Special Initiatives

To deepen the impact of the services we provide—capital, coaching, and connections—Accion launched three exciting new initiatives in 2017 with our partners.

The Hatchery Chicago

The Hatchery Chicago is a nonprofit food and beverage business incubator under development at the corner of Lake and Kedzie in East Garfield Park on Chicago's west side, and the $34M, 67,000 square foot facility will open at the end of 2018. Accion is a 50/50 joint venture partner of The Hatchery alongside ICNC (Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago) which runs one of the oldest and largest business incubators in the country.

Throughout 2017, Accion and ICNC built strong relationships with community organizations and residents in East Garfield Park and developed high impact and relevant programming to best serve the community.

The Hatchery will contain 56 private kitchens leasable by month, five shared kitchen spaces rentable by the hour, dry/cold storage, loading docks, and meeting spaces for food and beverage business owners. The shared kitchen space will be used for workforce development programs specifically for West Side residents, and workshops and educational seminars will be offered throughout the year. The Garfield Park Neighborhood Market will operate on the front plaza, and Chef Rick Bayless will run job training and placement for open positions in Chicago's best kitchens.

Additionally, when The Hatchery opens its doors in late 2018, Accion will be a primary tenant, allowing our team to work more closely alongside the business owners in one of the primary communities we serve. To learn more about The Hatchery Chicago, click here.

Accion In your neighborhood

Accion transitioned to a geographic-based lending structure in which dedicated Community Lenders now serve North, West, South, Southwest, and Far South Side & Indiana communities (alongside other lenders who focus on the rest of Illinois and Indiana). The Community Lenders who work in these regions are physically present and work hard to build relationships with partners and entrepreneurs in the community, better equipping us to meet the needs of our neighborhood entrepreneurs.

While our mission has always been to serve minority and low-income entrepreneurs, in response to Chicago's growing inequality, we opted to deepen that commitment in 2017 by aggressively investing in 15 Chicago communities grappling with the highest rates of unemployment, poverty, and crime. That investment is supported by Accion In Your Neighborhood (AIYN).

One of the principle features of AIYN is a monthly community event hosted within one of these 15 neighborhoods. We gather area small business owners, community organizations, and other partners to explore challenges and opportunities facing neighborhood entrepreneurs. AIYN events are unscripted and informal, allowing our guests to be candid about what keeps them up at night.

After listening, Accion is then able to offer solutions, provide free coaching, and make connections when appropriate on-site. These events inform the products and services we offer to all neighborhood entrepreneurs.

neighborhood entrepreneurship lab

Accion has partnered with The Chicago Community Trust to establish the Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL), an initiative which pairs five entrepreneurs poised for growth with five investors/advisors. Each investor/advisor invested $20,000 into the NEL funding pool, and each entrepreneur received $20,000 as well as intensive training and mentoring from the investors/advisors who committed to making connections to influential business contacts within their personal networks.

Rowan Richards, Accion's Director of Business Coaching and Connections manages this program. He observes, "NEL provides resources and connections to entrepreneurs in a safe environment where they can develop, test, and launch market ready products and services."

Monica Abernathy is the owner of A Polished Work nail salon in the Grand Crossing community of Chicago and is an entrepreneur participant in NEL. For almost a year, Monica has been working alongside her advisor, Heather Payne of Dixon Midland Company, on metrics, KPIs, and projections for next year. "I can walk through my challenges with her. It's been really great."

"The development of the relationship between myself and Monica has been the most rewarding experience," Heather says. "I enjoy working with someone who has abundant energy, creative ideas, a positive outlook, and the desire to grow her business and learn more about running a business."