2023 Chicago Sun-Times FoodLab article:  FoodLab Chicago Sun-Times Feb 19th 2023

Program Shortcuts:

Open AI’s ChatGPT & Dall-E for small business marketing

BACP Business Support Tools        

Leveraging Open AI’s ChatGPT & Dall-E  for small business marketing,  April 19th

Want to know what AI (Artificial Intelligence) is about and the tools that can help your business.  Watch the below excellent webinar. 

Presented by:  Dyani Marvel, VP of Marketing  Strategy and Operations  Wondr Nation

OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI language model and DALL-E AI image generator are two of the most advanced AI models that have been making headlines recently. Used properly, these powerful tools can be transformational to small business marketing. These technologies can help save valuable time and resources and be strategically leveraged to improve marketing efforts by generating high-quality content and unique and eye-catching visuals.

This webinar will explain what ChatGPT and DALL-E are, the benefits they can bring to small business marketing, how to access this technology for free, plus provide tools and resources small businesses can use to harness the power of this technology for marketing efforts.


Financial Engineering Workshop Monday, May 22nd


January & April  Financial Engineering Workshops – Great success!      FoodLab 4.0  is launched!

We are hosting another Financial Engineering workshop Monday,  May 22nd

May 22nd Register HERE

FoodLab Chicago 4.0 is an insightful, educational program designed for chefs, restaurateurs, and food industry makers who are looking to take their businesses to the next level.  FoodLab Chicago 4.0 will work with restaurateurs, engaging in weekly to bi-weekly 90 minute workshop sessions curated to enhance restaurant profitability, gain a better understanding of food costs, grow the workforce, and cultivate a dining culture which strengthens Southside communities as food service destination nodes.  

Monday  May 22nd    Workshop                                                                                

Sean Willard of Menu Engineers website, the world’s leading resource on menu engineering lead a very powerful discussion on menu engineering including menu design, popularity/profitability.  Many takeaways like available internet tools including impactful AI.  He then met one-on-one with five restaurants to work on their menus.

FoodLab staff will lead discussions on  Plate Costing, Operational Financials and Prime Cost tracking

FoodLab Chicago website


Oncc again thank you to our sponsors

LISC-SBA Community Navigator Program– Intake and Consent Form

GCI is a partner in the SBA’s Community Navigator, a federal program to assist small businesses at the community level. 

Help us to help you, the SBA requires certain intake request for counseling and consent forms.    gci-lisc-dbo-intake-form-sba-3615-and-addendum-072522 

Talk to your consultant, please complete and return to

Digital Presence in action
We talk aboutknowing your numbersto make data-driven decisions.
We talk aboutdeveloping your team”  so you can workONyour versus alwaysINyour business.
Third, you hear us speak about the need fordigital presence”  here is one example:

Way To Save This Struggling Restaurant, And It’s Proof That There Really Is A “Good Side” Of Social Media  “I think I’ve seen around a thousand customers daily, which is crazy to think about considering we used to have about 5 to 10 customers a day.”

Read in BuzzFeed:

Sources for economic support


Restaurant Employment and Stabilization Grant Program (B2B Restaurants)

Back to Business (B2B Restaurant)

2023 State of Illinois Back-to-Business (B2B)

$175 million in grants  DEADLINE:  11:59pm May 10th

In 2020, the state sponsored the Business Interruption Grants (BIG),  Illinois Emergency Hospitality grants, and April 2021 along with the federal government the Restaurant Recovery Fund (RRF) grants programs. In August 2021 the Back-to-Business B2B grant program, 

From American Rescue Plan Act funding, the State of Illinois is now launching another round of the B2B program.  In three sectors restaurants, hotels and the arts. (all three summarized a bottom)   B2B Restaurants is making available $50 million in recovery grant funding to those experiencing hardship due to COVID-19 pandemic.   The program will provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to restaurants with 50 or fewer employees and is designed to support businesses that have not yet received substantial relief from other state or local grant programs during the pandemic.

This restaurant grant is intended for licensed restaurants, food trucks, street vendors, taverns, caterers, brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms, breweries, microbreweries, wineries, or distilleries that meet these requirements:

  • Must be an independently owned and operated for-profit corporation or limited liability corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship authorized to conduct business in the State of Illinois, or a nonprofit operating in Illinois and registered as a 501c organization;
  • Must have begun operations by March 12, 2020, and maintain active operations in Illinois at the time of application.
  • Must have experienced a loss in earned or contributed revenue of at least $5,000 due to economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Must have 50 or fewer employees ( total headcount) at the time of application.
  • Must not have received financial assistance from the:

                      2021  Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF),

                      2021  Illinois Back to Business Grants (B2B),     list of 2021 grantees  (Awards in progress section select “list of grantees” ):     HERE

                      2020 Illinois Business Interruption Grants (BIG),

                       2020 Illinois Emergency Hospitality Grants,

Or more than $10,000 in grants or loan forgiveness from any local relief program for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses that received PPP or other federal funding (EIDL)  are eligible.

      Detailed eligibility and ineligibility requirements: HERE (restaurant program eligibility)


Information Webinars

For the busy entrepreneur, we have replays you can watch at your convenience.

              March 24th informational webinar recording  HERE   

                  Webinar  Power Point:  DCEO B2B Restaurant Hotel Arts PPT

              March 30th informational webinar recording  HERE   






Applications open on April 5, 2023 and will close on May 10, 2023 at 11:59pm CT   On May 11th the state will review all qualified applicants,  This is not first come first served.

Application :

Sample PDF of application:  

Mostly financial and licensing documentation, little description or writeup required. 


NCRC Community Development Fund (CDF)   help desk at



Funding amounts will be based on a portion of the reduction in gross receipts from 2019 in 2020 and/or 2021 based on submitted documentation. If gross receipts in both years is lower than 2019, the losses will be summed to determine a funding amount. If the business started early in 2020, businesses will be eligible for $5,000.  The number of applicants may also impact the award amounts.    Targeting disbursements mid summer.


Use of funds

The funding must be spent within one year of receiving the grant. The funding may be spent on:

  • Payroll costs
  • Paid sick leave
  • Employer contributions to employee health care costs
  • Payments of principal or interest on any mortgage obligation
  • Rent payments, including rent under a lease agreement ● Utilities ● Maintenance ● Operational expenses

Awardees must submit a written attestation within one year of receiving the grant that the funds were used for the eligible expenses listed above. Any funds not used for those purposes must be returned.


  1. Government Issued ID | Driver License, Passport, or CityKey for business owner(s) and/or authorized representative(s)FEIN | For the firm corporate entity (ITINs accepted)
  2. Business Taxes | For 2019 (if in business), 2020, and 2021.

This may include: a. IRS form 1040 (sole proprietors) and the following: Schedule C, Profit and Loss from Business b. IRS form 1065 Partnership Return (no K-1s required) c. IRS form 1120 Corporation Return (no schedules required) d. IRS form 1120S S Corporation Return (no K-1s required) e. IRS form 990, 990EZ, or 990N for non-profits

  1. Current license to serve food and/or drink, brewer license, distiller license, or winery license.
  2. In “good standing” with the State of Illinois at time of application   Search

You will be asked to select your industry sector and NAICS code category. If you don’t know your NAICS code, you can look up your code here

Gross Receipts 

Gross receipts include the total amount of all receipts in cash or property without adjustment for expenses or other deductible items.    Must be greater that $5,000 reduction.

For the following tax forms, it can be found on the indicated line: • IRS form 1040 – Schedule C, Line 1 • IRS form 1065 – Line 1a • IRS form 1120 – Line 1a • IRS form 1120S – Line 1a • IRS form 990 – Line G • IRS form 990EZ – Line L

If you had loan forgiveness for PPP you received a 1099 adding to your income.  They will exclude the PPP benefit from their review.




B2B website  HERE

NCRC CDF’s help desk at


All three Programs summarized:






Funding Available

$50 million

$75 million

$50 million 

Award Range


Up to $1,500 per room


Impact of Receiving Prior Award

Ineligible if business received any prior state relief funding (B2B, BIG, RRF) or more than 10K in local funding 

Businesses who received federal funding, including PPP are eligible.

Amount of state or local grants received deducted from overall award amount.

Grant based only on 2021 losses for businesses that received prior state relief funding (BIG or B2B)

Spending Guidelines

Flexible spending to support losses

80% for payroll related costs; 20% flexible spending 

Flexible spending to support losses

Examples of Eligible Businesses (detailed eligibility requirements can be found in the documents below)

  • Restaurants
  • Taverns
  • Bars
  • Caterers
  • Breweries
  • Wineries
  • Hotels
  • Motels
  • Inns
  • Lodging sites
  • Performing and presenting arts
  • Theaters
  • Museums
  • Cultural heritage organizations
  • Arts education

Hello Alice Small Business Grants

Small Business Growth Fund       deadline April 21st

What would a $5,000-$25,000 grant mean for your small business? That’s what we want to learn from anyone applying to the Small Business Growth Fund — presented by Hello Alice and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) with funding from Etsy and Progressive — now accepting applications until April 21, 2023, at 6 p.m. ET.

To qualify for the grant program, you must:

  • Be a for-profit business located and registered in one of the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia
  • Have less than $1M in 2022 gross annual revenue
  • Have a commitment to their customers and community
  • Have a clear plan for how the funds will help them achieve a significant growth milestone in 2023

Amounts will be awarded based on a variety of scoring factors including but not limited to need for and intended use of funds, plan for growth, industry, and annual revenue.

Application HERE

PDF sample of application  2023-small-business-growth-fund-round-1-pdf-of-online-application


Hello Alice Grants HERE


KIVA Micro-loan program

Kiva is a 501(c)3 U.S. nonprofit fueled by passionate people. Founded in 2005, and based in San Francisco, with offices in Bangkok, Nairobi, Portland and staff around the globe.     

4.4 million borrowers, 77 countries, 2.1 million lenders, funded $1.8 billion in loans, 96.4% repayment rate

Loans from $1,000 – $15,000        0% interest, no fees,paid back over 36 months 

Administered by our friends at the Women’s Business Development Center     matching lending from LISC  Chicago  


KIVA  borrowing     more details







  1. Apply to KIVA through the WBDC
  2. $1,000 – $15,000 as determined by KIVA
  3. Invite friends and family to join in your campaign with a $25 loan (will be repaid)
  4. Then your project is opened to KIVA’s 1.6 million participants and you have 30 days for them to sign up with their $25+ participations.  LISC will match $ for $ each KIVA participant/lender

0% interest, 0% fees,  paid back to all lenders/participants over 36 months.

For more information reach out to:

Raymond Fears      


LISC Uber Black Restaurant Fund


LISC and Uber team up for the Black Restaurant Fund   $50,000 – $250,000 growth capital loans to help fuel 35 businesses over the next three years

The Growth Capital Program seeks to provide access to flexible, growth-oriented capital to entrepreneurs. These investment dollars are not intended to be used as working capital and are not a replacement for debt financing. Instead, these investments are intended to fully fund a well thought out business expansion/growth plan. Investee businesses will repay LISC if/when their expansion plan succeeds. Please see a full description of the investment terms and structure here.

This initiative is an unsecured financing program focusing on Black-owned restaurants or food service businesses. The funds enable business owners to cover costs related to business growth and expansion plans or necessary technology, infrastructure, insurance, or certification expenditures that will help stabilize the business and create opportunity for additional revenue streams.  $50,000 – $250,000

Growth capital is a patient, low cost, revenue-based financing product designed to allow business owners the time they need to invest in and stabilize their business before repayment begins. Unlike a traditional loan product, growth capital does not have fixed repayment terms. Instead, business owners begin repaying a percentage of their revenue each quarter, once their business plan proves successful.

Who is eligible for the program?

This program is open to restaurants and food services businesses nationally. Additionally, focus will be given to businesses with:

  1. Annual revenues above $250,000 and below $3,000,000
  2. Black-owned businesses
  3. 2 years or more in business
  4. Restaurants registered on Uber Eats
  5. Sole proprietors and nonprofit organizations are not eligible for the program

How is this financing structured?

LISC will fully fund a growth or expansion plan, up to $250,000. The business will have a minimum of one year before repayment begins. After one year, the investment will start to repay one quarter after the business hits pre-agreed revenue targets. The business will pay a share of its revenue, as long as revenues are greater than revenues at time LISC provides funding plus the LISC investment amount. The revenue share split will be based on a three-year par recovery of the investment. However, the business will make payments to LISC through the earlier to occur of (x) full repayment to LISC of its revenue share or (y) five years from LISC’s investment. After the end of the investment term, the business will not be required to make further payments to LISC. The revenue share will be capped at a multiple of 1.5X LISC’s original investment.  $100,000 investment pay back $150,000 over three years, up to five years.


Documents required:

Businesses seeking growth capital will need to be prepared to submit at minimum:

  1. Business/growth plan that outlines plans for expansion and job creation
  2. Business and Owner Tax Returns
  3. Interim Business and Owner Financial Statements (P&L and Balance Sheet)
  4. Business Debt Schedule
  5. Articles of Incorporation (Corporation) or Organization (LLC)
  6. Certificate of Good Standing


Apply HERE   

Application questions to be answered:

+ Please specify the primary purpose of these investment dollars. Include a detailed description or your current business plan and a description of how you would use this investment to expand your business/operations

+ How much money would you like to request from this program in order to execute your business expansion plan? (requests must be for amounts between $50,000 and $250,000)

+ Please explain exactly what you would spend the above requested dollars on.

+ Please describe the competitive landscape where you are operating. This will include a description of other businesses that you currently compete with as well as businesses you may be newly competing with given your expansion plan. This should also include an explanation of why you believe you will be successful, given this landscape.

+ How many jobs do you believe you will add as a result of this business expansion plan? 

+ General comments or any other information about you and/or your business that you would like to share with us.


For more information on the Black Restaurant Fund

LISC monitors inquiries sent to


Greenwood Archer Capital (GAC) & McKinsey Company consultants $10K grant program

$10,000 Grant and Consulting Support   Deadline Feb 28th

McKinsey & Company is a global Management Consulting Firm that seeks to create positive, enduring change in the world. McKinsey’s Chicago office is launching an initiative to help local organizations with founders from underrepresented communities tackle their toughest challenges and achieve sustainable, inclusive growth at scale.

Together, McKinsey & Company and Greenwood Archer Capital (GAC) will provide grants ranging from $5,000-$10,000 to organizations owned by individuals from underrepresented communities who show notable promise for impact. Grantees will also have access to McKinsey & Company expertise/support to help refine and scale their organizations over a six-month period through consulting support that will address business and operational considerations. 

Applications are now open! The deadline to apply is February 28, 2023 by 5PM   

Must be located in Chicago and have a checking account.   Selection criteria: clear and complete submission of information.  Demonstrated potential for community impact

Application HERE  

      Simple questions (example below), written out or submit a video

  • Tell us the story about your organization’s founder, how it relates towah the organization seeks to do in the future?
  • In a Perfect world what would be the ideal outcome for your organization
  • How will McKinsey & Company and GAC’s support help refine and scale your organization? What are the focus areas you need help in the most?  What s your anticipated resource need?

Greenwood Archer Capital   


Verizon / LISC Small Business Digital Ready

Verizon / LISC Small Business Digital Ready Online Curriculum

and $10,000 grant opportunity      Complete by May 12th

Now available online curriculum is designed to give small businesses tools to succeed in today’s digital world.  Learning modules can help your business thrive, with topics such as SEO, working remotely, and finance management.  Learning modules, expert coaching, peer networking, and more.

Register for a free online curriculum.   Complete two courses or one coaching event and then be eligible to apply for a Verizon Small Business Digital Ready $10,000 grant.   In order to unlock the application for this exclusive pool of funding, members must have completed two courses or live coaching events by May 12th, 2023

Applications open on March 1, 2023, and close at 11:59pm PT on May 12, 2023. All applicants will be notified about whether or not they have been selected to receive grant funding by the week of May 18, 2023

More program details HERE


Program sign-up HERE

Need help registering?
Email or call +1(800)-916-4351

SBA – Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance (EIDL)

           EIDL application period ended December 31st 2021 .   


Important SCAM alert

PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) ended May 31st, 2021.    We have heard of scammers telling people PPP is opening again and to sign up.  They ask for all your personal and business information, bank accounts,  etc.  Beware!

New Reforms for SBA’s Community Advantage Loan Program

On March 30, 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris and Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced impactful reforms to the agency’s Community Advantage loan program, a key SBA tool for Community Development Financial Institutions, Community Development Companies, microlenders and other critical mission-based lending partners, that prioritizes equitable access to capital for low-income borrowers and those from underserved communities.  7 (a) program 

Learn more



The Illinois Restaurant Association Employee Relief Fund(IRAEF)

              IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund: Open Again

The Illinois Restaurant Association Employee Relief Fund(IRAEF) will offer emergency assistance grants to Illinois food and beverage workers facing an life-altering, unanticipated hardship within the past 90 days such as: accident, illness, injury, death of an immediate family member or natural disaster. All grant requests will be reviewed. The grants cover costs of living expenses for life-altering events and range from $250-$1500.

Proof of hardship :

  • Rent or mortgage bill or statement
  • Bills; electric, gas, water/sewer, homeowners association or property tax statements
  • Documentation of illness or injury
  • Receipts for medical supplies or transportation for medical care
  • Verification documentation for funeral expenses, natural disaster, or housing emergency
  • Doctor verification or death certificate
  • Fill out the application in its entirety
  • Be prepared with your documents to upload that align with the reason why you are applying for this IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund grant:
    • Document One: Proof of Illinois residency (Valid Illinois License or State ID)
    • Document Two: Pay Stub from the current foodservice establishment where you are employed for a minimum of 90 days
    • Document Three: Proof of hardship
    • Document Four: Additional documentation if applicable (not required)
  • All applications that meet our established criteria will be evaluated
  • Depending on funding, eligible applicants will be given a grant and notified via email and when to expect the grant check via mail
  • Once received, the check is yours to spend in the impact area highlighted within your application. You are not taxed on this grant, nor will you owe it back.

IRAEF is dedicated to managing all the requests for financial support, and it is our goal to help as many in the restaurant community as possible. All qualified grant requests will be reviewed. Restaurant Employee Relief grants are awarded to eligible individuals based on available funds and limited to one per individual.

It is our goal to support as many in our restaurant community as possible. All qualified grant requests will be reviewed. Restaurant Employee Relief grants are awarded to eligible individuals based on available funds and limited to one per individual.

The applications for the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund are currently open and the grants are awarded on a rolling basis. Apply Here

TIF corridors of interest, Lottery results

SBIF Program – Somercor website

The City of Chicago’s Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) promotes economic development by providing small businesses with reimbursable grants for permanent building improvement costs. SBIF grants use local Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue to reimburse you for the pre-approved repair or rehab of your business facilities or adjacent land acquisition.

SBIF grants are available for commercial and industrial businesses and property owners.  No residential. SBIF  provides grants up to $150,000 to commercial businesses for 90% of the costs of permanent building improvements such as storefront renovations, building systems, interior remodeling, roof replacement.

January 2022 SBIF Program Rules 2022 SBIF Program Rules

More info and application HERE

Sign up on the Somercor website to get notices of SBIF District openings.

AvalonPark/ South Shore,  for example will be open again in October 2023    79th Street East of the skyway.      

67th – Wentworth  Lottery results   67th Wentworth 1-12-2022 Lottery Results

87th – Cottage Grove Lottery results   87th-cottage-grove lottery results

Community Development Grants, previously Chicago Recovery Plan Grants

CDG and NOF large and small grants application period now open,  closes February 24th 


2022 was a good year for City grants, with $122.5 million to 166 finalists!

     May 2nd, 26  grant finalists ($33.5 million)   from Jan 31st round:   Spring CRP 26 Finalists

    July 18th, 79 grant finalists ($49 million)     from March 10th round:  Summer CRP 79 Finalist

    November 30, 61 grant finalists ($40 million)    from August 19th round:   Fall CRP 61 Finalists

 Nov 30 Mayor’s Press Release:   2022.11.30-mayors-press-release-grant-neighborhood-businesses

GCI Area Finalist  GCI Area Grant Finalist


2023 applications we are now past the February 24th application deadline.  We expect the next round to open at the end of the summer, not too early to start gathering materials now. 

Again this is a grant (not a loan) funding to support local commercial, mixed-use, and light manufacturing development.  City staff will prioritize projects in areas of Chicago where there is a history of disinvestment or limited private investment.  Project selections are based on business readiness, viability, location, design, neighborhood needs, community impact, and other factors.   The City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) 

The 2023 small grant application has evolved  sample PDF of qusetions       2023 Small Grant Application Questions


Greater Chatham Initiative Info Sessions Nov 21, Dec 5, Dec 10th:   11_14_22-chicago-recovery-plan-flyer

November 21st Replay HERE

PowerPoint:  GCI CRP/NOF Presentation 112122

Earlier GCI information sessions in July         

GCI Presentation PowerPoint:  

GCI Presentation CRP Grants July 23, 2022

GCI Presentation CRP Grants July 11, 2022


Tuesday, Jul 5th  REPLAY HERE

        Featuring Nedra Fears funding for Artist on the 9s project

Monday, Jul 11th   REPLAY HERE

        Featuring Lori Seay , of Soul Vegetarian City  Spring Finalist, Stony Island Commarisary project

Saturday, Jul 23rd    REPLAY HERE

           Featuring Constance Simms-Kincaid   Summer CRP Finalist,  5 Loaves Eatery expansion project

 More info:    Ray Fears    (773) 644.1451



  • Grant funding can be used for pre-development, construction, or renovation costs for permanent capital improvement projects.
  • CRP will pay for the acquisition of the property costs, but only up to an amount equal to the construction costs.  For example, if the property’s purchase price is $100,000. If renovations are $25,000, CRP would provide another $25,000 toward the property’s purchase.
  • Open to community developers, business owners and entrepreneurs, and property owners. Site control is preferred, but not required.
  • Residential-only development is not eligible, but mixed-use projects are eligible. Further funding opportunities for residential projects are expected to be announced in Q1 2022.
  • Priority will be given to catalytic projects with a strong local impact, that are able to leverage local talents, capacities, and institutions to strengthen and contribute to the community.
  • Applicants from all areas of Chicago are eligible to apply. Priority will be given for projects in historically disinvested areas as well as projects that build upon existing efforts, such as Mayor Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative and community safety initiatives.
  • Priority will be given to projects that demonstrate momentum and are expected to break ground in 2022.
  • The City expects awards to be capped at $5 million, though larger, catalytic projects may be considered.


The first 2023 round will open on December 19th taking online applications unit February 24th, 2023.  Finalist decision in late spring/early summer.  We anticipate a second round open for applications in late summer, and decisions end of the year.  

If you have applied in 2022: 

The 2023 (small grant) application has changed.  You should download a PDF of your  2022 application and use it as a reference to complete your 2023 application.

 DPD Community Development Grants website

CDG or NOF?    If you are in a NOF corridor select NOF  NOF Corrridor HERE  otherwise check CDG.  More on te difference below.


Prepare to Apply

Applications will be segmented based on the size of the grant. Grant requests should represent no more than 75 percent of the anticipated total project cost.   For example, at 75% reimbursement, a $250,000 would support a $333,333 project cost.

SMALL GRANTS:     Grant application for less than $250,000 (Small) HERE

Have to submit your grant request online (above links), 

LARGE GRANTS:    Grants larger than $250,000  up to $5 million

NEW:  The large grant application must now be submitted online   

                Large Grant Online Application HERE

  • Site Control
  • Photos
  • Describe proposed project
  • Project purpose
  • Financial need
  • Developer Input form required and upload
  • Sources of funds
  • Design & construction documentation
  • City of Chicago  construction compliance

            Universal Financial Request Application (has to be submitted online below are samples of the online application for your review)


                  2022-August Word Doc of Large GRant Application Must be completed online

2022-August Large Application Word Doc of essay questions and important uploads

                     Developer input form – not macro enabled (down load ZIP file for active input form)

                             FID Developer Input form not macro enabled


Zip file download of old universal application and Developer Input Form    HERE


Helpful Grant Resources and Explanations    HERE

        Project Readiness / Financial Feasibility / Construction Planning / Catalytic Impact / Business Planning


Strong applications have:

Very competitive, one in ten chance of being selected 

1) Site control

              Own the property, letter of intent to purchase, lease of at least 3 years

2) Project

              Clear description, drawings, pictures

              Detailed project budget with contractor bids

              Financing for your 25%

              Project and construction timeline


3) Business Plan

              How you are going to make money?

              How big is the market?


              Your’s and the team’s resumes, that you have done this before

4) Community

              Is your project catalytic?

              Activating a disinvested area

              How many new jobs, training opportunities?

              Bring new customers into the area?

              Aligned with the community plans and development?


5) Design and Visual appeal

Equity & Inclusion: Achieving fair treatment, targeted support, and prosperity for all citizens

Innovation: Implementing creative approaches to design and problem solving

Sense of Place: Celebrating and strengthening the culture of our communities

Sustainability: Committing to environmental, cultural, and financial longevity

Communication: Fostering design appreciation and responding to community needs

Chicago Recovery Plan Community Development Grant Information Session

An informational webinar was held Wednesday, Jan. 6 2022. Watch a recording of the webinar here,

City’s January 6th, 2022  Powerpoint Presentation:   download the presentation 

frequently asked questions.

For advice and potential resources to help with your application, please go to the Community Development Grant Resources page.

For any additional questions, please email



Comparison NOF to CRP

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Grants (NOF)

Small  <$250,000   Large <$2.5 million

Reimbursements 50% project, 25% wealth bonus, 25% hire local  (potentially 100%)

Acquisition 50% Small,  30% Large

Specific corridors – In Invest South/West, priority zones

Commercial properties only


Chicago Recovery Plan Community Development Grants (CRP)

Small  <$250,000   Large <$5 million

Reimbursements 75% project

Acquisition 75% Small,  75% Large  

Specific corridors – Chicago city limits

Commercial with some residential, light manufacturing

Vanilla box buildout without an identified tenant

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF)


Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF)

Latest Finalist   012022-sept-nof-finalist

NOF Small & Large to open December 19th deadline is February 24th (same as Community Development Grants).   

NOF Finalist

Completed projects

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund are grants (not loans) that help strengthen commercial corridors in Chicago’s South, Southwest and West Sides.  The NOF finances commercial and cultural projects in neighborhoods that lack private investment, using revenue generated from downtown development.

Projects like:  

  • Storefront buildout
  • Facade repair, window door replacement
  • Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC work
  • New Construction
  • Property acquistion
  • Roofing repair

See if your project is in a NOF Corrridor HERE

Neighborhood Fund (NOF) Guidelines and information  HERE

August 2021 City NOF Info Session REPLAY

2021 Aug Info Session PowerPoint

NOF summary flyer Aug 2020


Complete details on the NOF Website INFO

NOF contact at the City HERE

Project eligibility:

NOF does not award grants for the construction or rehabilitation of residential uses, manufacturing uses, industrial uses, social services (including daycare and elder care), or places of worship that do not identify commercial as the primary use of a project. Non-profit organizations are eligible for the NOF grant, but they must be engaged in a retail or commercial activity or providing a cultural asset that is open to the public.



Grant Types  – How much funding can you get?

NOF offers two types of grants: Small Projects (assistance of $250,000 or less), and Large Projects (assistance of $250,001 – $2.5M). The NOF assistance available to your project depends on the project location and the amount of financial assistance being requested.

Small Projects (grants up to $250,000)

NOF Small Projects must be located in an Eligible Commercial Corridor, which are public streets that are generally zoned for retail or commercial uses. Projects are required in these locations so that they can be concentrated to create a larger, collective impact. Projects may also be located within a Priority Investment Corridor, which is similar to an Eligible Commercial Corridor, but has a greater amount of retail or commercial activity. Although not required, projects located within Primary Investment Corridors, will receive extra weight during the application review process.

Please refer to the Project Eligibility map below to determine if your project is eligible for the grant.

Large Projects (grants exceeding $250,000, up to $2.5M)

NOF Large Projects do not have to be located in an Eligible Commercial Corridor, but must be located within the Qualified Investment Area (QIA).  Large Projects must receive City Council approval and a Redevelopment Agreement that governs the terms of the grant.  Large Projects are subject to the City’s construction compliance requirements, which include MBE/WBE, Local Hiring and Prevailing Wage (as established by the Illinois Department of Labor). We encourage applicants to contact us with questions about NOF Large Projects in advance of submitting an application.

Projects located within an Eligible Commercial Corridor are eligible for both the Small and Large Project grants; however, projects that are located outside of an Eligible Commercial Corridor and requesting more than $250,000 are only eligible for Large Project grants.


Applications are prioritized based on the following four key factors:

  1. Catalytic impact. Applicants should submit projects that provide services or goods currently lacking in an area, and specify how their projects will build stronger communities or commercial corridors.
  2. Project readiness. Applicants should have site control of the project property, or be engaged in the process of obtaining site control. Selected properties should not have significant issues, such as mechanic liens, court orders or past due property taxes.
  3. Project financial feasibility. Applicants should clearly identify the uses of grant funds and the sources of, or the strategy to obtain, their portion of funding.
  4. Construction implementation. Applicants should demonstrate a clear and ready path to implementation.

The City’s Department of Planning and Development reviews all applications and submits them to an Advisory Committee, which is comprised of community leaders who represent a cross-section of neighborhoods. The committee reviews DPD’s recommendations for final selection and provides approval or feedback.



Complete details on the NOF Website INFO

NOF contact at the City HERE

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) Large Grants ($ >250,000) are now open. Rolling application, no deadline.  NOF Large Grant Online Application HERE 

NOF website


Accion Loan Fund

 Progress Loans – American Express Supported Program

Accion Opportunity Fund is a financial support system for small businesses that advances racial, gender, and economic justice for all.    

$5,000 to $100,000   Rates as low as 5.99%  


Spanish and English support 8am-8pm     866-458-3555


Seaway / Self-Help FCU


Self-Help Federal Credit Union  Small Business Loan Programs

Chicago Food Enterprise Loans  (C-FEL) for Food Entrepreneurs of Color 

Target Food Business Segments 

1. Food Service Providers – i.e., caterers and food trucks 

2. Commercial Kitchens 

3. Grocery Stores – including Ethnic Grocery Stores, Health Food Stores, corner grocers

4. Restaurants – including Full Service and Limited Service, Juice Bars 

5. Food Innovation – including technology products for healthy food retail.


Loans for working capital, inventory, equipment, and leasehold improvements.

  • Loan amounts from $15K – $250K
  • No or Low equity and collateral requirements
  • Interest rates starting at 5.5% fixed
  • Most loans include 12-month interest-only period, and terms up to 11 years

Loans for real estate acquisition and renovation

  • Loan amounts from $100K to $1M+
  • Up to 90-100% loan to value (LTV)
  • competitive interest rates

How to qualify

  • Be an existing business or nonprofit with at least two years of tax returns
  • Be located in Chicago Metropolitan Area
  • Serve the Black or Latino community
  • Be a food system entrepreneur operating in a low- or moderate-income community
  • Be currently open and operating
  • Have no outstanding judgments or tax liens
  • Have no bankruptcies in the last three years

Funding subject to availability 

C-FEL Flyer   C-FEL Flyer

Chicago Food Enterprise Loans  (C-FEL) for Food Entrepreneurs of Color 

Target Food Business Segments 

1. Food Service Providers – i.e., caterers and food trucks 

2. Commercial Kitchens 

3. Grocery Stores – including Ethnic Grocery Stores, Health Food Stores, corner grocers

4. Restaurants – including Full Service and Limited Service, Juice Bars 

5. Food Innovation – including technology products for healthy food retail.


Loans for working capital, inventory, equipment, and leasehold improvements.

  • Loan amounts from $15K – $250K
  • No or Low equity and collateral requirements
  • Interest rates starting at 5.5% fixed
  • Most loans include 12-month interest-only period, and terms up to 11 years

Loans for real estate acquisition and renovation

  • Loan amounts from $100K to $1M+
  • Up to 90-100% loan to value (LTV)
  • competitive interest rates

How to qualify

  • Be an existing business or nonprofit with at least two years of tax returns
  • Be located in Chicago Metropolitan Area
  • Serve the Black or Latino community
  • Be a food system entrepreneur operating in a low- or moderate-income community
  • Be currently open and operating
  • Have no outstanding judgments or tax liens
  • Have no bankruptcies in the last three years

Funding subject to availability 

C-FEL Flyer   C-FEL Flyer

Chicago Food Enterprise Loans  (C-FEL) for Food Entrepreneurs of Color 

Target Food Business Segments 

1. Food Service Providers – i.e., caterers and food trucks 

2. Commercial Kitchens 

3. Grocery Stores – including Ethnic Grocery Stores, Health Food Stores, corner grocers

4. Restaurants – including Full Service and Limited Service, Juice Bars 

5. Food Innovation – including technology products for healthy food retail.


Loans for working capital, inventory, equipment, and leasehold improvements.

  • Loan amounts from $15K – $250K
  • No or Low equity and collateral requirements
  • Interest rates starting at 5.5% fixed
  • Most loans include 12-month interest-only period, and terms up to 11 years

Loans for real estate acquisition and renovation

  • Loan amounts from $100K to $1M+
  • Up to 90-100% loan to value (LTV)
  • competitive interest rates

How to qualify

  • Be an existing business or nonprofit with at least two years of tax returns
  • Be located in Chicago Metropolitan Area
  • Serve the Black or Latino community
  • Be a food system entrepreneur operating in a low- or moderate-income community
  • Be currently open and operating
  • Have no outstanding judgments or tax liens
  • Have no bankruptcies in the last three years

Funding subject to availability 

C-FEL Flyer   C-FEL Flyer

Pivot Loan Program

For non-food related businesses please consider the Pivot Loan program.

Pivot Loan Program

Funding subject to availability 


For more information and other financial products:

Chris Dorsey 

Seaway building on 87th

Commercial  Team

Self-Help CU website 



Greenwood Archer Capital (GAC)


Greenwood Archer Capital  Small Business Loan Programs

Greenwood Archer CapitalTM

1000 E. 111th St, 10th Floor, Chicago IL 60628


Greenwood Archer Capital is a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution).  Different from conventional banks and credit unions, CDFIs are part of a US Department of the Treasury program aimed at distressed communities so are able to accept more lenient credit profiles, lower down payments, collateral options, and more favorable interest rates.  In addition, Greenwood Archer is a member of the State of Illinois Advantage/FAME program where the state will join with GAC to provide borrowers very favorable interest rates.  GAC also has SBA products.


General Lending 

 Amount up to $100,000  (State of Illinois participation)

Rate varies per credit profile.  Flexible collateral options


Your Forte, Our Finance    (Matt Forte, Chicago Bears)

Commercial Real Estate Loan

Up to $200,000,  100% financed

Business must be Black-owned and owner-occupied

Empower Capital Access Program

Business capital and back office support for diverse construction entrepreneurs

Flexible capital up to $50,000  Revolving credit debit is available.

Healthy Living, Healthy Financing 

For  local food growing, purchasing, transporting and the ecosystem that supports this.

Up to $100,000  start-up and expansion financing.  Technical assistance is available.


Pathway to Enterprise for returning Citizens (PERC)

Entrepreneurial training and loan program for previously incarcerated individuals.

Streamlined capital up to $10,000.  Additional requirements for loans over $10,000

GAC Product Flyer 


Apply for a loan  HERE



Aloni Harris



GAC Website: HERE 



State of Illinois DCEO


State of Illinois Department of Commerce

& Economic Opportunity

DCEO Website


Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurship (ADME)

ADME is a community investment program developed to strengthen Illinois’ start-up and small business community ecosystem by tapping into the potential of minority business owners and entrepreneurs. ADME supports the Department’s commitment to growing minority and women-owned businesses and increasing diversity in businesses and within the Illinois economy. Through the ADME program, we offer resources to high-potential minority entrepreneurs and provide start to finish support to help them grow their businesses. Interested business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can receive focused business education and potential access to capital to get their business off the


Advantage Illinois – FAME Program
Advantage Illinois’ new FAME Program (“Fund for the Advancement of Minority Enterprises”) is a dramatic upgrading of our former Minority/Women/Disabled/Veteran Participation Loan Program. Though still structured as a Participation Loan Program, this new Fund underlines the State’s promise to focus on fostering new and expanding small business entrepreneurship among minority and women-owned businesses. The FAME Program, funded by “Recycled SSBCI Funds”, will provide 50% of the entrepreneur’s overall Project Cost of the specific Loan that DCEO is participating in, up to a maximum of $400,000 of AL Funds, with a fixed interest rate on the Advantage Illinois portion set at 2%.

DCEO Program Flyer FAME

Illinois Office of Minority Economic Empowerment
555 W. Monroe, 12th Floor  Chicago, IL 60661
Website: Email: 

Chicago contact: Sacella Smith

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC)


Employee Retention Credit

Businesses Have Until 2024 to Claim the Employee Retention Credit Retroactively

CARES ACT – 2020  /  Consolidated Appropriations Act – 2021  /  American Rescue Plan Act – 2021

ERC is a payroll tax refund born out of the same COVID relief bill as PPP, which incentivized businesses who kept employees on payroll during the pandemic. Originally, companies were limited in their ability to claim either the PPP or ERC, but not both. In early 2021, the rules changed and your business can claim ERC even if you received PPP funds.


Our current thoughts:

  1. This could be a considerable amount of money, so you should spend some time on this.
  2. You have until 2024 to file an amended tax return
  3. Confer with your current accountant on their knowledge and experience with the ERC
  4. Check with your payroll processor.  Most payroll processors offer ERC assistance.  They are the ones with the payroll data you need for your ERC application.  

There has been a barrage of advertisements from various parties that offer to assist with completing the forms.  Watch closely most are asking for 15% – 25% of the take.    See below there was an IRS bulletin issued last week warning of scams.

With the 2020 ERC publication, the IRS said if you received PPP reimbursement then you were not eligible for ERC.  With the 2021 publication, the IRS clarified its position that essentially you can not “double dip”  if you received PPP reimbursement for an employee’s wages, and could not also receive ERC for those same wages.  If half of the employee’s wage was reimbursed by PPP, then you could apply for ERC for the other half.  Again can’t double-dip.

The scam is a service works up that you have $100,000 in ERC wages they apply for you.  You’ll receive from the IRS your $100,000.  You turn around and write a check to the service for $25,000(25%).   Then later the IRS audits you to find the service did not consider you had received PPP reimbursement for that same $100,000.   The IRS wants their $100,000 back.  It is now a year down the road and the service is no where to be found to retrieve the $25,000 cut you had paid them.

Good reason to stick with your accountant and/or payroll service, not likely they are going to disappear on you.  If you receive ERC you’ll need to resubmit an amended 2020 & 2021 tax return.  Actually, a pretty big deal because if your P&L changes your profitability could change which affects your taxes due along with K-1s to your partners.  It is a big deal amending tax returns, which then costs accountant fees.   So the accounting community is hoping the IRS revises how the ERC is booked.  Instead of reducing your wage expense in 2021, therefore changing your profitability, why not record the ERC disbursement as additional income in the year that it is received.  And so not having to amend prior tax returns.  

Again the deadline is in 2024, so don’t feel pressured.  Getting money sooner is always a good thing. 

Oct 19th IRS Bulletin:   Employers warned to beware of third parties promoting improper Employee Retention Credit clams.  HERE


Illinois Restaurant Association ERC Webinar  10:00am  Thursday Oct 27th

Register HERE


Some of the Details, warning the weeds get thick

Credit amount

The total ERTC benefit per employee can be up to $26,000 ($5,000 in 2020 and $7,000 per quarter in 2021).

  • For 2020, an eligible employer is entitled to a refundable credit equal to 50% of qualified wages paid from March 13, 2020, through December 31, 2020, plus qualified health plan expenses (up to $10,000 in qualified wages per employee, resulting in a maximum credit of $5,000).
  • For 2021, an eligible employer is entitled to a refundable credit equal to 70% of qualified wages paid from January 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021 (up to $10,000 in qualified wages per employee per quarter, resulting in a maximum credit of $7,000 per quarter).
  • Recovery Startup Businesses could be eligible to take a credit of up to $50,000 for the third and fourth quarters of 2021 since they were eligible through the end of 2021.

What is the Employee Retention Credit?

The ERC is a refundable credit that businesses can claim on qualified wages, including certain health insurance costs, paid to employees.

Businesses can no longer pay wages to claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit, but they have until 2024 to do a look back on their payroll during the pandemic and retroactively claim the credit by filing an amended tax return.

Although the Employee Retention  Credit (ERC) program has officially sunset, this does not impact the ability of a business to claim ERC retroactively. In fact, businesses have up to three years from the end of the program to conduct a lookback to determine if wages paid after March 12, 2020 through the end of the program are eligible.

For most businesses, the credit could be claimed on wages until Sept. 30, 2021, with certain businesses having until Dec. 31, 2021 to pay qualified wages.

Employer Eligibility

Your business could be eligible in one of two ways:

  • It was fully or partially suspended due to a governmental order limiting commerce, travel or group meetings related to COVID-19.
  • It experienced a significant decline in gross receipts, as defined by more than 50% in 2020 and more than 20% in 2021.

Qualified wages

The ERC uses wages and/or health plan expenses to calculate the respective benefit.

For 2020:

  • For eligible employers that had an average number of full-time employees in 2019 of 100 or fewer, all wages paid to employees during the eligible period(s) may count toward the ERC.
  • For eligible employers that had an average number of full-time employees in 2019 of greater than 100, wages paid for time not providing services due to a full or partial suspension by governmental order or the business experiencing more than a 50% decline in gross receipts for a calendar quarter when compared to the same quarter in 2019 may count toward the ERC.

For 2021:

  • For eligible employers that had an average number of full-time employees in 2019 of 500 or fewer, all wages paid to employees during the eligible period(s) may count toward the ERC.
  • For eligible employers that had an average number of full-time employees in 2019 of greater than 500, wages paid for time not providing services due to a full or partial suspension by governmental order or the business experiencing more than a 20% decline in gross receipts for a calendar quarter when compared to the same quarter in 2019 may count toward the ERC.


Claim the Credit Even if Your Business has Already Benefited from the Following:

CARES Act – 2020

For employers who qualify, including borrowers who took a loan under the initial PPP, the credit can be claimed against 50 percent of qualified wages paid, up to $10,000 per employee annually for wages paid between March 13 and Dec. 31, 2020.


Consolidated Appropriations Act – 2021

Employers who qualify, including PPP recipients, can claim a credit against 70% of qualified wages paid. Additionally, the amount of wages that qualifies for the credit is now $10,000 per employee per quarter.

American Rescue Plan Act – 2021

The credit remains at 70% of qualified wages up to a $10,000 limit per quarter so a maximum of $7,000 per employee per quarter. So, an employer could claim $7,000 per quarter per employee through the first three quarters of 2021 after the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act changed the end date of the program for most businesses. However, Recovery Startup Businesses were eligible through the end of 2021. They could be eligible to take a credit of up to $50,000 for the third and fourth quarters of 2021.

Additional information about ERC

Paychex payroll company:  HERE

 very good explanation and detail


Discover Center 87th/Cottage Grove Employee Meal Program

Due to supply chain issues, Discover Center is some two months behind in their buildout.

Discover Customer Care Center at 8560 S Cottage Grove provides their employees free meals.  Currently, they have 150 employees split into two shifts, day time and evening.  In April they will finish construction and expand to 500 employees, with plans to grow to 1,000.     Discover is in search of local catering partners to offer meal service.  Their focus is supporting local restaurants along with providing their employees a nutritious offering.  Discover has a group of restaurants servicing the current 150 employees, but with the new expansion, they need a much larger group of restaurants to service the meal program.  There are also opportunities for catering events and activities at the Center.   Discover is moving fast (schedule below) so do not delay getting on this opportunity.

Food Catering Requirements

Feb 15th Q&A webinar PowerPoint

Mindful Nutrient Criteria

Discover Center Feb Mar and April Plan


To be considered complete the NDA and questionnaire and return to Victoria.  Deadline noon  Friday, Feb 25th.

Discover Mutual NDA

Food Catering Questionaire 2.15.22 

If you need assistance filling out the forms, please contact Victoria Elkind at or 224-804-4444.  If you need a hard copy mailed or dropped off, they can do so.  Additional support from Vensha White Johnson or at 224-619-8560

If you need more details:  John

Founders First CDC


a leading business accelerator program in the country for diverse-led companies.

A total of $100,000 will be awarded to 25 businesses in Chicago.  Feb 8th Deadline

Grants are a great way to receive growth capital for your small business. With a simple application, you can receive cash and a full tuition scholarship to one of our stellar accelerators. Hear first hand from grant recipients and partners.

  • Grant money can be used as growth capital to hire or rehire premium wage jobs.
  • Cash infusion can be used to purchase, fix or enhance equipment necessary to help you manage growth challenges and scale for the future.
  • Founder identify as one of the following: Latinx, Black, Asian, Women, LGBTQIA+, Military Veteran, or located in a Low to Moderate Income area.
  • TO QUALIFY: Must be located in the state of Illinois and have a current staff of 2-20 employees. Will have the ability to add 1-2+ net new premium wage jobs in the next 12 months. Your company must be a service-based business and at least one revenue stream serving other businesses. Must be a for-profit company with annual revenues between $100K and $3 million.


The application deadline is February 8, 2023.  Please email us at with any questions about the Job Creators Quest Grant.

Please visit the Grant FAQ page for more information.



St of IL Back to Business

West Monroe Consulting LISC

Pro Bono Consulting Opportunity

Downtown Chicago consulting firm West Monroe is partnering with our friends at LISC to provide pro bono (free) consulting for small businesses.  Partnering deeply with a few minority entrepreneurs for 3-6 months to talk about growth strategies. Situations where you would be looking for equity investors. Past clients include Brown Sugar Bakery and Cedar Concepts. 

Program Details:  Minority Business Growth Initiative program Dec 2022

Application: HERE


Caroline Tipton Rendon

Goldman Sachs Programs


Goldman Sachs Programs

Goldman Sachs 10,000 small business program

Through the program, you will gain practical skills across topics such as financial statements negotiation, marketing, and employee management, and gain the tools to develop a customized business plan for growth—for free.

10KSB provides 3 Cohorts per year.

  • Winter– Early January through Mid April
  • Spring/Summer– Mid May through Mid August
  • Fall– Mid September through Early December


Get on their mailing list   HERE

One Million Black Women: Black in Business

In partnership with Black women-led organizations and other partners, our new investment initiative, One Million Black Women will commit $10 billion in direct investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic support to address the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations, which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

More information HERE


Sole proprietorship program cohort  Application deadline April 21st

Through the One Million Black Women: Black in Business, participants will learn how to better understand their finances, hire their first employee, price their products or services, and much more – at no cost to the business owner.  

Sole proprietorship program

    No other full-time employees

    Minimum revenue of $25,000 in the past 12 months, revenue-generating business

    Black, woman-owned

    In operation for at least one year

To learn more about the program, register here for an informational webinar.

Applications are now open. Apply by April 21st to be considered for the Fall 2023 Cohort of OMBW: Black in Business.

Application HERE   

Inquires :

More information HERE


Women's Business Development Center (WBDC)


Women’s Business Development Center Programs

WBDC Website

Cohort Programs

The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) is proud to present Top Shelf: High Volume Retail Growth Insights. This 8-week program is designed to help established businesses grow into the mass retail market. 

Next Cohort application deadline    Information HERE


Direct Lending Program

Capital can be challenging if your business is too new (less than two years), or your loan amount is too small (less than $50,000). The WBDC provides loans to small business owners who cannot get a loan from a bank. Loans are available to small businesses in Northeast Illinois with less than $1,000,000 in annual revenue.

Monthly informational webinars:  Register HERE     Email for more information

Emma Westfall,  Access to Capital director


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