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Jackie Etchingham, Manager of Development, Financial Institutions, Accion, Chicago; Francia Harrington, Civic Engagement Banking Executive, Fifth Third Bank; Kala Gibson, Fifth Third Bank Head of Business Banking; Larry Magnesen, Chief Reputation Officer, Fifth Third Bank; Nicole Johnson-Scales, Community and Economic Development Manager, Fifth Third Bank; Demetria Hayden, Owner, Altogether Lovely, Inc. and Accion client; Eric Smith Fifth Third Bank Chicago Market President; Catherine Cawthon, Head of Community Development Corp, Fifth Third Bank; Brad McConnell, CEO Accion.

Building on the success of the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund in Detroit, Fifth Third Bank and JPMorgan Chase recently announced an expansion of the fund’s model to support minority entrepreneurs in Chicago’s South and West Sides. This investment includes $4 million from JPMorgan Chase to provide minority entrepreneurs with critical access to capital, education and other resources. Fifth Third Bank will invest $2.5 million in the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, pending regulatory approval, bringing total funding to $6.5 million in support of minority entrepreneurs in these Chicago neighborhoods.

As part of JPMorgan Chase’s overall $40 million investment in creating economic opportunity in Chicago’s South and West sides, the firm will invest $4 million in two major initiatives with the goal of helping local minority-owned small businesses share in Chicago’s growth.

* Entrepreneurs of Color Fund: JPMorgan Chase will invest $3 million to launch the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund with community partners Accion Chicago and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

* Ascend 2020: JPMorgan Chase will invest $1 million to continue business mentoring programs at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, part of Ascend 2020, a national network university-led programs for minority entrepreneurs.

Small businesses are key drivers of growth, and that growth is fastest among minority and women entrepreneurs, yet only 18 percent of Chicago businesses are owned by people of color, including 6 percent of Hispanics and 2 percent of African Americans, according to the US Census.

“South and West Side neighborhoods hold tremendous economic opportunity, but we can do more to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate in Chicago’s continued growth,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO JPMorgan Chase. “The Entrepreneurs of Color Fund has unlocked capital and created hundreds of jobs in Detroit, and now we’re excited that Chicago small businesses will have the same chance to grow and succeed.”

“As Fifth Third Bank’s Community Commitment demonstrates, building and maintaining strong communities is at the heart of what we do,” Fifth Third CEO Greg Carmichael said in a news release about the fund.

Eric Smith, Fifth Third Bank Chicago Market President; Margo Strotter, owner of Ain’t She Sweet Café and Accion client; Terez Pugh, Founder &CEO, Sip & Savor Chicago, Inc., Kala Gibson, Fifth Third Bank Head of Business Banking

Fifth Third committed two years ago to lending or investing $30 billion to low- and moderate-income borrowers and in low-to-moderate income communities from 2016 to 2020.

“Supporting and empowering entrepreneurs and small businesses on the South and West Sides of Chicago creates jobs and strengthens communities for generations,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This investment complements our work with the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and Retail Thrive Zones efforts, and we are grateful to JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third for contributing their resources, energy and expertise to drive economic growth in all of Chicago’s communities.”

A 2016 study by the Institute for a Competitive Inner City shows that small businesses in Chicago’s neighborhoods provide nearly 70 percent of jobs. That same report also found that an increase of just over one job per existing small businesses could create enough employment opportunities to eliminate unemployment in these neighborhoods.

Chicago was chosen for strategic reasons, according to Kala Gibson, head of business banking at Fifth Third. “Chicago will be our largest market…we wanted to double down on community and let them know we are aligned with the community.”

The fund will help small businesses grow and in some cases start new business, Gibson explained to the Defender. It will be available to offer technical assistance as well as capital and access to information, which is just as important for the success of a business.

Normally banks compete, but JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third are introducing a new model, according to Gibson. “When it comes to building [the] community, competition doesn’t work; it has to be collaboration,” he said. “We hope to show that one plus one can equal five; not just that one plus one equals two…and we need the local leadership involved, we can’t do it alone.

Chicago Entrepreneurs of Color Fund

According to data from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, the limited cash liquidity of small businesses threatens to limit the economic vibrancy of some Chicago neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. For example, businesses in the Englewood neighborhood have the smallest cash reserves, allowing for 5 or fewer cash buffer days, while businesses in Buena Park, on the North Side, have more than three times those cash reserves, with a buffer of at least 17 days should they face an unexpected cash shortfall.

Further, residents in Chicago’s South and West Side neighborhoods must travel greater distances to access everyday goods and services. In the South Shore and Pullman neighborhoods on the South Side, residents traveled 4.9 and 4.6 miles, respectively, from home for the typical purchase, while residents in the North Side’s West Ridge and North Park traveled 1.9 and 1.6 miles.

The Chicago Entrepreneurs of Color Fund aims to provide $5.5 million in flexible capital to meet the needs of hundreds of minority-owned businesses, and encourage the revitalization of these and other underserved neighborhoods through commercial and small business development. This effort will help create jobs and increase revenues for local businesses.

Through this initiative, Accion Chicago and LISC commit to assisting 1,000 entrepreneurs of color in need with a mix of capital, free technical assistance and coaching services. Accion Chicago and LISC focus on 15 communities on the South and West Sides, which are marked by segregation, high levels of intergenerational poverty and historically low levels of small business creation. Once the entrepreneurs are ready to apply for financing, Accion Chicago will use the investments from JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third Bank to deploy loan capital up to $100,000, while LISC will provide loans between $100,000 and $500,000.

Eligible entrepreneurs can be in the start-up stage of their business or existing, legacy businesses—allowing more businesses to stay local and invest in their neighborhoods. These entrepreneurs are typically unable to qualify for traditional loans, often due to previous credit challenges, limited financial collateral, short business history or informal businesses practices.

In addition to the $5.5 million allocated for Accion Chicago and LISC, the announcement includes an additional $1 million investment for the Ascend 2020 program. The expanded funding will enable the University of Chicago and Northwestern University to assist an additional 70 small businesses.


Interested entrepreneurs should contact Accion and LISC for more information on receiving support from the Chicago Entrepreneurs of Color Fund.

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