Creating a marketplace of services for entrepreneurs of color in the Chicago region to close the racial and ethnic wealth gap and build a more just, equitable and resilient society.

A collaboration between The Chicago Community Trust, The Coleman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Leslie Bluhm and David Helfand, Peter and Lucy Ascoli Family Fund, and the Liz and Don Thompson Family Fund.

Chicago’s small businesses drive economic empowerment — providing 58% of all jobs in the city and 70% of the jobs in underinvested neighborhoods.

Despite their vision, tenacity and commitment, entrepreneurs of color face significant barriers to success.

Black and Latinx-owned businesses comprise just 8% of the total number of small businesses combined.

The average White-owned business is valued at more than 12x the value of the average Black-owned business.

Small businesses in Englewood (94% Black) are operating with less than a week of cash reserves in their deposit accounts, compared to 17 days for small businesses in Buena Park (Uptown, 54% White)—three times the cash liquidity.

How can we address these systemic inequities?

In 2018, Next Street conducted research on Chicago’s small business landscape that revealed the following needs of businesses owned by women and people of color:

  • Improved business service delivery
  • Enhanced service options
  • Coordination among business service providers
  • Expanded access to business networks and capital

We believe effective partnerships between business support organizations are central to addressing these needs. The fund’s vision is to shape an equitable and coordinated marketplace of services for entrepreneurs of color throughout Chicago.

We awarded grants to 12 partnerships to expand their offerings to small businesses on the South and West sides. These grant recipients will work together in a learning cohort to begin to transform the small business ecosystem in Chicago.

The partnerships in the fund provide 4 types of support:

New Business Models: Innovating and creating new business models.

New Markets: Cultivating growth in new business markets.

Curriculum Expansion: Expanding business education into new locations with local partners.

Place-Based: Developing businesses at the hyper-local level.

As a result of this program, we anticipate an increase in:

the number of small businesses assisted throughout Chicago

the number of entrepreneurs that start-up viable businesses

the number of quality jobs created and retained within the communities served

the number of small businesses assisted throughout Chicago

We invite you to join us in supporting this effort. To learn how to do so, contact Shandra Richardson, Program Manager, The Chicago Community Trust, at

Xquina Incubator

Project led by Little Village Community Foundation

In partnership with Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, State of Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center and FourStar Branding, as well as local universities.

Creating an open, accessible and inclusive learning environment that provides bilingual, adaptable training and coaching for current and emerging businesses, working-class residents, media professionals and local youth.

The Little Village Community Foundation and its core partners are providing technical business support, branding, entrepreneurial training and a bilingual, immigrant-focused, cohort-based program.

For more information about the Xquina Incubator, contact Kim Close at

Belmont Cragin Business Collaborative (BCBC)

Project led by Northwest Side Housing Center

In partnership with the Women’s Business Development Center, Chicago Police Department (25th), CIBC Bank, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago and Associated Bank.

Providing personalized business capacity building and access to new, flexible and patient capital in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.

This partnership is working to promote safe, beautiful streets along the commercial corridor in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.

For more information about the Belmont Cragin Business Collaborative, contact Jason Estremera at

Empresarias del Futuro

Project led by Mujeres Latinas En Acción

In partnership with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

Offering an adult-learning entrepreneurship model that services low and moderate-income women, particularly Spanish-speaking and immigrant women.

In recognition of a growing market in Brighton Park, from its headquarters in Pilsen, Latin Women in Action is partnering with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council to expand its successful Empresarias del Futuro entrepreneur program. A long-standing and trusted community organizing group, coalition leader and service provider, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council plays an important role in referrals and relationship building with the community.

For more information about Empresarias del Futuro, contact Fanny Cano at

Basic Financials for Business

Project led by Greater Southwest Development Corporation

In partnership with Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative and Rogers Park Business Alliance.

Training and connecting businesses of color and of dual language to each other and a collective array of resources, with a focus on increasing access to capital.

This partnership is expanding its business financial readiness curriculum to additional neighborhoods and increasing the number of entrepreneurs successfully obtaining financing. It is also establishing an alumni network that will gather three times over the course of the year to connect and collaborate.

For more information about Basic Financials for Business, contact Erika Gonzalez at

Financial Literacy Dashboard for Small Business Project

Project led by New Development Corporation

In partnership with New Covenant CDC, Sunshine Enterprises and the North Lawndale Chamber.

Working together to provide specific training in the area of financial management for small and micro-businesses.

These partners, who have a strong working relationship, work with entrepreneurs to start or grow businesses. They strive to serve 75-100 entrepreneurs by increasing from three to five cohorts and expanding to serve both the South and West sides of Chicago.

For more information about Financial Literacy Dashboard for Small Business Project, contact Rodney Brown at

FoodLab Chicago

Project led by Greater Chatham Initiative

In partnership with FoodLab Detroit, Association for Enterprise Opportunity and South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

Providing integrated services to mature food businesses owned by people of color in the South Shore and Chatham communities by addressing acute barriers that hamper their growth.

FoodLab Detroit has created an effective model for developing cohorts of industry-specialized food entrepreneurs to provide not only technical support but also strong network ties between food businesses of color facing similar growth opportunities and challenges. Through this work, the partnership will establish a new FoodLab Chicago to provide in-person technical assistance to the 25 food businesses that are the nucleus of Restaurant Row and 71st Street.

For more information about FoodLab Chicago, contact Nedra Sims at

Light Bulb

Project led by Elevate Energy

In partnership with Sustainable Options for Urban Living (SOUL) and Business Services Collective.

Reducing barriers for minority contractors through shared back office services.

This partnership is launching a pilot to provide operational capacity and back office services for solar construction businesses owned by people of color. The project focuses on businesses that have been receiving technical training from Elevate Energy and SOUL on energy efficiency and solar installations and will start initially with helping these companies set up the systems they need to bid for contracts. The ultimate goal is to build out a suite of back office business services.

For more information about Light Bulb, contact Jeanine Otte at

Southeast Chicago Cooperative Businesses Partnership

Project led by Centro de Trabajadores Unidos Immigrant Workers Project

In partnership with United Workers’ Center (CTU), Adelante Center for Entrepreneurship, John Marshall Law School and Chicago Food Policy Action Council.

Offering a new 12-week business bootcamp on the Southeast Side of Chicago and South Suburbs that will provide comprehensive business development services for low-income, immigrant and Latinx-owned worker cooperatives.

The Partnership aims to increase the number of immigrant and Latinx cooperative firms on the Southeast Side of Chicago and South Suburbs to address the unique needs, vulnerabilities and aspirations of low-income Latinx workers and support them in creating collective worker-run enterprises.

For more information about Southeast Chicago Cooperative Business Partnership, contact Ava Tomasula Garcia at

Franchise Initiative Training and Tracking 2.0

Project led by Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative

In partnership with Far South Community Development Corporation, Chicago TREND, Sunshine Enterprises and Illinois Restaurant Association.

Outlining the opportunity, process and level of commitment needed for local businesses on Chicago’s South Side to successfully launch and operate franchises.

This partnership is leveraging relationships with a range of franchise brands to gain and apply an understanding of their franchisee selection criteria and expectations to share with participating entrepreneurs of color. This program leverages Chicago Trends’ last year of work to recruit, develop and finance new franchise owners of color and help these entrepreneurs start businesses in communities of color with less risk, due to the power of franchise brands.

For more information about Franchise Initiative Training and Tracking 2.0, contact Ghian Foreman at

Coordinating Services to Support Chicago’s Entrepreneurs of Color

Project led by Small Business Majority

In partnership with Rogers Park Business Alliance and Working Credit.

Offering in-depth business education for local entrepreneurs of color.

This partnership is working to increase the capacity and effectiveness of each organization, increasing entrepreneurs’ access to capital, business resources and credit-building strategies. Through this partnership, they will enhance an already successful business curriculum by integrating the three partners’ expertise.

For more information about Coordinating Services to Support Chicago’s Entrepreneurs of Color, contact Geri Aglipay at

A Model for Increasing the Pipeline of Minority Business Participation in Public Infrastructure

Project led by Local Initiatives Support Corporation

In partnership with Chicago Transit Authority.

Leveraging the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red/Purple Line modernization construction contract to lower barriers and increase participation success for business owners of color.

This program is developing qualified bidders using LISC’s flexible capital, network of partners, CTA and the prime contractor to not only help the CTA meet its 20% minority business (DBE) requirement, but to ensure that smaller, often unsuccessful bidders are prepared and supported to compete for the various components of this three to five-year construction procurement process.

For more information about A Model for Increasing the Pipeline of Minority Business Participation in Public Infrastructure, contact Caroline Rendon at

Expanding Minority Business Access (EMBA)—Connections, Contracts and Capital

Project led by Women’s Business Development Center

In partnership with the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council.

Increasing exposure and opportunities for business owners of color.

This partnership has a three-part focus: advancing and deepening business development curriculum through a train-the-trainer curriculum for neighborhood business service organizations; expanding markets and mentorship networks; and increasing access to capital.

For more information about Expanding Minority Business Access, contact Georgia Marsh at