August 31, 2023 marked a triumphant conclusion to the 2022-2023 City Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CIE) program year, marking its fourth and most expansive year since the program began in 2019. Thanks to the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and by joining forces with NLC’s CIE program, cities received meaningful resources and support to elevate entrepreneurs of color and other underrepresented backgrounds. The ultimate goals of the CIE program include advancing economic mobility, narrowing the racial wealth gap, and fostering more equitable outcomes for local entrepreneurs and small businesses.
This year, the program concludes with a record 63 cities participating in the program, some joining more than one cohort or “commitment” (for a grand total of 73 total commitments) to tackle a specific effort to expand inclusion in entrepreneurship and economic development in their city. As part of the program, participants apply for $15,000 in catalytic funding, and what each city has chosen to do with this funding over the past year is inspiring.
Participating cities selected one or more of these “commitments”, ranging from topics like increasing MWBE access to city and anchor procurement opportunities, to supporting capital access initiatives for Black/African American entrepreneurs, to running entrepreneurship training workshops for informal and small business owners. Cities selected commitments aligned with the strategic priorities of their small business community. As part of the CIE program, once their commitment/s were selected, cities not only join a vibrant cohort of like-minded municipalities but also gain the guidance of technical program experts. Over the past year together, they shared successes and surmounted challenges to successfully execute their projects and gather valuable insights.
The road to more equitable and accessible local economies is a journey that requires time and dedication. These cities’ year-long projects represent a critical piece of each community’s economic development and inclusive entrepreneurship support strategies. By participating in the CIE program, these cities have made a resounding statement about the urgency of taking decisive action in the short term to enhance economic opportunities for underserved communities, especially BIPOC and women entrepreneurs. Each city is cultivating a brighter economic future, one small business at a time.