$1.7 Million Awarded for Next Phase of the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge


Panel at the 2018 Chicago Inclusive Entrepreneurship Summit: “Defining Inclusive Entrepreneurship” from left to right, (moderator) Xavier Ramey, CEO & Lead Strategist, Justice Informed, Evelyn Diaz, President, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Julia Stasch, President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Charlie Corrigan, Vice President, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and Joseph Parilla, Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution

This summer, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation awarded another $1.7 million for the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge, a partnership with ChicagoNEXT of World Business Chicago that invests in organizations that support entrepreneurship, new ventures, and job creation. During the next two years of the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge, ChicagoNEXT will also focus on regional programming for the broader community to ensure underserved entrepreneurs get equal access to Chicago’s growing innovation ecosystem.

“As a global tech hub and the #1 tech spot of the future, Chicago has enormous opportunity to grow its entrepreneurship scene inclusively,” said Andrea Zopp, President and CEO of World Business Chicago.

The Blackstone Challenge began in June 2017, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Jon Gray, President and Chief Operating Officer of Blackstone, announced the eight organizations that were awarded one year grants, totaling $1,000,000, for pilot programs that recruited and engaged diverse and underserved entrepreneurs throughout Chicago. Throughout this first year, over 13,000 aspiring entrepreneurs participated in more than 800 courses, workshops, and programs hosted by the cohort of organizations.

“We’re excited to build on the momentum from the first year of the Blackstone Challenge with this new round of grants,” said Jon Gray, President and Chief Operating Officer at Blackstone. “This approach – identifying great organizations and committing to them at scale – mirrors in many ways our approach to investing, and we look forward to seeing the continued positive impacts of bringing the benefits of entrepreneurship to underserved communities.”

In this next phase, the Blackstone Challenge will boost its commitment to those organizations that not only demonstrated their ability not only to help diverse entrepreneurs scale and grow their businesses, but also to expand their innovative programs to other communities across Chicago and nationally. “Chicago is leading the nation when it comes to inclusive entrepreneurship, and the next phase of the Blackstone Challenge will direct substantial resources to organizations that work tirelessly to make sure anyone can be an entrepreneur,” said Mayor Emanuel.


“As a global tech hub and the #1 tech spot of the future, Chicago has enormous opportunity to grow its entrepreneurship scene inclusively.”

-Andrea Zopp, President and CEO of World Business Chicago.


Four organizations were selected to receive funding in year 2: Bethel New Life, BLUE1647, Bunker Labs, and Future Founders. “We look forward to seeing what the four selected organizations will accomplish over the next two years, and believe that these multi-year grants will provide the runway needed to solidify their program models,” Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

Bethel New Life, $400,000Funding will allow Bethel New Life, an organization seeking to transform Chicago’s West Side communities, to expand its Business Innovation Technology program and create a new Design Thinking Institute that will bring technology training to community development organizations throughout Chicago. 

BLUE1647, $450,000Funding will allow BLUE1647, an innovation center and business accelerator that fosters economic development, technology education, and workforce development, primarily for people of color to implement BLUECONTINUITY, an effort to expand and tailor their course offerings to a wider community. Funding will also support BLUEPROCURE, a program to help minority and women-owned businesses secure procurement opportunities.

Bunker Labs, $450,000Funding will allow Bunker Labs, an organization empowering military veterans to become leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation, to launch a fifty-state expansion of Launch Lab Online, which allows veterans and military families to learn about entrepreneurship and develop their business at any time, from any place. Funding will also support CEO circle, a cohort based program that provides additional resources to later-stage founders. 

Future Founders, $400,000Funding will allow Future Founders, an organization focused on inspiring the next generation of young entrepreneurs, to expand their Future Founders Residency, a program that fosters the development of diverse millennial entrepreneurs with one-on-one mentoring, growth coaches, skill-training workshops, and venture pitching.

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