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Initiative for a Competitive Inner City recognizes inner city entrepreneurs

Martin Desmarais
Initiative for a Competitive Inner City recognizes inner city entrepreneurs
Business owners from the 2014 Inner City 100 list gather at the Inner City 100 Symposium and Awards, which was held on Oct. 15–16 at the Seaport World Trade Center in South Boston. (Photo by Lauren Clines)

Every year Fortune Magazine publishes a list of the nation’s 500 largest publicly owned corporations. Now, through the efforts of Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, better known as ICIC, Fortune also publishes an annual list of small businesses called the Inner City 100. Representatives from more than 300 such businesses gathered last week at Boston’s Seaport World Trade Center to celebrate and learn which companies made the list.

ICIC was founded in 1994 by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter who realized that the development of small businesses is essential for the healthy growth of the nation’s inner cities. In keeping with this principle, ICIC headquarters are located in Roxbury, a primarily black and Latino section of Boston.

The Inner City 100 list includes the fastest growing businesses as determined by revenue growth over a five-year period. Traditionally, the awards have honored the 100 fastest-growing businesses in inner cities, regardless of industry or sector. However, ICIC changed the format this year so that the list is comprised of the 10 fastest-growing inner city businesses in 10 distinct industry sectors. The hope is to give winners further recognition among their industry peers by ranking them within specific industries.

The 10 industries highlighted are Construction; Manufacturing; Professional Services; Food and Beverage; Retail; Media and Communications; Software and Information Technology; Transportation and Logistics; Healthcare and Biotechnology; and Arts, Entertainment, Recreation and Tourism.

Business owners and other entrepreneurs attending the event came from across the country and were well representative of the Inner City 100 list, which includes winners from 23 states.

Boston-based, women-owned Pinck & Co., founded by Jennifer Pinck (on the left in photo) has enjoyed steady growth and a client list of some of Boston’s most prominent construction projects.

Massachusetts was represented by Pinck & Co., a Boston-based construction firm that ranked 83 overall on the list and No. 9 in the Construction industry. The firm is headed by CEO Jennifer Pinck and had a five-year growth rate of 99 percent with 2013 revenue of $2.8 million.

The top company on the list is Fruition Partners from Chicago, which had a 2,700 percent growth rate over the last five years and $29.6 million in revenue for 2013. The cloud-services company is tops in the Professional Services industry and is headed by CEO Marc Talluto, who also founded the firm.

Angela Tsay, CEO of Oaklandish, an apparel and accessories company based in Oakland, said this was her first time attending the Inner City 100 event. What she most enjoyed was interacting with other entrepreneurs and learning about how they got their businesses off the ground and found their market niches, she said.

Oaklandish was No. 33 overall on the Inner City 100 list — No. 1 in the retail industry — with a 337 percent growth rate over the last five years and $1.7 million in revenue in 2013.

Luis Gutierrez, president of Dream Management Inc. of Baltimore, said he relished the education and management seminars offered earlier at the two-day event and the chance to network with other inner city firms and urban entrepreneurs.

“We talk in general about business and how business is conducted in different cities and different areas,” said Gutierrez, who is originally from Nicaragua. “This is a great opportunity for us.”

Dream Management, a transportation services company, ranked No. 39 on the list and No. 3 in the Transportation and Logistics sector, had just over 300 percent for a five-year growth rate and $5.4 million in revenue last year.

Herby Duverné, managing partner of the Boston-based Taino Consulting Group, which specializes in security risk management, attended the event even though his company was not part of the Inner City 100 list.

“Everybody keeps saying small business is an important part of the economy, so as a small business owner I feel that it was a great event. It is about the inner city and small business, and I feel very good that we can share ideas and I can meet some colleagues that are doing the same thing,” Duverné said. “The country needs us more now than ever and, in America, once we know there is a problem we are going to solve it, so that is why I am here.”

Duverné also acknowledged the different challenges of running a business in the inner city. “The country is becoming more urban. More and more people are moving into the urban areas, so we live in the community — we are part of the community. We are not some corporate organization that is far away from where they are serving the people. We are in the cities and that is where we serve. We hire the people within our community, so I think that is what makes the difference,” he added.

The management education offerings and symposium events featured professors from Harvard Business School and executives from well-known and successful companies. The symposium focused on four major topic areas this year: Mergers and Acquisitions, Sustained Growth, Leadership and Innovation.

Some of the most popular speakers and presenters at the event included: Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, Honest Tea President and CEO Seth Goldman and Viacom Media Networks Senior Vice President Anne Hubert.

ICIC’s Inner City 100 program has highlighted companies that have created about 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 cities. These companies have gone on to raise more than $1 billion in capital and create about 5,000 jobs.