The Crusader Newspaper Group

Chicagoans how about a $5K grant for your business ideas

Applications are now open for Chicago-area residents seeking to obtain grants to transform their business ideas into reality. Heartland Forward, Builders + Backers, and Ford Motor Company Fund jointly announced this initiative on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. Interested individuals with innovative solutions to community challenges are encouraged to apply.

The Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator Program, powered by Heartland Forward, aims to facilitate entrepreneurship experimentation. Applicants are not obliged to furnish a business plan or pitch deck. This initiative targets a cohort of 10 builders in Chicago as part of Heartland Forward’s commitment to supporting more than 1,000 builders across the heartland by the end of 2024. [] Priority will be given to residents of the city’s South Side.

The application deadline is May 12, 2024. Successful applicants with promising ideas will participate in a 90-day virtual program commencing on June 3, 2024.

“Bringing a practical, grassroots program like the Idea Accelerator to the heart of Chicago is an example of Heartland Forward in action,” said Ross DeVol, president and CEO of Heartland Forward. “In just four years, we have supported 864 builders across heartland communities. We love seeing the ripple effects of supporting entrepreneurs at the beginning of their ventures – and know that Chicago residents will step up to join this program.”

“We have no doubt that there are incredible, high-potential ideas across the South Side of Chicago and around the city as a whole,” said Donna Harris, CEO of Builders + Backers. “Getting them off the sidelines doesn’t just mean more new companies and more jobs; it also helps create greater local vitality. We can’t wait to get started working with Chicago builders.”

“Ford and Ford Fund have a rich history in Chicago, and through these new partnerships, we hope to build on that history while creating pathways for aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams,” said Mike Schmidt, Economic Mobility director at Ford Fund. “We’re excited to see these new ideas come to life here in Chicago.”

Support for the Builders + Backers Idea Accelerator is a premier part of Heartland Forward’s Talent Development Strategy. At the heart of the program are the four pillars:

• Idea Accelerator: This cohort-based program combines a 45-day Builder Bootcamp to teach participants how to put ideas into action, followed by 45 days of actively executing their ideas through a single experiment.

• Pebble Fund: All of the Builders are supported by a $5,000 Pebble Grant to test their ideas. Participants are mentored by Builders in Residence throughout the program.

• Storytelling: A comprehensive media program that curates, captures and distributes stories of Buildership™, both from within the programs and in communities everywhere. Through video, written stories, social media and media partnerships, the program inspires people to become Builders.

• Buildership™ Workshops: Workshops and other events introduce people to the ideas of Buildership™ and demonstrate that anyone can generate creative solutions through entrepreneurial experimentation that contribute to the sustainability of communities.

The program was first piloted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Oxford, Mississippi, in the summer of 2021. Since then, there have been more than 864 Builders across 13 heartland communities. To learn more about the Builders, visit [].

Heartland Forward is a policy think tank dedicated to addressing the needs of the middle of the country by studying economic trends and implementing data-driven partnerships, programs, and policies.

Builders + Backers invests in entrepreneurs building global-scale ventures and inspires individuals to seize opportunities in the digital era, fostering a future where technology benefits many.

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