Last month, thirty-seven years after its first substantial award to support aspiring entrepreneurs on college campuses, the Coleman Foundation announced a set of new grants which expand its emerging efforts to support self-employment in Chicago neighborhoods.
In August of 1981, the Foundation funded the establishment of the Denton Thorne Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). This endowment was followed by similar awards to DePaul University (1986), Beloit College (1986), Marquette University (1987) and Saint Louis University (1991) which created the opportunity for college students to learn about self-employment. Across nearly forty years that followed, the Foundation made additional program awards at these campuses and others across the nation in an effort to legitimize and establish entrepreneurship as a field of study.
In the past ten years, the Coleman Foundation Faculty Entrepreneurship Fellows Program has served as a focal point for efforts to expand entrepreneurship education beyond the school of business. During this time, the Foundation funded small fellowships to over 800 faculty members on 33 college campuses, enabling them to embed self-employment concepts in courses from anthropology to zoology. Thousands of college students were able to gain exposure to basic self-employment concepts and perspectives which were delivered in their own majors and departments using the language of their discipline. As evidence: a recent student survey at Millikin University, Decatur, IL, found that 27% of the student body has participated in an entrepreneurship related course.
As it winds down the Coleman Fellows Program over the course of the upcoming academic year, the Foundation is returning its focus to its hometown of Chicago. Just as its first major investment led UIC to assist first generation college students gain exposure to self-employment education, new grantees are helping aspiring entrepreneurs in local sectors of the economy and within Chicago neighborhoods. An award made in August of 2017 supported FamilyFarmed to assist entrepreneurs to improve their activities in the local food space. Subsequent awards that year to the Chicago Urban League and Sunshine Enterprises have aided aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs in neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side.
In the third quarter of 2018, the Coleman Foundation approved grants totaling $567,040 to non-profit organizations to advance new strategies in the Foundation’s Entrepreneurship-in-Neighborhoods effort.
Entrepreneurship-in-Neighborhoods strategies and related awards are:
Strategy 1: Supporting individual non-profit business service organizations (BSOs) that provide training and other supports to aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs in local communities
$145,000 – Community Entrepreneurship Expansion
An award to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs in technology-based industries and provide community access for experiential learning while supporting Bethel’s efforts to research technology ecosystems and entrepreneurship systems needed for income generation and job retention to scale in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and beyond
$75,000 – ScaleUp Program
An award is to support the ScaleUp program to enable small businesses in the Chicago neighborhoods of Woodlawn, South Shore and Chatham to break out of a no growth cycle, build capacity and create jobs.
Strategy 2: Develop and enhance networks of business service organizations to scale professional and program development across multiple organizations that share best practices
$76,000 – Integrating Financial Coaching into Community-Based Entrepreneurship Programs
An award to support entrepreneurs in Chicago’s low-to-moderate income neighborhoods by integrating one-on-one financial coaching by one of the organization’s Financial Opportunity Centers into services offered by a South Side neighborhood-based entrepreneurship support organization.
$26,040 – Experiential Classroom XIX
An award to support the participation by a small group of the Coleman Fellows and staff from neighborhood business service organizations to attend a leading professional development event for entrepreneurship educators. The four-day workshop, featuring over 20 master educators in the entrepreneurship discipline will serve as a launching pad for potential future collaboration opportunities.
Strategy 3: Build a neighborhood entrepreneurial pathway ecosystem, facilitating transitions based on functional expertise or economic sector specialization
$75,000 –Early Childhood Education Entrepreneurship Program
An award to support the Early Childhood Education Entrepreneurship Program to assist potential and emerging child care entrepreneurs in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods of Belmont Cragin and Little Village.
Another grant supports a longtime program which aims to increase the quality of experiential and co-curricular activities and improve core self-employment skills.
$170,000 – Self-Employment in the Arts (SEA)
A two-year award to support a program transition of the annual conference from Lisle, Illinois to Chicago community based venues and program partnerships. Through the transition, SEA will build stronger relationships with collegiate schools in Chicago; develop organizational event partners; create a destination event for schools outside the immediate region; and provide educational programming and unique experiential learning opportunities for artists and aspiring artists.