We’ve all heard the phrase, “small business is the heart of the American economy” from news anchors, and politicians, andmay have participated in buy-local programs – encouraging residents to support the community’s entrepreneurs. Support for small business is more important now than ever before. After one year of a pandemic, the future of many small businesses across the U.S. is unclear due to an unprecedentedand long economic downturn.

Recent studies point to the profound impact of the pandemic on small business, with ~60% still reporting reduced revenue receipts and 60% have yet to restore employment to pre-pandemic levels . Further, these studies confirm early observations in 2020 indicating dipropionate pandemic impact on minority and women-owned businesses. 2021 studies show that a greater proportion of minority owned business report they are likely to shutter their businesses compared with white small business owners and nearly 1 in 3 minority owned businesses are behind on payments for existing business loans .

These data argue that small business, especially those owned by women and minorities, will need assistance to adapt to opportunities emerging as the pandemic’s economic effect abate. Further, adept small busines owners can use this time of struggle to re-design business strategy to exercise unfair advantage to capture more and new market share.


At IC2, we examine ways to empower women and disadvantaged communities to achieve a thriving and resilient future through research and evidence-based programs. Deputy Director Greg Pogue and I worked to revamp a successful small business development program from 2016 and 2017, FASTForward, with the City of Austin. This summer, the Small-Biz.XLR8 program will launched for up to 30 small business owners in Midland, Odessa, and surrounding Permian Basin communities thanks to the generous funding provided by the Truist Charitable Fund.

With our partners at the University of Texas Permian Basin, the program will include:

  • Ten online course sessions with succinct online videos and clearly described weekly homework assignments, all linked to growing a participant’s business;
  • Ten synchronous group sessions for companies to present what they learned in their homework, receive feedback from peer business owners and apply outcomes to their particular business;
  • Threebusiness mentor meetings conducted in the regionat outside sites, allowing safe in-person gathering; and
  • A final pitching session in August where each business owner will present their plan for growth and request for assistance from community leaders, mentors and funders.

The new program, Small-biz.XLR8, is made for busy people. This allows business owners to engage as their schedule allows and gives them practical exercises to “get to know” their market, new opportunities and define a fitted growth strategy. Weekly synchronous sessions will provide peer-mentoring and application exercises. The program will give entrepreneurs the framework needed to grow their business and a network of peers business ownersand business experts to mentor their growth.

“[Small-biz.XLR8] provided small business owners the support, tools, guidance, and mindset to take their business to unbelievable heights. It was an amazing adventure to be a part of their journey. I was very impressed to see the structure of support put in place by the IC2 Institute and the City of Austin, and felt privileged to lend my support. This diverse group of entrepreneurs embraced the support provided to create new opportunities for their businesses, develop their brand and strategy, and improve the scale and delivery of their business. I was blown away by the growth I observed in these men and women throughout the program as they leveraged the guidance and support provided.”

Registration for the program begins NOW – March 29th – and extends through April 30th! We will announce companies selected for the program during Small Business Week May 3-7th. Our first session will be May 11th and all sessions will be Tuesday afternoons from 4-5:30 PM. Sessions will be weekly with the exception of the weeks containing Memorial and Independence Days. We will hold three Thursday night Mentor Sessions at local venues during Happy Hour times. You will not want to miss these!

In August, the program participants will practice their pitching skills and present their growth plan tofellow teams, mentors, local partners and regional funders. The presentations will lay out the plan to growing their business and allows business owners to ask for the help they need. Check the IC2 website and social media pages to learn more about the program and see the pitches online.

Download and share the flyer with small business owners in West Texas!

Sign up for Small-biz.XLR8!