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


For the next two years, Bethel New Life, BLUE1647, Bunker Labs, and Future Founders will be awarded grants totaling $1.7 million to refine and expand their programs that support traditionally underserved entrepreneurs.

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.

In this next phase, the Blackstone Challenge will boost its commitment to those organizations that not only demonstrated their ability to help diverse entrepreneurs scale and grow their businesses, but also to expand their innovative programs to other communities across Chicago and nationally.

“Blackstone and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation have been very intentional and impactful about investing in Chicago as both a corporate and civic partner,” Mayor Emanuel said. “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.”

“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. The Mayor and the City have been excellent partners in this endeavor, and I thank them for their leadership.”

“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 Charitable Foundation has been a strong supporter of our mission to drive inclusive growth; and their targeted, measured investment will positively impact thousands of entrepreneurs throughout our city.”

“I’d like to thank and recognize the initial cohort of organizations who participated in the first year of the Blackstone Challenge,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “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.”

Through this initiative, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, in partnership with ChicagoNEXT of World Business Chicago, continues its mission of investing in entrepreneurship to support new ventures and job creation. During the next two years of Blackstone Challenge, ChicagoNEXT will focus on regional programming for the broader community to ensure underserved entrepreneurs get equal access to Chicago’s growing innovation ecosystem.

The following organizations were selected because their impact in inclusive entrepreneurship will extend across Chicago and into other regions across the country:

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

BLUE1647, $450,000 – Funding 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, $450,000 –Funding 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 CEOcircle, a cohort based program that provides additional resources to later-stage founders.

Future Founders, $400,000 – Funding 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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