ENGLEWOOD — Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the Chicago Startup Boot Camp to small-business owners on Tuesday.
The new program is geared toward supporting thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses in Chicago’s 70-plus incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces. Emanuel unveiled the program at the new Englewood Blue1647, located in the US Bank Building, 815 W. 63rd St.
The business support center is in partnership with the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation. Tuesday’s boot camp, attended by Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) and Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th), kicked off the program. The City of Chicago Small Business Center will manage it.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, creating thousands of jobs and spurring innovation and economic development throughout Chicago,” said Emanuel, who added that he met with hundreds of entrepreneurs during his campaign to learn what they wanted.
Emanuel said three things stood out: access to capital; counseling on topics like licensing requirements; and legal, financial and technology support. The boot camp is working with Accion and the Law Project. The program will help startups that can't easily get a loan and connect them with the city's resources. The Chicago Microlending Institute has $5 million in funding for small businesses.
A’Keem Muhammad, 25, has been with his family’s business since it started 10 years ago.
Imani’s Original Bean Pie is in more than 10 Chicago area stores and was recently selected to be in the new Englewood Whole Foods. Muhammad lives in Englewood and said he wants to network with other business owners. Muhammad decided to attend the boot camp for that reason.
“I wanted to participate just so we can gain some more information and get a chance to market with new people, plus we’re always looking for a way to grow and help others grow as well,” he said.
Google also announced the launch of its “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” in Chicago. The initiative helps get small businesses online.
“About 58 percent of businesses do not have a website, and that’s a problem,” said Rob Biederman, Google’s Midwest regional public affairs manager. "Businesses online are expected to grow 40 percent faster.”
Google is partnering with the City of Chicago and will offer tools and free websites through the boot camp program.
The Englewood Blue1647 had a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month and opened to the community on May 1.
Glen Fulton, executive director of the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, stressed the importance of having help for startups and small businesses. His organization partnered with Blue1647, a job-training nonprofit, to create an innovation center offering classes and workshops, workforce development training, business acceleration and economic development in technology.
The center offers business owners a place to hold meetings, make phone calls, print documents and more. There is also a workforce development component.
There is a membership fee. To inquire, call 773-651-2300 or visit www.GreaterEnglewoodCDC.org.
“We’re going to offer you the resources you need to make your business grow,” Fulton said. “Once we get you to the point where you can get out on your own, we’re encouraging you to do that. We don’t want you to stay here forever.”
George Wright, who is both director of community development at CitiBank and president of the Greater Englewood Community Development Board of Directors, stressed the importance of small businesses having access to capital.
Like Emanuel, Cochran also said that small businesses are the backbone of the communities like Englewood. A businessman himself, Cochran said he can relate to the hurdles that many new business owners face, like locating resources and getting approved for loans.
“I’m very supportive and very glad we have a mayor who thinks the way that he does and moves agendas the way that he does,” he said. “It’s through this process that we will continue to make employment opportunities available and utilize the resources we have available to us.”
Cochran also said that by helping small businesses, youths will benefit indirectly. Some of them will be given jobs and receive mentoring.
“We need you as partners to bring those children on board, bring them the type of mentorship they need and lay the groundwork for them,” Cochran said.
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