Press Release


New Round of $100,000 Funding Coming to Minority Businesses In Illinois to Create Jobs in Underserved Communities

CHICAGO – January 11, 2022Founders First CDC, a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers expansion in diverse founder-led, revenue-generating businesses, announces a second and expanded Job Creators Quest Grant, which will award 30 grants for a total of $100,000, along with access to a business accelerator program, to support minority and underrepresented business owners in Chicagoland. The grants will be awarded to diverse-led Illinois-based companies, primarily in business-to-business sectors, with a current staff of two to 20 employees and the ability to add one-two net new premium wage jobs in the next 12 months.

To be eligible, the company’s founder must 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. The grant application period remains open through February 4th.

First awarded in 2021, the Job Creators Quest Grant helps business owners create premium wage jobs and rewards diverse-led businesses in and near Chicago to retain and grow their workforce through the continuing pandemic, who are often without the resources more easily available to other entrepreneurs. 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. Grants will range from $1,500 to $10,000 per company. Each winning business also will receive a scholarship to Founders First’s business accelerator program, which includes leadership coaching and continuing business education that has helped hundreds of companies achieve growth in recent years.

“Business owners have told us their needs have not changed – pandemic conditions continue and they need help now,” said Shaylon Scott, executive director of Founders First. “Expanding our long-term commitment to Chicago-area Illinois-based entrepreneurs is an impactful way to drive job and wealth creation in underserved communities and help them make a difference.”

Funding for this program was facilitated by a $1 million national grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and regional support from the Chicago Community Trust through the Benefit Chicago Initiative, in conjunction with Founders First Capital Partners’ recent $9 million Series A financing accelerator to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in underserved communities across the country. Additional national and regional partners include ADP, Black Enterprise Magazine, JP Morgan Chase, The Kauffman Foundation, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), the Chicago Community Trust, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, World Business Chicago, Small Business Majority, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, GET Cities, LISC, Chama Capital, National Black MBA Association and the North River Commission.

2021’s top Chicago program winner was Nova Driving School, a program to teach adult and teen students from across Chicago and nearby suburbs, helping them embark on the path to earning an Illinois driver’s license. Other 2021 winners included:

  • Not Just Cookies Wholesale Bakery
  • Back of the Yards Coffee
  • PAC Leaders LLC
  • Yoga Now Inc.
  • Rylon’s Smokehouse Partners, LLP
  • Nicole Jordan Catering, LLC
  • Saigon Sisters LLC
  • Justice of the Pies
  • Metaphrasis Language and Cultural Solutions, LLC


“Beyond the grant funding, the Founders First CDC’s Bootcamp helped refine and align our investor presentation for the right audience,” said Jesse Iniguez Co-founder, Director of Coffee Operations, Back of the Yards Coffee. “Their entrepreneurial coaches continue to assist us even after the Bootcamp program has been completed. The help we’re receiving is key especially during these difficult times for young businesses.”

“The program has been invaluable to Black entrepreneurs in helping facilitate access to opportunities, serving as a source of business inspiration and innovation, and enabling them to gain momentum in an unpredictable and daunting environment,” says Derek Dingle, EVP & chief content officer for black enterprise. “Access to capital and knowledge makes a difference. black enterprise is excited to collaborate with Founders First to support the creation of jobs with microbusinesses in communities in and near Chicago that need the support the most.” 

“Small businesses play a vital role in the next phases of the economy’s recovery,” says CT Mobley, Division Vice President, ADP. “ADP is proud to support initiatives like the Job Creators Quest Grant that help diverse businesses add premium wage jobs, invest in expansion and contribute to the economic growth of communities throughout the Chicago area.”  

“This program is a prime example of how we are practically working to grow household wealth for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs” says Shandra Richardson, Program Manager, Community Impact at The Chicago Community Trust. “Supporting these small businesses is essential to achieving this vital goal.”

Qualified Illinois business owners, in the Chicago area may use the following link to apply for the grant or learn more about the program:

To apply just for the business accelerator program, visit:




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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