Panel + Q&A (*Maximum 4 Panelists)
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Uniting Donors and Funders to Support Businesses of Color

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Small businesses are the backbone of Chicagos economy. They provide 58 percent of all jobs in the city and 70 percent of jobs in underinvested neighborhoods. But, Black and Latinx-owned businesses only make up 8 percent of all small businesses in Chicago.  Additionally, businesses and entrepreneurs of color struggle with access to capital, in comparison to White entrepreneurs. A new study called “The Equity Gap for Entrepreneurs of Color in Chicago,” revealed that White entrepreneurs attract up to 17 times more equity capital than Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. About 80 percent of these entrepreneurs of color go with their capital needs unmet. 

Both in the Chicago region and nationally, the onset of COVID-19 has created greater challenges for minority-owned businesses to access capital or to even stay afloat. According to national research from the Center of Responsible Lending, 95% of Black-owned businesses and 91% of Latinx-owned businesses are unable to receive loans from the Paycheck Protection Program. Additionally, the number of working Black-owned businesses have decreased more than 40 percent, while Latinx and immigrant-owned businesses fell 36 percent. Businesses of color need support and coordinated efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, grow and succeed.  

These challenge present ripe opportunities for philanthropy to step up. The Chicago Community Trust has worked to develop a dynamic ecosystem that better serves businesses and entrepreneurs of color through its own philanthropy and that of partner foundations and donors. These ecosystems help entrepreneurs of color receive critical access to capital, coaching and other resources needed to strengthen their skills and help their small businesses grow.  

In 2019, in partnership with three other foundations, The Chicago Community Trust (the Trust) launched the Chicago-Area Businesses of Color Partnership Fund (soon to be named Fund for Equitable Business Growth) to provide grants for organizational collaborations pursuing innovative solutions to the challenges facing entrepreneurs of color in the Chicago region 

In 2017, the Trust launched a collaborative effort with a local philanthropist, the Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL), to create a professional learning environment for entrepreneurs of color in the Chicago region. The NEL works with local entrepreneurs of color to further enhance their business skills, provide them access to networks and capital, and strengthen their connections with peer entrepreneurs. 

Most recently, the Trust engaged with the City of Chicago to support their loan and grant programs designed to sustain small businesses in Chicago during the COVID-19 crisis and civil unrest.  

This panel will take a deep dive into: 

  • Stories of impact from the Businesses of Color Partnershipthe NEL, and Chicago COVID-19 small business response.  
  • The role philanthropy can play in supporting businesses of color, including how to engage donors through opportunities to fund and to lend expertise. 
  • Why supporting businesses of color is critical as part of a larger focus to address wealth inequities, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest due to racial injustices.  

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