Defender Network named a 2021 Inner City 100 award winner
Defender Network CEO Sonceria 'Sonny' Messiah Jiles. Photo by Aswad Walker.

The Defender Network 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 the IC100 award. 

The 2021 IC100 winners were evaluated based on revenue growth during the four-year period from 2016 to 2020. The Defender, led by publisher and CEO Sonny Messiah Jiles was ranked #76 on the list based on its four-year revenue growth rate.

“This is a monumental honor, especially in light of the hardships we experienced at the onset of COVID-19. Like so many companies, we were hit hard and I was concerned about our future. But we turned to readers and they stepped up to the plate to keep us afloat and our team went to work searching for grants and other funding to not only survive but thrive. I’m proud of our efforts and all of the support that has enabled us to receive this award,” said Messiah Jiles.

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

In light of the economic and financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses are more vital now than ever to local economies and small business ecosystems. It is thus important to recognize and celebrate them for their growth and resilience. 

“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.”

Grossman added, “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.”

From 2016 to 2020, the 2021 Inner City 100 companies averaged 216% revenue growth and created 3,899 total jobsOf these 100 winners,32 are woman-owned/led, and 60 are BIPOC-owned/led, the latter of which is a record high-number in the program’s 23-year history.

To view the full list of 2021 IC100 award winners by ranking and learn more about each company, visit: