The following article is a guest blog contributed by Joanna Trotter, Senior Program Officer, Chicago Community Trust. This article originally appeared on ChiBizHub.
Small business owners drive economic empowerment for our city, both for the business owners themselves and the communities they serve. We know that small businesses comprise 58 percent of Chicago jobs as a whole and a full 70 percent in underinvested neighborhood according to a report by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. As such, the success and growth of Chicago businesses is integral to the development of an inclusive locally-driven economy. In order to support this growth, the range of actors that serve and support small businesses – from financing to marketing to business plan development and coaching – must be highly coordinated, responsive, and outcomes-driven in order to enable business growth across the city. This is why we are excited about the launch of ChiBizHub, an interactive platform that will enable entrepreneurs and business owners of all types to effectively get to the kinds of business services they need.
Business owners and entrepreneurs are self-reliant risk takers by nature. Yet, if we are to create a Chicago culture that attracts and supports locally driven economic development, we need to provide highly skilled and easy to access services, training and financial products in a much more coordinated and transparent fashion. ChiBizHub, through its web platform and live navigators, will be able to provide a one-stop shop for free, proprietary, and low-costs services; offer ways to identify fair and responsible lending options, and link directly to City licensing and permitting processes. And beyond that, as more users populate and access the system, ChiBizHub can help identify and diagnose what business owners are seeking, how they were served, and how the various organizations and service providers committed to business growth in Chicago can coordinate and specialize offerings to meet local demand.
JP Morgan Chase, the Chicago Community Trust, and Polk Bros. Foundation are funders committed to creating an equitable and inclusive economy in Chicago. We have worked to identify ways in which we can collectively help to create a business-friendly environment in Chicago that supports the development and growth of businesses often underrepresented and underserved. To that end, we collaborated recently on the report: Assessing Chicago’s Small Business Ecosystem, which identified several needs and opportunities for Chicago to improve its service and financial offerings. As such, we are thrilled that ChiBizHub has launched to build the kind of responsive and coordinated ecosystem that will serve a growing local business community.
For ChiBizHub to reach its potential, we encourage business owners, service providers, lenders, and government entities that support business owners to create profiles and start using the system. This is an important moment for our city as we collectively work to create a business-friendly climate that values local business development and adapts to the changing needs of an increasingly diverse and dynamic sector.
For more information on ChiBizHub visit the website at ChiBizHub.com.