The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia offers an incredible program aimed at connecting budding entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations (disability, LGBTQ, minority, veteran and women) with successful CEOs from a plethora of large businesses around the city. With their program CEO Access, the Chamber wanted to create informal relationships between entrepreneurs and CEOs to facilitate networking and business development opportunities. CEO Access has been a driving force behind many small business’ successes, including for Marc Coleman of The Tactile Group and Ofo Ezeugwu of Whose Your Landlord. Both Coleman and Ezeugwu applied to be in the program and were matched up with notable CEOs who helped the hungry entrepreneurs grow their businesses even more.
CEO Access offers an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs to build relationships with successful CEOs
“I had been a member of the chamber of commerce for a few years and saw that the opportunity was advertised. Someone in the chamber suggested I look into it. I applied and I got in,” says Coleman.
Coleman founded The Tactile Group, a software development agency serving primarily federal and municipal clients. “We build cloud-based applications primarily around data collection and data visualization but we also do some pretty complex marketing websites, including the city of Philadelphia’s Amazon HQ2 website. We’re also personally doing the city of Philadelphia’s international airport website.”
CEO Access matched Coleman up with Anne Ewers, president and CEO of the Kimmel Center. “It was a large-business-to-small-business mentoring kind of thing. Anne was able to help me with specific issues I was having in my company. She gave me advice on HR issues and she opened up my hard network to me. She asked me who on her board I would like to meet and she fostered an introduction. I also learned just by dealing with her and being in the room with her. A lot more confidence just from being around CEOs like that,” says Coleman.
By being linked up with Ewers through the program, Coleman was able to placate problems The Tactile Group had and also see his business from a different perspective. “The best thing about it, for me, was I could talk to somebody who runs a very large organization about their thoughts on problems I was having with my small business and they were very applicable. She also helped me to be divorced from some of these decisions that are very personal with a small business. When you’re larger, I think it’s easier to maybe take a step back from the emotional part of running a business and she helped me do that.”
Ofo Ezeugwu also benefited greatly from the program. “A friend of mine recommended it about two years ago,” Ezeugwu says.
Ezeugwu is the co-founder of Whose Your Landlord, an informative platform that educates communities on what to expect from a landlord before you sign your lease. “Whose Your Landlord is a platform that’s all about empowering and informing different communities. We do that through writing landlord reviews, housing literacy content and also engaging in analysis tools for landlords, property managers and developers. I think one of the biggest things for us is to make sure that we are creating transparency in the marketplace from the residential side. The program works well because everybody has to live somewhere so now anybody can cite credible info when talking about this kind of stuff.”
The young entrepreneur was matched with Tim Reeves, principal at Allen & Gerritsen. “Tim has a very strong background in PR and brand management. It was really great getting his insight,” says Ezeugwu. “The biggest thing I learned was for any business you need to have a strong network to be successful. One of the coolest things about the program was it has all kinds of business CEOs and executives participating. So when we would talk about topics around diversity and inclusion, you were hearing from a cross of different industries and the different issues that people were seeing, and the successful practices they were doing as well. I enjoyed learning that the most and having those candid conversations in a safe space. That was really great.”
By taking advantage of the program, Ezeugwu was able to grow Whose Your Landlord even more and gain access to others who could help with his budding business. “Tim at one point connected me with the vice president of Comcast, so that kind of access was absolutely amazing and beneficial for our company. Even if, in the immediacy of things, you’re not able to turn it into something tangible, a lot of time planting that seed with a new individual or having them hear your name or hear you speak in the future can lead to something bigger.”
CEO Access is currently accepting applications for their fall program. Participation is free and open to any minority, LGBTQ or woman-owned business leaders in the Philadelphia region whose organizations meet the program criteria. Find out more details at chamberphl.com