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Chicago Firm Boosts Support for Black Entrepreneurs

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A Chicago tech company aims to close the wealth gap by supporting Black entrepreneurs. (Adobe stock)
A Chicago tech company aims to close the wealth gap by supporting Black entrepreneurs. (Adobe stock)
 By Diane Bernard, Public News Service - IL - Producer, Contact
January 29, 2021

CHICAGO - Spurred by protests calling for racial justice over the past year, a Chicago-based tech company that helps entrepreneurs is starting a new program to provide support for Black business founders.

The 12-week session offers mentorship and training for African-American entrepreneurs at the early stages of creating a business.

Betsy Ziegler is CEO of 1871, which is running the program. She said 1871 has seen success with its other minority-focused business courses - including accelerators for Latinos and women, part of its strategy to help underserved founders.

"One of the things we like to say is that entrepreneurial talent and aspiration is everywhere, but opportunity and access to get a business off the ground is not," said Ziegler. "And so we feel as a nonprofit, as a leading tech hub in Chicago, that it's an opportunity for us to help close that gap."

Called BLK-Tech with Verizon, the program starts Tuesday. It costs $175 per month, and need-based scholarships are available.

Chicago resident Amado Albiter is a Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient from Mexico who went through one of 1871's programs, which gave him mentoring and curriculum to launch an arts marketing business.

Lacking access to college or any formal training because of his immigration status, Albiter said he gained necessary skills to put his dream into action.

"As an immigrant, people keep saying that the American Dream is dead, and it's really not," said Albiter. "And for them to roll out with this program and literally show me step-by-step how to manage a startup was amazing."

Data from the Small Business Administration shows Blacks own about 2.6 million businesses, or 9.5% of all businesses in the United States, and Latinos own 3.3 million firms or about 12%.

Black businesses have only 1.3% of total American sales and not quite 2% of the nation's employees.

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