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InnerCity Entrepreneurs program completes second successful year

Andy Goldberg, ICE's program director, and 2005 graduate Frank Poindexter at the program's second graduation ceremony. Photo by Vernon Doucette

On Thursday, October 27, the second year of a plan to develop inner-city businesses and prepare their owners to become community leaders concluded triumphantly.

The second class of InnerCity Entrepreneurs (ICE), a collaboration between the CAS department of sociology and the School of Management, graduated at Roxbury Community College Thursday morning after a nine-month intensive program that gives small business owners a certificate in small business entrepreneurship from BU’s Entrepreneurial Management Institute, helps them develop a plan for professional growth, and opens up a network of new professional resources.

Developed in 2003 by Daniel Monti, a professor and sociology department associate chairman, and Andrew Wolk, an SMG research associate, the program has been such a success locally that its founders are now planning to expand it throughout the state — and eventually, throughout the country.

“The key idea of ICE was that some of our best civic and community leadership has come from successful businessmen and women,” says Andy Goldberg, the ICE director of programs and development.

This year’s class consisted of 11 small business owners. To be eligible, a business must generate between $250,000 and $15 million in sales annually and be owned by a minority or operated in a low-income community. Once accepted to the class, the business owners spent nine months holding peer-to-peer meetings, completing business course work, learning from ICE’s 39-person private-sector network of lawyers, brokers, and venture capitalists, and developing one-on-one coaching relationships.

The program is particularly unique, Goldberg says, because participants use their own businesses as case studies and are able to implement the solutions they devise. In addition, it’s one of few programs that target small businesses beyond the start-up stage. “Very few resources tend to go to the next level,” he says.

A report card was issued at Thursday’s ceremony to track the program’s success so far; participants reported that they had collectively secured $1.8 million in new financing, created 77 new jobs, and shown a 13 percent increase in sales. In addition, 50 percent of the entrepreneurs have since become officers in civic organizations.

ICE was initially funded through a three-year, $100,000 grant from Citizens Bank, and this year 90 percent of the program’s corporate and government funding has been renewed. Plans are under way now to develop the program in other inner-city areas around Massachusetts.

“What’s so exciting,” Goldberg says, “is that we’re looking at an opportunity to grow.”