The history books tell us over and over: ever since its days as a frontier town, Oakland has always been on the edge of the next new thing. These days, the city is home to dozens of up-and-coming businesses — they’re even popping up in shipping crates, RVs, and abandoned warehouses. In this town, people don’t wait around for change — they dust off their shoulders and make it happen. Inner City Advisors helps take these businesses to the next level by offering investment money, advice and training for their owners.
They believe that the best way to lift our city up is to invest in the entrepreneurs who have been here from the beginning, and who are committed to hiring from within Oakland. Thanks to their help, groups like Revolution Foods and Blue Bottle coffee have been able to expand and create more quality inner-city jobs — all while sticking to their values of fair, sustainable business practices. We talked to Ingrid Jacobson, their education manager, about the next big things in Town business.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to start a small business in Oakland?
It is critical to understand what value you are providing for your customer. What problem are you solving for them? What needs are you satisfying? Once you are operating from a true purpose, you have a compass to guide all other aspects of your business.
You’re in charge of the educational programs for ICA. What sorts of skills are you teaching local entrepreneurs, and how do those play out in the real world?
It boils down to improved decision-making power. ICA’s educational programs give entrepreneurs the mental infrastructure to stabilize, grow and lead their businesses. Our business growth strategy series features Michael C. Bush and the 8 Factors Framework, an action-oriented method for managing an enterprise as an interrelated system, based on real-world experience of leading and growing small businesses.
When an entrepreneur has a clear sense of how each dollar moves through every component of their business, the result is a greater command of the enterprise. In simpler terms, CORE Foods tripled their revenue in 2011 due to the principles of the ICA education series.
ICA works with all sorts of businesses in the East Bay. Can you give us an example of a success story from someone you’ve worked with?
This video on Juniper Ridge says it all: http://action.innercityadvisors.org/juniper-ridge-natural-luxury
Juniper Ridge makes natural products entirely from sustainably-sourced, wild plants. Since 2010, Juniper Ridge worked closely with ICA advisor Lisa Griffin to improve operations efficiency, inventory management, staffing and forecasting. Hall Newbegin exemplifies the type of entrepreneur we love working with — with a clear passion for his product and a strong commitment to creating quality jobs for local residents.
Oakland still gets a bad rap in the news these days, but lots of entrepreneurs say it’s actually a great place to start a business. What does the Town offer that other cities don’t?
Oakland is distinguished by a strong ecosystem of entrepreneurial support, made up of people who invest in people. There are great people and institutions dedicating resources to support local entrepreneurs. Here’s a more detailed perspective that we wrote on this very subject: http://bit.ly/MldDSo
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