Expanding Entrepreneurship on Chicago’s West Side

Sybil Berry at mHUB’s Tech Summit 2024. Photo by Carla Land.

Launching a small business can be quite rewarding, but there are also challenges. On Chicago’s West Side, there is an abundance of Business Support Organizations (BSOs) that provide critical resources to help small business owners become more capable of starting and sustaining their enterprises. As entrepreneurship provides a pathway to individual and communal wealth, the Christopher Family Foundation is pleased to fund BSOs on Chicago’s West Side with a particular focus on Austin.

Here are the BSOs funded by CFF that promote entrepreneurship on the West Side.

Youth Entrepreneurship

The Gray Matter Experience is cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset among high school students through transformative bootcamps, field trips, and internships. They also train young adults to transition their side hustles into impactful ventures.

Coaching and Capital

Access to capital is one of the most persistent problems for many small businesses. Allies for Community Business seeks to address this challenge through its flexible underwriting and straightforward process for loans from $500 to $100,000 to startups and mature businesses throughout Illinois.

Through West Side partnerships, Sunshine Enterprises is extending their expertise in individual coaching, cohort-based training, and mentoring. Their coaches prepare entrepreneurs for loans and connect them to lenders. Also, program graduates can access $25,000 in equity funding.

Industry Experts

Some BSOs are hyper-focused on supporting businesses within certain industries. HIRE360’s Business Development Center aids women- and minority-owned businesses in the construction industry to increase their financial literacy, obtain loans, and secure the contracts they need to succeed.

The Hatchery Chicago in East Garfield Park create the conditions for food and beverage businesses to launch successfully. They offer special pricing for kitchen space rental to West Side business owners.

Located on the Near West Side, mHUB is a leading incubator and accelerator for pioneers in hardtech and manufacturing. Their mPOWER program strives to rebalance access for Black, Hispanic, and female founders of physical product companies.

Together, these Business Support Organizations have built an environment for entrepreneurs to validate business ideas, start ventures, or expand established companies. At CFF, we support BSOs because we recognize the potential of entrepreneurship to create jobs and foster financial well-being. Ultimately, we will see healthier individuals and communities.

—Contributed by Carla Land, Program Associate