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Small business gets a big boost

InnerCity Entrepreneurs has new site, new CEO for 2007

Andy Goldberg (left), the program and development director of ICE, at last year’s graduation. The incoming class of small-business owners is the program’s largest and most diverse to date. Photo by Vernon Doucette

As the InnerCity Entrepreneurs program graduates its third class of local business owners on Wednesday, October 25, it also welcomes a group of newcomers who will help the young organization take the next steps toward national expansion.

A collaboration between the department of sociology at the College of Arts and Sciences and the Entrepreneurial Management Institute at the School of Management, InnerCity Entrepreneurs (ICE) — a nine-month program that helps small businesses develop a growth plan and build a network of professional resources — has hired Jean Horstman of the educational nonprofit Citizen Schools as its CEO, established an annual Entrepreneurial Leadership Award, and laid the groundwork for its second program, to be located in Worcester, Mass. In addition, ICE has just completed its largest recruiting year to date, and the class of 2007 promises to be its largest and most diverse yet.

“We’ve doubled the operating budget and staffing in a year and hired a CEO for the first time,” says program director Andy Goldberg. “It’s huge, and it’s all a baby step towards larger-scale replication of the program.”

Developed by faculty at both CAS and SMG, the program is open to business owners who are members of a minority group or operate in a low-income community and whose businesses generate between $250,000 and $15 million in annual sales. The curriculum includes business course work, peer-to-peer strategy sessions, and regular meetings with ICE’s private-sector network of lawyers, brokers, and venture capitalists.

The students graduate with a certificate in small business entrepreneurship, but more important, says Goldberg, they leave with business plans and strategies that they are able to implement immediately. The program’s annual report card tracks the businesses’ growth and their effect on surrounding communities; the previous classes have created or maintained 24 successful businesses and hired 98 people (more than half of whom are from surrounding neighborhoods) at an average annual salary of $41,500.

Now, ICE is focusing on expansion. The program, which started with a grant from Citizens Bank, has secured $6 million in new financing this year via earned income and a range of corporate, individual, and government funding, making it possible to open its second branch, in Worcester, in January 2007. “It’s the second-largest city in Massachusetts,” Goldberg says, “and it’s poised for economic revitalization.”

With Horstman as CEO, ICE will also further develop its five-year business plan for public policy. And the first annual Entrepreneurial Leadership Awards, to be given to Cleve Killingsworth, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and a recently appointed BU trustee, and Robert Gallery, the state market president for Bank of America, will recognize the part those organizations have played in supporting small business development over the past three years.

The ICE graduation ceremony will be held at 8 a.m. at the Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall, 182-186 Dudley St., Roxbury. For more information, contact ICE at 617-492-2304.