Last year, big banks JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third Bank created the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund. The newly founded but wildly supported fund provides needed loans to minority-owned businesses in the south and west sides of Chicago. These neighborhoods are known for their neglected and vacant storefronts, and the organization hopes to provide funding to aspiring businesses that can fill these lots and build up the outskirts of the City. As of this week, the mission will accept generous contributions from three more banks and three new foundations – setting the fund at an impressive $9 million.
First launched in Detroit in 2015, the JPMorgan Chase model has found success in helping to revitalize the neglected and lower-income areas of that city, tripling its bank of funds to $22 million already. With this success, the model initiative has spread to other major cities like San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Since launching in Chicago last July, over 400 jobs have already been created and preserved, with prospects looking even greater this next year as it expands its partnerships.
Joining JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third Bank are First Midwest, U.S. Bank, Providence Bank, Coleman and McCormick Foundations, and the Chicago Community Trust foundation. The essence of the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund is to provide minority business owners with the support and funding that they need to find success in reinvigorating economically challenged neighborhoods. The growth of locally run businesses in the City of Chicago provides immense benefits like job creation and the resuscitation of activity and camaraderie in these neighborhoods.
The hope is that the growth experienced over the next several years will motivate a younger generation living in the area to continue this trend after witnessing the effects and wealth creation from the projects. Furthermore, the organization has intentions to help employ ex-offenders within the community. It is no surprise that troubled teenagers and adults have a hard time finding employment after their sentencing, possibly leading them to return to a life of crime. Providing job opportunities to ex-offenders not only gives them a well-deserved second chance at changing their lives but could act to inspire others and sway them away from crime in the first place.
Another demographic at the forefront of this movement is providing support for women-owned businesses. In Chicago, minority- and women-owned businesses employ a large piece of the whole pie of workers in the City – about 1 million. What is lacking is not only the funding to increase these businesses, but also access to mentorship in the industry. Nonprofit partners Accion Chicago and Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) are joining the movement to provide this invaluable insight and mentorship to beneficiaries of the Fund.
Many small business owners in Chicago have benefited immensely from this unique and growing opportunity. Hopefully, this is an initiative that Chicagoans can continue to utilize for successful years to come.