Ten Companies Complete Chicago Urban League’s 2021-22 nextONE Program

The 2022 cohort of the Chicago Urban League’s nextONE program capped off their nine-month experiment with a final pitch contest and graduation celebration on Saturday, April 9. The cohort, which included 11 entrepreneurs representing 10 black-owned businesses, was the first to complete the program since it was relaunched last year.

An intensive MBA-level business acceleration program, nextONE is designed to help Black entrepreneurs grow and scale their established businesses. From 2007 to 2010, the program was the flagship of the Chicago Urban League’s entrepreneurship center, with more than 50 business owners completing it before it was discontinued. The Chicago Urban League relaunched the program in the spring of 2021 as part of its strategic goal to close the racial wealth gap. The revamped nextONE also focused on social impact, highlighting the ways Black-owned businesses can succeed while doing good in their communities.

“By many estimates, black households own only a tenth of the wealth of white households. Business ownership is a path to generational wealth building, but although there are many black business owners, they tend to have lower incomes, less business management training, and fewer jobs. access to capital than white business owners,” said Karen, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. Freeman Wilson. “The nextONE program had a strong track record of helping entrepreneurs take their business to the next level, so we brought it back as a way to strengthen individual businesses so they can create more jobs and economic activity. in our communities.

Photo from left to right: KENNETH ESCOE, Executive Vice President
Illinois Tool Works, nextONE Advisory Board Member; Michael
McDonald, Segment Sourcing Manager, Direct Categories-Construction Illinois Tool Works, Inc.; Robert Dutzi, group president
ITW; Tiffany Williams, co-founder Urban Roots Landscaping;
Jimmie Williams, co-founder Urban Roots Landscaping.

During the program, business owners received several opportunities that had immediate tangible results. For example, several companies have received thousands of dollars in grants from PepsiCo and Home Depot through Urban League partnerships. Some received pro bono advice and technical expertise from executives at Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (ITW) under a new initiative called Change Makers. (watch the ITW – Change Makers video)

“[The ITW Change Makers] were able to help us create a dashboard, and that helped us connect with our customer base as well as the most targeted areas by zip code,” said Jimmie Williams, co-owner of Urban Roots, Inc., a landscaper and snow removal company that serves commercial, industrial and residential customers. “We were able to really figure out which zip codes were making the most money and which were the most profitable, and that was huge.”

Participants in the 2022 cohort also attended monthly sessions where they learned from a curriculum that included fundamentals on how to run a business as well as an executive learning lab where they had the opportunity to apply what they have learned to their own businesses. Each company was assigned an executive coach, who provided two hours of coaching based on the needs of the company. They also benefited from insights provided by successful entrepreneurs, such as Ariel Investments founder John Rogers and ComfortCakes founder Amy Hilliard, who served as guest speakers.

Participants in the 2022 cohort included:

Keeana Barber
WDB Marketing

Sunrise Felton
Second City Cleanup

Virginia Fitzpatrick
Stella Life Coffee

Christyn Freemon
Before project

Shaka Mitchell
Anthos Training Clubs

Brenda Nelson
sew me clothes

Yvonne Orr
YORR Consulting Inc.

Lori Parret
cakewalk chicago

Victoria Singleton

Jimmie and Tiffany Williams
Urban Roots Inc.

“The companies in the cohort couldn’t have been more different from each other, ranging from a coffee shop to a landscaping company to a construction company,” said Sharon McDade, who was program director. “The course and the coaching were adapted to each company. It was important for us to meet each business owner where they were.

In addition to classroom instruction, guest speakers and expert guidance, all cohort participants had the opportunity to pitch their business to potential clients, and some won new contracts.

At the graduation ceremony, held at the Hyde Park Bank Building, the nine-month program culminated in a final pitch competition. Each business owner had four minutes to present their business, highlight successes and present a business need. Pamela Randle of JPMorgan Chase, Paul Cavalieri of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Steven Shaw of Verizon volunteered their time to judge the competition.

Brenda Nelson, president of Englewood-based Stich Me Apparel, won the competition and the $10,000 prize.

“I was thrilled to represent the small team with Stitch Me Apparel and ultimately win a $10,000 prize,” Nelson said. “Since we proudly started our business in the Englewood community, we have made it a priority to expand to the entire Chicagoland community and beyond. With the information we learned during the nextONE business accelerator program and now with this cash prize, we can definitely expand our business and show other Black small business owners that the possibilities are endless. We are very grateful to the Chicago Urban League and the nextONE program for this opportunity.

Karen Freeman-Wilson and Brenda Nelson

Speakers for the nextONE graduation included Karen Freeman-Wilson – President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, Dr. Suzet McKinney – Director, Director of Life Sciences at Sterling Bay and Chair-Elect of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Urban League, and Kenneth Escoe – Executive Vice President at Illinois Tool Works and member of the nextONE Advisory Board.

Corporate sponsors of the nextONE 2022 cohort include Boeing, Fifth Third Bank, BMO Harris Bank, AT&T and McGrath Imports. Other program partners include the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Hyatt Corp., ITW, mHUB and Wintrust.

“Bringing back nextONE would not have been possible without the support of our nextONE sponsors, partners and advisory board members who recognize the importance of empowering Black-owned businesses,” said Freeman-Wilson. “We are extremely grateful and look forward to continuing this work with future cohorts. »

Application information for the nextONE 2023 cohort will be available this summer. Check www.chiul.org/nextone for updates.

To learn more about upcoming Chicago Urban League programs and events, visit ChiUL.org.

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