This past month, with the coming of Spring, we’re starting to see life re-emerge across California. Public schools are reopening, vaccines for COVID-19 are becoming more widely available, and our small businesses are beginning to envision business returning to normal after the pandemic.
As we all cross our fingers for a swift economic recovery, I am buoyed by our community’s commitment to not only rebuild stronger but do so with equity and justice. Earlier this month, Vice President Harris paid a visit to ICA company Red Door Catering. There, the Vice President highlighted the importance of CDFIs in supporting small businesses to “build back better”. She spoke about the unique responsibility CDFIs like ICA hold in leading the small business recovery, equitably.
At ICA we are crystal clear that, like Congresswoman Barbara Lee shared at the Oakland event, much hard work remains. But these are exciting indications that as the community opens back up, we will be doing so in a more intentionally inclusive way and that our highest elected officials see the critical importance of this mandate.
ABOVE: Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Reign Free, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Alex Padilla, Luz Urrutia of Accion Opportunity Fund, Allison Kelly, and Accion Opportuniy Fund's Gwendy Donaker Brown, at Red Door Catering in Oakland on April 5th, 2021.
The word intention is important here because ideas, systems and products that were once acceptable as being implicitly fair or inclusive, are now challenged to be explicitly, and intentionally, inclusive. This important distinction has driven ICA’s work since inception and is reflected in the breadth and depth of service we provide to companies: 68% of the high-potential companies ICA has worked with in the last 5 years have been led by people of color; 62% have been led by women, and 87% have been led by a person of color or a woman.
This commitment is ingrained in our mission and reflects the fact that our organization has seen first-hand how lack of support inhibits businesses run by people of color and women from growing at the same rate as their white, male, counterparts. We have also seen how companies thrive when business leaders get the coaching and capital they need.
Inequity and structural racism run deep in our communities. They show up in our economy and in the ways in which traditional programs and capital pipelines are designed. At ICA we’re working hard to build a continuum of services and investment that brings equity to these pipelines, delivers the services our companies need, and intentionally works to close the persistent, structural gaps that exist in our financial system.
Earlier this year we launched The Lab at ICA, which is designed to bring resources and capital (a new micro equity product) to earlier-stage, growth-oriented entrepreneurs. These efforts together are intentionally developing a pipeline for our Accelerator, which is designed for growth-stage businesses, seeking growth capital. Together, these advising and investing activities create a continuum of support so local businesses can “build back better and bolder”, as Congresswoman Lee says.
Along our ever-evolving journey to better meet the needs of our community, we’re grateful and humbled by the steadfast support of our funders, partners and community members who continue to help us make this work possible. Thank you.
Allison Kelly is Chief Executive Officer of ICA.