Personal Connections, Expert Advising

Our work always starts and ends with people.
It is rooted in the personal connections that are formed between our entrepreneurs and their employees, our expert pro bono advisors, our visionary funders and our dedicated staff.
All of these people come together to drive the Good Jobs mission.

Our companies have access to ICA Fund Good Jobs’ deep roster of advisors, professional service providers, and other business experts, who work together to provide hands-on support to meet almost any need. This personalized approach and no-nonsense business expertise truly set ICA Fund Good Jobs apart. 

There’s an advisor for any need we have

says Colleen Orlando who co-owns Firebrand Artisan Breads with Matt Kreutz. Firebrand is an artisanal bakery and retail store that joined the investment portfolio in 2015.

“We can be transparent and open without judgment because we know they are committed to our success.”

With the investment, the company was able to open a flagship retail location, and a new 4,800 square foot bakery facility, all while employing more than 50 workers and paying $15 per hour in average wages. 

“ICA Fund Good Jobs has created a very trusting, safe space for entrepreneurs. We feel like it’s not just us two owners,”
“Thanks to ICA Fund Good Jobs, we have an army supporting Firebrand and there isn’t a day that we don’t engage with ICA Fund Good Jobs on some level. We know we are no longer alone.”
The new storefront at Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland, CA. 

The new storefront at Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland, CA. 

Seeding Growth

ICA Fund Good Jobs’ system-changing approach to small business funding involves making bets on companies that other capital providers can’t make. This is because we can embrace risk differently, thanks to deep pre-capital engagement with our portfolio companies. After an entrepreneur has participated in our education and accelerator offerings, we have an intimate understanding of the company’s mission alignment, financial health, growth strategy, and potential for good job creation. Knowing this, ICA Fund Good Jobs can mitigate the risk of an investment and make deals that other lenders and investors deem too high-risk or labor intensive. Specifically, we provide investments of $250K and above, structured creatively to support companies of different sizes, capital needs, and financial conditions. We then leverage our participation to obtain capital from other sources, typically matching our own investments by at least 3:1. 

By funding the highest-risk portion of a company’s capital need, we positively alter the risk profile of a business, bringing other capital providers to the table. Furthermore, our portfolio companies can achieve a lower interest rate on the capital we provide by advancing the good jobs mission. This could include activities such as implementing or maintaining health benefits, providing equity to employees, or hiring from workforce development agencies. 

These deals are made possible through partnerships forged over our 20-year history. We work with community banks, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), and local angel investors to make an even bigger impact. Our investments have unlocked more than $13 million from our capital partners.

Back to the Roots Stoneground Flakes cereal – the company’s newest product line.

Back to the Roots Stoneground Flakes cereal – the company’s newest product line.

Back to the Roots is a maker of ready-to-eat and ready-to-grow foods with a mission to “undo foodTM and reconnect families back to where it comes from.” We engaged Back to the Roots through our education and advisory services back in 2010. In 2013 we became their first and sole investor for $650K. We’ve worked together over the past six years and are proud to support the company’s growth and recent raise of $10 million. 

After ICA Fund Good Jobs’ lead investment, the company secured additional capital from local investors like Annie’s President John Foraker, Joie de Vivre Hospitality founder Chip Conley, Living Social’s co-founder Aaron Batalion, former Jamba Juice CEO, James White, and many others. Since joining the ICA Fund Good Jobs portfolio, in addition to closing their $10 million investment round, the company has more than doubled its revenues and expanded its sales nationwide. And while the company is growing rapidly, it is holding to the good job covenants that accompanied our original investment, by offering full health, vision, and dental benefits to all of its workers.

Going Deeper With The GEM

ICA Fund Good Jobs’ mission has always been about growing jobs, but over our 20-year history, we have realized that simply creating jobs is not enough. We have now turned our focus to growing GOOD jobs, defined by livable wages, health and wealth building benefits, a supportive culture, and career ladders that provide opportunities for professional development and advancement. 

Meanwhile, as the social fabric of “the inner city” transformed, we shifted our focus from solely on the geography of the job, to also include the people accessing the job. Many in our community face barriers to employment, such as criminal records, disabilities, or limited education, which prevent them from ever being considered for good jobs. Therefore, it is essential that we support entrepreneurs who are committed to providing accessible good job opportunities. 

Finally, we have learned that entrepreneurs and disadvantaged job seekers must overcome a challenging combination of anxiety and cultural hurdles to make the employer/employee relationship a successful one. Preparing for people feels just as daunting to our entrepreneurs as preparing for capital, and it is just as critical for building thriving local businesses and communities. Now, we see that a core part of our model is not only the creation of good jobs, but of good employers, because good employers create good jobs. 

Marshawn Howard in the Firebrand Artisan Breads bakery.

Marshawn Howard in the Firebrand Artisan Breads bakery.

That is why, in 2015, we developed the Good Employer Matrix, or GEM. This proprietary tool provides a framework for understanding the pathway an employer takes to creating accessible good jobs and is built explicitly to represent the entrepreneur’s perspective. It does this by scoring job quality along five core pathways to a good job: wage levels, job accessibility, benefits provided, company culture, and professional development.

Thus, the GEM also provides a comprehensive assessment method for ICA Fund Good Jobs to measure the quality of the jobs our companies provide and establish a plan for sustainable improvement. 

The GEM is used in all stages of our work, from companies that apply to the Growth Strategies course, to the growing businesses going through our Accelerator program, to the companies in our investment portfolio.

And with the positive entrepreneur feedback we’ve received, we are excited that the GEM is working – we are bringing added value to our businesses, and we are even more excited about what it can do at scale.