Beginning next month, state government will launch a business incubator for minority entrepreneurs who will receive specialized training and coaching to launch their small business ideas.
The Advancing the Development of Minority Entrepreneurship program (ADME) accepted 35 minority entrepreneurs from three regions of the state: Peoria, Rockford and Chicago. Those participating range from new to veteran minority business owners.
Business owner and program participant Daniel Hall said the program seemed almost too good to be true when he first heard about it.
“You hear so many different things and, after you’ve been in business for some time and you keep running in to roadblocks, it all just starts to run together,” Hall said.
Hall, who is from the south side of Chicago, said he hopes the program can help his business become one that doesn’t have to rely on minority certification or minority set-aside.
“I want to put myself in a position to grow my business so that I can empower and bring up other people that are from my community and other neighborhoods around the country,” Hall said.
Despite success as a venture capitalist, Gov. Bruce Rauner said starting a business is hard.
“It’s stressful. It’s lonely. You got to build a team. You got to get a board of directors. You got to get access to capital. You need introductions to customers and consultants and advisors. There’s a network that helps entrepreneurs to succeed,” Rauner said.
The governor said too many minority entrepreneurs don’t have those networks. That’s why he brought together ADME.
Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Marcus Yancey said demand for the program was high, and they had three times the number of applicants as space available.
“That tells me that entrepreneurship is out there in the minority community, and it’s alive and well and the state needs to get behind them and support [them], and that’s what we’re trying to do here today,” Yancey said.
ADME doesn’t involve any taxpayer grant dollars, Yancey said, but it will help minority business owners network with private-sector resources such as capital investment firms.
Larry Ivory, CEO of the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, said ADME's mission to provide minority business owners with the tools and networks they need to grow is important.
“It’s the people that you get a chance to talk to that you never have a chance to talk to,” Ivory said.
Starting a business is "really like running a 4 by 40 relay, and you’re running the whole 4 by 40 by yourself. You don’t have someone to pass the baton off to," he said. "This [program] gives us an opportunity to pass the baton, to really help Illinois be a better state. And I think we’re a better state when we grow businesses.”
Rauner hopes to expand the network throughout the state in the coming years.