At the Walton Academy for the Performing Arts, elementary school students thrive under a standard curriculum with a focus on music, dance and theater.
It’s a public charter school in Hillsborough County, Florida.
And CEO Samuel Walton is ready to take the next step.
That’s what brought him, along with 102 other professionals representing 84 companies, to the Inner City Capital Connections event in Tampa. Deemed a “mini-MBA on steroids,” ICCC helps urban small-business owners develop strategies to reach more people and, over time, create more jobs.
Walton reflects the diversity of professionals for which ICCC was created to serve. His focus is education and reaching more students in a strategic, sustainable manner. For others attending the event, their focus is growing a small business and reaching more customers in a way that fosters long-term success.
“One of my goals here today was to become a better leader,” Walton said. “How can I better serve the people we serve today? How can it prepare me for what’s happening tomorrow?”
ICCC is offered at no cost due to financial support provided by Regions and community partners that joined the bank in bringing ICCC to Florida for the first time in the program’s history. Partners included Florida Blue, Carlton Fields, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Ernst & Young, United Way Suncoast, and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Participants at the event spent half the day listening to business professors from some of the top universities in the country, including Harvard and Dartmouth. The second half included small-group and one-on-one sessions with Regions bankers and other business coaches who helped entrepreneurs refine their business plans and think strategically about the best ways to achieve long-term growth. The work with ICCC continues after the event, with long-term coaching and free webinars available, as well as a national conference scheduled for New York each fall.
“We work with business owners who feel that they’re stuck. They work 60, 70, 80, 90 hours a week. They work hard. They care deeply,” said Steve Grossman, CEO of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, which launched ICCC to strengthen urban and economically underserved communities through cost-free education.
Grossman said, many times, small-business owners know the ins and outs of their product or service exceedingly well, “But nobody’s ever taught them strategy, marketing and finance, and leadership and team building.”
That’s the gap ICCC works to fill.
“We try to put it into a form that is practical and useful and common-sense,” Grossman said. “Companies that have gone through this program grow jobs at a rate four-and-a-half times faster than people who don’t go through it.”
Walton signed up early and began participating in the ICCC program even before the event, learning how to ensure his school’s future.
“It’s showing us how to have healthy businesses, create healthy cultures,” Walton said.