Chicago-Area Businesses of Color Partnership Fund

Transforming our local ecosystem into one where entrepreneurs of color grow businesses, create jobs and anchor communities

Chicago’s small businesses drive economic empowerment—providing 58% of all jobs in the city, and 70% of the jobs in disinvested neighborhoods. But despite their vision, tenacity and commitment, entrepreneurs of color face significant barriers to success. In our region African American and Latinx-owned businesses comprise just 8% of small businesses, while the average White-owned business is valued at more than 12x the value of the average Black-owned business.

In 2019, four local funders joined forces to address these barriers through the Chicago-Area Businesses of Color Partnership Fund. The Coleman Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust pooled knowledge and resources to launch a grant program providing capital to projects led by partnerships of organizations, helping the small business ecosystem better serve entrepreneurs of color.

The Fund’s strategies are informed by the research study Assessing Chicago’s Small Business Ecosystem, which found that while Chicago enjoys a large number of organizations serving small businesses, those organizations are not connected nor coordinated enough, and often provide generalized and sometimes duplicative services.


In summer 2019 the Fund released its first call for proposals, making funding available for promising new partnerships designed to improve and expand access to capital, high quality and specialized business service consultation, networks and industry specific supports for businesses in Chicagoland owned by people of color. From the resulting proposals, the Fund 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 model, with support from an evaluator to establish outcomes and measure progress, ensuring that funding not only supports individual partnerships but begins to transform the small business ecosystem in Chicago.