Small business initiative aims to address racial wealth disparity
The Lake County Community Foundation recently launched the Small Business Growth Initiative, a new program to support small businesses owned by people of color within priority communities in Lake County.
This initiative is part of LCCF's ongoing work to address racial wealth disparity and contribute to positive social and economic change in Lake County. For the SBGI pilot, LCCF has partnered with Drip & Culture, a socially minded coffee and apparel brand in Waukegan.
Through this pilot initiative, LCCF provided a $50,000 grant to Drip & Culture, located within Supermercado Gonzalez, in support of moving their coffee shop from the back of the grocery store to the front, making it more accessible to customers and creating room for future growth.
Supermercado Gonzalez is a family-owned business established in 1994 and has been a long-standing staple in Waukegan's small business community.
LCCF has been working closely with the Illinois Small Business Development & International Trade Center at College of Lake County, Lake County Partners, Allies for Community Business and local community leaders to build this comprehensive program that will ultimately result in a network of support for small businesses owned by people of color.
LCCF Executive Director Maggie Morales said the new program aligns with LCCF's desire to move the needle on racial wealth disparities in Lake County and create pipelines of entrepreneurship in communities of color.
"We know that small businesses are the backbone of our community and recognize the need to provide access to capital," Morales said. "With the SBGI program, we envision a thriving and equitable small business community in Lake County."
Drip & Culture owners Adam Carson and Nydia Gonzalez said their vision for Drip & Culture was to create a space where community and culture thrive.
"Coffee shops have the power to be the gathering places where people come from different walks of life to have great experiences," Carson said.
"Launching a coffee shop inside of Supermercado Gonzalez was a part of our vision to make the store a center of the community and a catalyst for what we think is a dynamic ecosystem of businesses in the area," Gonzalez said.
"Our hope is that we can leverage the grant funds to not only improve our physical space, but also invest in other startup businesses. Our fundamental belief is that communities like Waukegan are not seen as hubs for innovation, but we see entrepreneurship flourishing here in the community and want to support it in any way we can," the pair said.
Carson and Gonzalez have a unique vision for how they can support entrepreneurs with new or existing business concepts. They want to offer technical assistance to individuals, as well as the space to sell their goods.
"Drip & Culture has a truly unique story and vision for entrepreneurship in Lake County," Morales said. "We are thrilled to have them as partners in this pilot initiative."
Illinois Small Business Development & International Trade Center at College of Lake County is a key partner in the SBGI pilot program, providing technical assistance to the business based on the results of a growth assessment, and will pair the business owners with subject matter experts in areas identified for growth.
The goal is to have a collaborative space for peer-to-peer support and mentorship between small business owners in Lake County.
Director of the SBDC/ITC, Mitch Bienvenue, said, "It's exciting to work with the entire team involved in this initiative, but especially with Adam and Nydia. Not only are they innovative and forward-thinking entrepreneurs, but they also are passionate about helping other entrepreneurs, especially startups. Grassroots, peer to peer support is critical to growing a solid business ecosystem and we need that in Lake County."
LCCF and SBGI partners continue to track outcomes and impact that will shape best practices for the SBGI program following the pilot.
For more information about the Lake County Community Foundation, visit www.lakecountycf.org.