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Forward Financing and ICIC Join Forces to Support Underserved Entrepreneurs

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An article published today by the Boston Business Journal revealed the strategic partnership between Forward Financing and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). This collaboration aims to bridge the capital-access gap for underserved small businesses, creating a synergy between immediate financial support and long-term business education. It is an issue that I frankly think more can be done and is not discussed enough.

The partnership was born from a meeting between Justin Bakes, co-founder and CEO of Forward Financing, and Steve Grossman, CEO of ICIC. Both leaders recognized a shared mission: to support and uplift businesses that are often overlooked by traditional financial institutions. As Jessica Roden, Senior Director of Marketing and Strategic Planning at Forward Financing, aptly put it, “Our mission is all about saying 'yes' when others are saying 'no,' and trying to help these underserved businesses.”

Forward Financing, a Boston-based fintech company, specializes in revenue-based financing, a model that offers capital to businesses in exchange for a percentage of their ongoing gross revenue. This innovative approach is particularly beneficial for small businesses that struggle with credit constraints or other barriers to traditional financing. With a workforce of over 400 employees globally, Forward Financing has positioned itself as a key player in the financial technology sector, dedicated to supporting small businesses.

ICIC, headquartered in Roxbury’s Nubian Square, is renowned for its efforts to accelerate small-business growth in under-resourced communities. Through technical assistance and research, ICIC served over 3,000 businesses in 2023, most of which were BIPOC- and women-owned. This commitment to fostering inclusive economic growth is at the heart of ICIC’s mission.

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The partnership between Forward Financing and ICIC is transformative, offering Forward Financing’s customers access to ICIC’s tuition-free educational programs. Notable among these are "Building for Growth," a national, virtual executive education program designed for BIPOC- and women-owned construction firms, and the "Inner City Capital Connections" (ICCC) program, a flexible “mini-MBA” executive leadership training. These programs aim to help small-business owners develop sustainable growth strategies and build long-term resilience.

One of the standout features of this collaboration is the holistic support provided to small businesses. Forward Financing’s customers not only receive immediate financial assistance but also gain access to a network of mentors and peers. This community support, combined with practical business education, equips entrepreneurs with the knowledge and tools needed for enduring success. Participants in the educational programs also benefit from financial incentives, such as a $1,000 reduction on their current balance or next round of funding with Forward Financing.

In 2023, 80 Forward Financing customers applied for ICIC’s programs, with over 30 actively participating. As the partnership enters its second year, both organizations are eager to increase participation and further their positive impact on underserved communities.

The partnership between Forward Financing and ICIC, as detailed in the Boston Business Journal, is a powerful example of collaborative efforts to close the capital-access gap. By providing both financial support and educational resources, these organizations are empowering underserved small businesses to achieve sustainable growth and success. As they continue to work together, their efforts will contribute significantly to the vitality and resilience of underserved communities across the nation.

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