Kaiser Permanente helping minority business owners with tuition-free program

Posted at 8:18 PM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 11:56:26-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — As part of its initiative to advance racial equity, Kaiser Permanente Colorado is helping minority business owners with a new program.

Inner City Capital Connections Program (ICCC) offers small business owners a tuition-free program designed to provide capacity-building education, one-on-one coaching, and connections to capital and capital providers. It kicked off in Denver last fall and goes into late 2021.

Harold Hughes, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of FLEXX ID, participates in the ICCC program. Flexx ID is a wearable wrist wallet that can be used for travel or work.

"It provides easy use, easy access, and display of your photo ID and credit card. It's an accessory to fit your lifestyle," said Hughes.

FLEXX ID wrist wallets have RFID-enabled, tap-and-go ID displays, zipper pockets, and multiple card slots to keep credit cards and small belongings securely stored.

Since the pandemic began, Hughes says it's taken a huge toll on his business. The virus preventing him from attending events and resulting in the closure of his storefront location at the mall.

"We have a significant presence on Amazon, and because of COVID-19 Amazon restricted my ability to send products for several months because they wanted PPE to get through to the community and their marketplace. So the sales took a dip, it did slow down. However it did start going back up," said Hughes.

So when he heard about Kaiser Permanente Colorado's new program, he jumped at the chance to take part.

"One of the mentors that I spoke with, we talked about strategy and how to forecast. We talked about accounting, marketing, and sales," said Hughes. "I find it extremely helpful in how I want to position my business to grow in the future."

While Kaiser Permanente Colorado is a healthcare organization, they believe economic opportunity is a key piece of overall health.

"When you're struggling to keep your business afloat, it's hard to focus on your physical health. This work we're doing on racial equity is to help bridge the gap for all of these communities of color, black or African American, whoever needs this support in those economically stressed communities. So we can say here is a program, we really want your small business to participate, it's going to help build the health of your community and build the health of everyone in the community," said Ellen Weaver, Director of Community Health and Engagement at Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

She says the organization hopes the new program will help bridge the racial gap among business owners.

"We're working in collaboration with an Initiative for Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and they've worked with organizations across the country and in many areas. It really has shown that it helps black or African American business owners to get those educational opportunities without having to pay however much for a program, however much for an MBA that they can't go after right now. It really is a unique opportunity of being able to have black or African American and minority business owners come in and learn about ways to help their business grow and succeed," said Weaver.

Hughes says the program will help pave the way for more minority business owners.

"We often don't have the resources in our community that can help us to get to the next level. That's the honest truth of it," said Hughes. "I was listening to a podcast of other entrepreneurs, for example, Chipotle and how they came around. They've had a community of resources kinda at the ready to help them but it's not always the same for minority businesses."

For those interested in the ICCC program, nominate a business through the online nomination form, or by uploading it to the nomination template and emailing it to Business owners can apply through the online form.

Applications and nominations will open again during the summer, but a business must meet the following criteria to be eligible for participation:

  • Be an independent, for-profit, or nonprofit corporation, partnership, or proprietorship.
  • Have its headquarters or more than 51% of its physical operations located in an economically distressed area or have more than 40% of employees residing in an economically distressed area.
  • Be past the survival stage — Initiative for a Competitive Inner City typically works with businesses with annual revenues of at least $500,000, however because of the impact of the pandemic, revenue requirements have been reduced.
  • Have been in operation for two years or more, and past the proof-of-concept stage — start-up companies are not eligible for this program.

On a case-by-case basis, ICCC will consider businesses that do not meet all the specified criteria on the recommendation of a nominator. For questions regarding the nomination process, contact Initiative for a Competitive Inner City at (617) 238-3019 or