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The Fund for Equitable Business Growth is a multi-funder collaborative designed to support partnerships between Business Support Organizations (BSOs) in the region that provide coordinated, accessible, and responsive business development services for entrepreneurs of color.

The Fund’s vision is to shape an equitable and coordinated marketplace of services for entrepreneurs of color throughout Chicago and Cook County. With funding from The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Coleman Foundation, JP Morgan & Chase, MacArthur Foundation, McCormick Foundation, and Polk Bros. Foundation, the Fund’s overall goals are to invest in strategies that strengthen the entrepreneurial support system by advancing the entrepreneur’s social, financial, and/or knowledge capital.

The BSO Collective Impact Initiative (a program of the Fund) supports partnerships between BSOs servicing entrepreneurs of color in a targeted manner. The initiative aims to support partnerships that are preparing entrepreneurs of color to absorb capital.

The BSO Collective Impact Initiative recently awarded 14 partnerships, representing 51 total organizations and more than $2 million in grants. These partners include community-based organizations, banking institutions, CDFIs, academic institutions, corporations, and chambers of commerce.

Collectively, these partnerships serve entrepreneurs in the following industries or knowledge sectors:

  • Food & Beverage Industry
  • Financial Curricula
  • Spanish Language Curricula
  • Cooperatives
  • Back Office Collaborations

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The Chicago Resilient Food Business Partnership – The Chicago Resilient Food Business Partnership will lead a business training program built around the experiences of urban farmers and food producers of color from the South and West sides of the city. The partnership will increase expertise in farming practices, accessing land, food business licensure, and capitalization by providing hands-on financial technical assistance. The partnership also plans to uplift and expand a growing ecosystem of Black and Latinx food businesses will serve as a support network for those businesses.


EMPOWER – Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives Micro Finance Group (CNIMFG) and Business Services Collective will partner to create a pilot to deliver a comprehensive set of supports to contractors of color.  The services will include a robust back-office system providing access to capital services and connection to construction projects.

ELEVATE ENERGY –  $175,000

Light Bulb: A pilot to reduce barriers for minority contractors through shared back-office services – Elevate Energy, Sustainable Options for Urban Living (SOUL) and Business Services Collective (BSC) are continuing their piloting of a shared back-office approach, which offers subsidized wraparound services to build operational capacity for businesses of color that are in the solar and energy sector. The partners are creating an “Opportunity Hub” to streamline opportunities for energy efficiency and solar projects in a central online space for businesses to bid on. The second year is designed to offer services within a sliding scale fee-for-service model, as well as subsidized versions of new service offerings such as project management.


FoodLab Chicago 2.0 – In partnership with FoodLab Detroit and Association for Enterprise Opportunity, Greater Chatham Initiative and South Shore Chamber of Commerce will provide integrated services to largely mature food businesses owned by people of color, addressing acute barriers that hamper their growth.


Greater Southwest Development Corporation will partner with Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce and Rogers Park Business Alliance to train or connect businesses of color and of dual language to each other and its collective array of financial management resources.


Xquina Incubator – Xquina Incubator is a commercial and cultural amenity that enhances quality of life through an open, accessible and inclusive business learning environment. Xquina provides bilingual, adaptable entrepreneurial training and coaching for current and emerging businesses, media professionals, and local youth.


Financial Literacy Dashboard for Small Business – New Covenant CDC, Sunshine Enterprises and the North Lawndale Chamber will work together to provide financial management training for small and micro-businesses. This partnership will work with those planning to start a business and those planning to expand their businesses.


Financial Capacity Program – The Northwest Side Community Development Corporation will partner with the Women’s Business Development Center, Chicago Police Department (25th District), CIBC Bank, LISC Chicago, and Associated Bank to provide personalized business capacity building, expand access to new, flexible and patient capital, and promote safe, beautiful streets along the Northwest Side corridors.


Chicago Entrepreneurs of Color Partnership – Small Business Majority, New Covenant Community Development Corporation and Rogers Park Business Alliance will partner to increase access to capital, business support and credit-building strategies for Chicago’s entrepreneurs of color.


Sunshine Enterprises and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce will work together to expand services to local entrepreneurs living or doing business in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. The partnership will provide locally available, culturally relevant training (knowledge capital) and mentoring services (social capital), emphasizing business development, marketing and preparedness for financial capital. While not exclusively designed for artist-based businesses, a strong emphasis on serving the artist community will be incorporated as the partners leverage existing organizational strengths and artist needs.


Financial Management Fundamentals Initiative for South Side Small Businesses – University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will partner with the Chicago Community Loan Fund, Seaway, and GN Bank to co-design and pilot a new nine-week Financial Management Fundamentals Initiative. This initiative will provide local entrepreneurs with tailored technical assistance, consultation, workshops, and coaching on fundamental business finance in response to South Side businesses’ financial readiness needs and gaps as identified by local financial institutions. Entrepreneurs of color will build financial management knowledge and skills and access direct pathways to participate in Polsky’s Small Business Growth Program and be better positioned to apply for and absorb financial capital.


The Bronzeville Culinary Incubator – The Bronzeville Culinary Incubator will bring together key industry, community and resource partners to facilitate the launch and growth of Black culinary businesses in Chicago, particularly businesses operating in Black communities in Chicago. The program identifies and nurtures Black culinary professionals and entrepreneurs by creating a diverse network of partnerships.


Expanding Minority Business Access – Expanding Minority Business Access will increase exposure to private and public sector contracting and procurement opportunities for minority business owners. WBDC and Chicago Minority Suppliers Development Council will develop a module and tool kit, facilitate business service organization train-the-trainer sessions, leverage corporate, government and Women and Minority Business Enterprise subject matter expertise, and offer direct lending to expand procurement and contracting for businesses of color.


The Southland Development Authority Stimulus Program will provide targeted, industry-specific technical and financial assistance to businesses in the South Suburbs owned by people of color to address the immediate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while planning for equitable recovery and sustained, inclusive growth for the region. The SDA’s financial assistance will partner with Gold Leaf Capital to provide flexible lending products. Their working capital and bonding program will partner with Inner-City Underwriting Agency and HUB International to provide contractors with working capital and bonding for contractors.