National Nonprofit, Founders First CDC, Awards $100,000 to Illinois Businesses For 3rd Annual Year

Founders First CDC Awards 25 Grants to Minority Businesses Throughout the State to Create and Promote Premium Wage Employment Opportunities in Underserved Communities

Founders First CDC, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers expansion in diverse, founder-led, revenue-generating businesses, announced the winners of its Job Creators Quest Grant today during a virtual press conference. More than 1,300 Illinois businesses applied for the grants and 25 finalists were selected, with minority and underrepresented business owners receiving $100,000, collectively in cash and full-tuition scholarships to a Founders First CDC business accelerator program. The grant recipients were selected from throughout the state of Illinois, serving a variety of industries – from construction and manufacturing to STEM and healthcare, to hospitality, and more.

“Before I joined the Bootcamp accelerator program and received the Chicago Job Creators grant in 2021, I was working solo, but the program and funding have opened up opportunities for growth and expansion beyond what I had envisioned.” said Ryan Clark, CEO of Mr. SharePoint, a company that designs and deploys technical solutions to help businesses better leverage investments in automation and the modern workplace. “I utilized the grant funds to cover the overhead costs of a major project and brought on a contractor to assist in its completion. This grant funding provided a distinct advantage, as I did not have to rely on my personal savings. With the help of my new hire, we successfully completed the project and secured the contract we were targeting, leading to an influx of new work. I now have a team of three individuals supporting me, and as Founders First would say, ‘I am now working more on my business than I am working in my business.”

The purpose of the Job Creators Quest Grant is to help business owners create premium wage jobs and reward diverse-led businesses throughout the state of Illinois to retain and grow their workforce through the pandemic. This will help to positively impact the local economy, create job opportunities with higher wages and provide the human capital needed for businesses to grow and expand.

“We’ve listened and learned from the obstacles diverse business owners face and this has truly shaped our mission to provide resources, funding opportunities and business accelerator programs while simultaneously spurring premium wage job growth in the community,” said Shaylon Scott, Executive Director, Founders First CDC. “Mr.SharePoint serves as a shining example of what it means to overcome challenges and grow to new heights in the business world. For the third year we are so excited to celebrate the 25 grant finalists to join the Founders First family.”

Since launching in 2021, Founders First CDC has awarded more than $595,000 to minority and underserved business owners throughout the United States with a focus on Texas, Chicago, Southern California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with Founders First CDC once again to support diverse small business owners in the state of Illinois,” said Christine Saffold, Founder & CEO of Chama Capital. “Given that women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color in Chicago have faced systemic barriers and challenges in securing funding, it’s essential to support organizations like Founders First that offer valuable resources and growth opportunities to small business owners who have been underserved in our community.”

The 25 recipients of the Chicago Job Creators Quest Grant includes:

The judging committee for the Chicago Job Creators Grant includes a panel of our partners and other successful business owners.

“Small Business Majority is happy to support the 2023 Chicago Job Creators Quest grant. The experience of reviewing the grant applicant pitch videos was truly inspiring and gave us a deeper understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by small business owners in the state of Illinois.” said Tasha Brown, Midwest Director of Small Business Majority. “It’s crucial to recognize the significance of the approximately 1.2 million small businesses in the Illinois business community and the role they play in driving our economy forward. We are proud to have been part of such a meaningful initiative that is dedicated to supporting these businesses.”

To be eligible for the Job Creators Quest Grant, the company’s founder had to be Black, indigenous, a person of color, LGBTQIA+, military Veteran, woman or located in a low to moderate income area and be a for-profit company with annual revenues between $100,000 to $3 million. Grant winners will use the funds to help create and add 1-2 net new premium wage jobs in the next 12 months.

Funding for this program was facilitated by a $1 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, in conjunction with Founders First Capital Partners’ recent $9 million Series A financing accelerator to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in underserved communities. Additional partners include World Business Chicago, Jellyneck Solutions, BMO Harris Bank, Small Business Majority, Moderne Ventures, The PR Shoppe, Chama Capital, AllRise Legal, Women’s Business Development Center, Chicago LAtino Network. Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Startout, Corporate Coalition of Chicago, Workbox, Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council, Somercor, Women Business Collaborative, Bunker Labs, Chinese Mutual Aid Association, North River Commission, Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Chicagoland SBDC, Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, National Black MBA Association, Pulaski Elston Business Association, and many more.
In today’s uncertain economic climate, small businesses are facing increasing challenges. With the potential for economic stress on the horizon, it’s never been more important for small businesses to have access to the support and resources they need to thrive. Founders First CDC is dedicated to providing the essential tools and funding necessary for small businesses to succeed, even in the most challenging of times.

In addition to announcing the winners of the Job Creators Quest Grant finalist today, Founders First CDC also announced another grant opportunity, the National Kitty Fund for Momprenuer-led businesses. The deadline to complete that application is April 17, 2023.


About Founders First CDC
Founders First CDC is a not-for-profit 501c3 that was founded in 2015 and has received significant support from the regional community reinvestment banks to empower diverse founder-led, revenue-generating small businesses through three primary programs: (1) Founders Challenge; (2) Founders Bootcamp; and (3) Founders FastPath. By building recurring revenues, tech-enablement, and essential solution focus, Founders First serves as a catalyst for positive change to entrepreneurs of color and female founders to become leading employers in their communities.

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