourism.
While highlighting and showcasing this country’s rising inner-city businesses is the main priority of the Inner City 100 Symposium and Awards, organizers also stress the benefit of the educational and networking aspects of the event.
Though the event is annually held in Boston, the winning businesses are from across the country and ICIC also works to attract other inner-city businesses to the event.
According to Duggan, the event traditionally draws about 600 attendees — typically about 300 total businesses are represented at the event.
The big draw is the management education offerings and the fact that ICIC brings together professors from Harvard Business School and executives from well-known and successful companies to work with attending businesses in the seminars, education sessions and networking opportunities.
The symposium will focus on four major topic areas this year: Mergers and Acquisitions, Sustained Growth, Leadership and Innovation.
“We want to reach small business owners, ideally in urban areas that want to access this kind of network and executive education,” Duggan said. “Throughout the event we have one Harvard Business School professor presenting on each one of these categories and CEOs as well.”
The design is such to offer business owners the opportunity to examine the topics from and academic viewpoint, as well as a practical management perspective. Everything during the symposium is tailored for inner-city businesses and urban entrepreneurs.
Some of the major speakers and presenters at the event include Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, Honest Tea President and CEO Seth Goldman and Viacom Media Networks Senior Vice President Anne Hubert.
Porter will give a keynote presentation titled “Enhancing U.S. Competitiveness” during which he will discuss his efforts to understand and improve the competitiveness of small businesses in the United States and examine how they can compete successfully in the global economy while supporting rising living standards for Americans.
Goldman will share his journey from brewing iced tea in his kitchen, to landing his first account with Whole Foods, to getting acquired by The Coca-Cola Company and offer insight on how he grew his business while maintaining focus on the company’s plan.
Hubert will give a luncheon keynote titled “Following Your Audience to the Future.” She will speak about how Viacom’s Scratch business is channeling the power of the company’s creative talent, cultural force, reach and connection to its audiences to drive innovation.
Other Harvard Business School professors speaking at the event include Jose Alvarez, Jan Rivkin and Stefan Thomke.
Luggage Forward co-founder Zeke Adkins has attended the past two Inner City 100 Symposium and Awards events and he plans to attend this year. He said he finds the educational component particularly useful and is excited to have access to high-caliber professors from Harvard Business School and experienced executives from successful companies.
“It is more interactive than some other conferences and events you will go to. Instead of just a speaker or a panel at the front of the room just talking at the participant, it is more of an interactive format,” Adkins said. “We really appreciate the way that they have a nice mix of different content and different formats.”
His downtown Boston-based company, which started in 2004 and provides door-to-door luggage and sports equipment delivery to about 200 countries around the world, has been on the Inner City 100 list for the last two years.
He admits he appreciates the recognition for his company’s success as well.
“As an entrepreneur it is always nice to get a little pat on the back because during the daily grind of being entrepreneur you don’t always have much time for these things,” he said.
All in all, he stressed it makes for a worthwhile two days.
“It is just the right mix of information and education and interaction and accolades. It is a nice balance of all those things,” he added.
ICIC was founded in 1994 by Harvard Business School’s Porter. Its Inner City 100 program has highlighted companies that have created nearly 76,000 new jobs. Other programs, such as its Inner City Capital Connections program, have helped lenders find investment in companies in 134 different inner city areas. These companies have gone on to raise more than $1 billion in capital and create about 5,000 jobs.