E10: Creating Wealth-Building Opportunities in Our Communities

I tell the entrepreneurs all the time, think of the money as a tool because, in our communities, we are afraid to take on debt for a number of reasons. But use it as a tool. Use it to fix something, grow something, scale something."

- Caron Gugssa-Howard, ICA

Episode Summary:

In today’s episode of TRANSCEND the Podcast, I talk with Dianna Tremblay, Caron Gugssa-Howard, and Willis Wilson from Inner City Advisors (ICA) in Oakland California. ICA’s mission is to accelerate great businesses through mentoring and investments to close our communities’ racial and gender wealth gaps. ICA believes that entrepreneurs everywhere have the power to transform communities and drive wealth-building opportunities.

Dianna Tremblay is the Chief Program Officer at ICA. She’s currently on the board of Naturally Bay Area, whose mission is to stimulate growth of Northern California food and natural product companies. She is also a selection committee member of the Nutrition Capital Network, supporting a selection of companies that present at their twice-annual investors meetings. She’s an expert in program design, delivering small business support, and building entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Caron Howard is the Director of Programs at ICA. She is currently on the board of Oakland Innovators, a community of entrepreneurs, advisors, and community leaders, promoting healthy dissemination of new and existing resources and technology trends to Oakland-based black and brown businesses, as well as a board member of Just BE. Caron is a community leader and connector in the entrepreneurship development ecosystem. Both Caron and Diana also hold BAs. 

Willis Wilson is an Impact Investor and Portfolio Manager at ICA. Previously, he served as the Investment and Growth Strategist at Alpine Software Group and a consultant within ASG’s legal tech vertical. Willis earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, where he was an active member of the UC Berkeley entrepreneurship and technology community both domestically and abroad. Willis has advised early-stage startups to build strong businesses, build strong business models, product positioning, and access capital and exit opportunities. Outside of his professional pursuits. Willis is passionate about spending time with family, living a balanced life, and expanding ideas.

I had a great time talking with all three of our guests today. There were lots of gems and nuggets, a little bit of history dropped in the conversation, so definitely pay attention and then look these folks up when you get done listening. Enjoy! 


What You’ll Learn On This Episode:

  • [03:40] What inspired Caron to make a career out of helping small business owners
  • [08:23] The impact ICA sees when support is given to entrepreneurs of color
  • [09:47] How ICA supports business owners 
  • [14:24] Alternative avenues to funding that are not from venture capital
  • [18:37] Next steps after the idea stage for entrepreneurs
  • [23:04] Examples of businesses that have gone through ICA
  • [25:53] The importance of black and brown folks becoming business owners
  • [31:44] How does business for under-resourced communities intersect with social justice
  • [39:18] Working with entrepreneurs who have come out of prison
  • [41:10] Words of advice and encouragement from the team at ICA

Resources Mentioned:

Connect With Us: 

Connect with ICA:

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