Detroit, Michigan, distributor Corporate Specialties (PPAI 200872, D1) has been named a winner of the 2021 Inner City 100 (IC100), awarded by Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). Since 1999, ICIC has identified and celebrated the 100 fastest-growing businesses in under-resourced communities in the U.S. through its IC100 award.

The 2021 IC100 winners were evaluated based on revenue growth during the four-year period from 2016 to 2020. Corporate Specialties, led by Valerie Hayman Sklar, was ranked No. 97 on the list based on its four-year revenue growth rate of 23 percent.

“Recording financial growth year over year is a significant accomplishment,” said ICIC CEO Steve Grossman. “The Inner City 100 class of 2021 sustained their momentum amid the unprecedented challenges faced during the pandemic to greatly expand their respective businesses’ revenue—a tremendous accolade to be celebrated.”

Hayman Sklar attributes the last four years of growth to consistent referrals, targeted outreach and “a whole lot of hustle.” She says, “Ever since visiting my family’s business in downtown Detroit as a child, I’ve felt very connected to the city. I moved the headquarters to Detroit in 2013 because I saw the city was on the edge of change. There was an excitement, an energy, and I wanted to be a part of it and contribute to the rebirth of a legendary American city. Being included on the IC100 list for my contributions to economic growth in a city I love is a true honor.”

Corporate Specialties sales in 2020 actually grew 38 percent over 2019, despite the pandemic, and it wasn’t in sales of PPE. Hayman Sklar says, “Our clients had to get very creative to continue marketing their brands, connecting with customers and hosting events during the lockdowns. They relied on our expertise to design strategic promotional marketing programs, and the sales came naturally as a result.”

While sales growth was the primary factor for evaluation, how companies support nonprofits and charitable organizations within their communities was also considered. Grossman adds, “These firms have been engines of job growth and a healthy, inclusive economy in these incredibly challenging times. They have also been actively engaged in strengthening their communities by donating their time and resources to local organizations and charities. We are truly inspired by our IC100 winners.”

In 2020, Corporate Specialties supported the City of Detroit with donations of tote bags for food distribution as well as the Detroit Fire Department with gifts of pet oxygen masks to provide respiratory assistance to pets that were in fires. Additionally, when actress Drew Barrymore wore a vintage The Detroit News t-shirt on the cover of InStyle magazine, Hayman Sklar worked with the media outlet to recreate the shirts as a fundraising campaign. Corporate Specialties manufactured, sold and individually mailed 5,500 shirts, helping The Detroit News raise more than $70,000 for the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation.

This year’s IC100 list was unveiled during an awards ceremony at ICIC’s 2021 Annual Conference held virtually on December 9.