Reuters spoke to Mary Kay Leonard, CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a Boston-based national non-profit that educates investment-ready inner-city businesses about growth capital. The group last week held its seventh annual Inner City Capital Connections Program to match companies with capital providers in conjunction with Bank of America and Fortune magazine.
Q: What is ICIC?
A: ICIC is a national non-profit based in Boston. We’re basically a research and strategy firm focused on growing jobs in the most economically distressed areas in our cities. One of the issues we know that businesses in the inner cities face, especially smaller businesses, is the ability to access capital.
Q: Describe the Inner City Capital Connections Program.
A: We’ve tweaked it over the years, but essentially it finds strong and growing inner-city businesses that could grow more, but for capital. We bring them together for a full day of executive education that helps them understand what their capital needs are, and what’s the best source of capital. We do some coaching for them around how do you pitch for capital, because debt is very different from equity.
Q: What sources of capital are represented?
A: We bring a series of different kinds of debt providers and various equity providers – all styles of equity, all kinds of debt – we get together with them and give (companies) the opportunity to pitch, and if not get capital, get feedback on what their pitch is and their business model, so they can improve and come back next time. We have angels there, startup VC firms, mezzanine funders, buyout firms.
Q: What kind of outcomes are you seeing in terms of how many of the companies at the Connections event are getting funded?