Staying the course

Howard Manly | 6/1/2010, 8:41 p.m.
Derek and Alexis Brooks have seen their Inside Cable telecommunications company rise and fall — and rise again. Howard...

From day one, the Brookses have tried to use Inside Cable to bridge the so-called “digital divide” — the gap between those with regular, effective access to digital and information technology, and those without it.

To achieve that goal, their company offers a range of services, network infrastructure products and Wi-Fi implementation. Their contract with the DNC, for instance, called for them to wire the DNC’s administrative office with more than 175 phone and internet lines.

In another project, a multi-year contract with Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority called for Inside Cable to serve as a supplier of fiber-optic cables and devices associated with setting up the wireless service along MBTA service lines.

Aside from technical expertise, the Brookses also plugged themselves into Boston’s business and social networks and used those platforms to not only leverage their small business but also advocate for minority — and women-owned businesses throughout Massachusetts.

Together, they serve on the boards of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts Inc. and the Center for Women and Enterprise.

With their own business infrastructure in place — and a separate division called Inside Cable Community Technology Initiatives (CTI), whose mission is to bring technology to underserved minority communities — it’s a little wonder then that the Brookses were able to tap into their network for support during the tough times.

 “Our strategy was to continue our advocacy work while also seeking creative ways to reinstate our funding,” Brooks said.

In other words, they kept pushing.

 In March 2008 they went on the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s trade mission to the United Kingdom to discuss diversifying the 2012 Olympics in London. They even went to Dubai to make a business pitch.

 And they didn’t neglect their community commitments. In January 2008, they opened Tech for Tots, a community-based technology access program for preschool- and kindergarten-aged children at the Hattie B. Cooper Community Center in Roxbury.

In the summer of 2009, the company along with a corporate partner, worked with the Los Angeles Urban League to obtain stimulus funding for one of their technology centers.

And things have slowly started to turn around for Inside Cable. The contract that was delayed nearly two years ago has finally been approved. In a separate deal, Brooks said they are close to finalizing a contract under the Department of Homeland Security to be part of its Mentor-Protege program, which pairs small businesses with large corporations.

Brooks readily admits that all of their problems have not been solved. “It’s still ugly out there,” she said. “But we are staying the course.”