University of Chicago Awards More Than $680,000 in Emergency COVID-19 Bridge Grants to 182 South Side Small Businesses

kenyatta day care

Grantees are Independently Owned and Operated Businesses from Each of the University’s Nine Focus Area Neighborhoods

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Brenda Owens to close the doors to Kenyatta’s Day Care, the business she’s been running in South Shore for 42 years, she worried both for the parents and children who rely on her care and her 11 long-time employees, some of whom she hasn’t been able to pay their full paychecks. 

“We were getting calls from our staff, they were getting worried about how they were going to be able to pay their bills and it just happened so quickly we really didn’t have a chance to think about things that maybe we would have thought of if we’d had more time,” Owens said.

The funds Kenyatta’s Day Care will be receiving from the Illinois Department of Human Services will not be enough to pay everybody and the bills, Owens said. But a just-announced grant from the University of Chicago will bridge what she hasn’t been able to cover.

“It’s important because most of us, especially on the South Side of Chicago, we can’t just walk into a bank and get a loan, it’s almost impossible, that’s been my experience anyway, so the University stepping up and offering the funds, they’ll help us,” Owens said.

Owens’ bridge grant was one of 182 the University is awarding to South Side small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This financial assistance is one element of the institution’s South Side COVID-19 Community Support Initiative launched on March 30. Independently-owned businesses with no more than three locations in the University’s nine neighborhood focus area (Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn) were eligible to receive up to $7,500 in grants from the University. Awarded funds included $125,000 from a $250,000 grant for the University’s Community Support Initiative provided by the Chicago Bears and Bears Care, the team’s charitable arm.

Immediate support for a critical period

With customers and clients staying home across the country and around the world, small businesses like Kenyatta’s Day Care are experiencing unprecedented challenges, from plunging revenues and piling bills to forced furloughs and lay-offs. Keeping their businesses and employees afloat through this crisis is a struggle most small business owners can’t afford to face without help. Payments will be issued in the coming days in order to help bridge the resource gap in this critical period as public and private sector COVID-19 aid becomes available. The University established the bridge fund to be used for small businesses’ general operating expenses and direct support for impacted employees, many of whom are South Side residents.

“Small businesses are crucial to the stability and vitality of our shared community,” Derek Douglas, the University’s Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs, said. “This pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on many local small businesses and we hope this support will help the owners and their employees get through this difficult time. We want to help ensure that the South Side’s commercial corridors rebound after this public health and economic crisis ends.”

Commitment to nine neighborhood focus area on South Side

Grantees were selected based on a combination of criteria including how significantly each eligible business was impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and the potential for funds to provide relief to employees, among other factors. In an effort to support not only individual business owners and their employees, but also active commercial corridors throughout the South Side, grants were concentrated on businesses with a physical location that is open to customers or clients. Consideration was also given to businesses that were able to demonstrate a history of being a community asset.

Grantees included restaurants, shops, day cares, fitness centers, cultural institutions, health facilities, personal care services, construction firms, and others.

Because of the University’s longstanding community relationships through its UChicago Local initiative, a number of place-based South Side Business Support Organizations were provided with financial support and enlisted to provide additional business outreach and information on businesses and their impact on their communities. These eight community organizations included the 51st Street Business Association, the Greater Chatham Initiative, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, the Quad Communities Development Corporation, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Southeast Chicago Commission, the Washington Park Chamber of Commerce, and the Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce.

“The University of Chicago has done a phenomenal job responding to this crisis for communities of color and they have streamlined the process to expedite getting resources in the hands of small businesses,” Tonya Trice, executive director of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, said. “We really appreciate them partnering with the local community-based organizations because we’re working with these people on a daily basis and we know their struggles, we know the businesses that are able to sustain, and we also know the businesses that are essential to the revitalization of a lot of our corridors. This pandemic hit so fast and the stay-at-home orders also happened so abruptly that no one really had a plan, so this will give the businesses an opportunity to cover essential expenses and hopefully support their employees.”

Small businesses that were ineligible or not selected to receive a grant were provided with information about other University resources, such as virtual small business workshops and consulting through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, as well as a list of federal, state, and local resources.

Last week, the University announced other grants issued through its Community Support Initiative, awarding $157,000 in grants and $153,000 in rent relief to its small business tenants and $400,000 in assistance to community-based nonprofits on the South Side. The initiative also includes a program to prepare and distribute, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, 225,000 meals for those facing food insecurity on the South Side – an effort supported through a $125,000 donation from the Chicago Bears and Bears Care. Finally, the Community Support Initiative includes help for UChicago Medical Center health care workers, patients, and their families.

Building a stronger future together

At Washington Park’s 13th Flow fitness studio, the transition from leading group classes in person to leading them online in recent weeks has been a difficult adjustment for business owner Elisabeth Akinwale.

“A huge part of what we do is coaching and instruction that’s done when you’re in the room with someone so both from a teaching and technical perspective, it’s definitely shifted things,” Akinwale said. “And then the other big part is that feeling of community and that feeling where you belong. Those key elements were sort of pulled out from under us.”

13th flow

The University grant, Akinwale says, will help her and her business partner continue to take in a small income through their now completely-online offerings and provide their members with basic equipment like exercise bands they’ve been buying and dropping off for at-home workouts while social distancing. “The biggest thing for us is we want to be able to have a gym to come back to,” Akinwale said.

“I envision these prongs coming out from the University to all the surrounding neighborhoods and we feel that interconnectedness,” she said. “And if each of us can be successful, we’re building that network of customers and other small business owners so it’s just another way we’re all tied together. And it’s showing that it’s not always a competition, it’s all of us rising together.”         

The small businesses that will receive this grant funding are:


360 Mind Body Soul, LLC

Absolutely Anything Essential

African Queen Beauty and Braid

Barclay Law Group P.C.

Bronzeville Animal Clinic

Curl Kitchen Salon

Food Xpress Restaurant

HAYWIL, LLC dba Pier 31

ProFIt Studio

Truth Chicago, LLC

Yassa African Restaurant inc

Grand Boulevard

A Lotta Good Stuff Upscale Resale and More

Amber Inn, Incorporated

Be Creative Makers Box

Boutique Envie

Brite New Mind Daycare Center Inc.

Bronzeville Boutique By Lady Mocha

CBQ Facial Beauty Bar

Cleo's Southern Cuisine

Clips and Cuts, Etc. Ltd.

Forty Photography


Gallery Guichard

Good Thoughts Tea Company, LLC + The Ayaba Series, LLC

Island Tax Service

Juke Joynt

Ka'Lab Bronzeville

L.J. Frame, LLC

Luxe B Studio, Inc.

Mettle Fitness, LLC

North Kenwood Daycare Center

Peach's On 47th

Pearl's Place Restaurant

Small Shop Cycles & Service

Smarty Pants Early Learning Center

Tacqueria Varitas

The Inferno Barre and Dance Studio

The Property Law Group, LLC

Two Fish Crab Shack Co.

Value Zone Furniture

Wingz Around the World

Greater Grand Crossing

5 Loaves Chicago

A Polished Work Nail Spa Lounge

Aretha's Dream

Brown Sugar Bakery

Flammin Restaurant & Company

Frances Cocktail Lounge

Gilead Behavioral Health Services Inc.

Haji Healing Salon, L3c

Jerk Taco Man

Josephine's Southern Cooking

LifeOrganics Manufacturing Company, LLC dba LifeOrganics Co.

Mabe's Deli

Millers Heating and Cooling Consultants, Inc.


Reassemble Education and Training, Inc.

Revere Properties, Inc.

Skyline Kitchen, Inc (TeaSquares)

South Park Construction Inc.

Strategic Events Solutions

The Woodshop Art Gallery

Young Achievers Academy, Inc.

Hyde Park

57th Street Wines

APWB Group dba Sip & Savor Chicago

Bettye O. Day Spa

B'Gabs Goodies

Blue Cube Medical, LLC

Blues Barbershop

Busted Bra Shop Chicago, LLC

C & L Postal Service

Cafe 53

Cafe Corea

Can't Believe It's Not Meat

Carney Cleaning Services

Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen

CEI Media Group

Chaturanga Holistic Fitness, LLC

City Wide Jani, Inc.

Color Me Bad Chicago

Comprehensive Learning Services

Computer Resource Center Inc.

Cornell Florist

E & M Dollar, Inc. dba Hyde Park Merchandise

EnvyMe Hair Studio

Healing Empowering and Learning Professionals, LLC dba Help LLC Chicago

Hyde Park Computer Center

JGF, Inc. dba Salonica Restaurant

Kikuya Restaurant

Kilimanjaro International, Inc.

Little Inspirations, Inc. and Balanced Development, LLC dba Little Inspirations

Marimarshe Salon

Morry's Deli

Noodles Etc.

Nova Driving School

Open Produce

Pershing Animal Hospital, LLC

Piccolo Mondo Restaurant

Powell's Books Chicago

Pure Woori Taekwondo & Hapkido Academy

Rainbow Cleaners

Siam Restaurant

Sprocket & Stone

Thai55 Restaurant

The Security Shop Inc. dba Security Shop Inc.

The Sit Down Cafe & Sushi Bar

The Soul Shack

The Space, LLC

Thrive Psychological Services, LLC

TrueNorth Cafe

Village Eyecare


Another Barber Shop

Bridgeport Coffee Hyde Park

Faie African Art

Fewer Boiler Inc

Goree Cuisine LLC

Ivory Dental Specialists

Kenwood School of Ballet

Norman's Bistro

Premier Urgent Care and Occupational Health Center

Queen Noir Body Waxing

Technique Gems

Terrace Grill, Inc.

The Connection

Vbody Power Fitness

Some Like It Black Creative Arts Bar

Stratisphere Healthcare Solutions

South Shore

A.L. Taylor & Associates, PC

Bell Tax Accountants

Cornerstone Property Rehab Inc. II

Cut It Out Curt Barber & Beauty Salon

Erictronics Inc.

Full Video Production Services, Inc./Studio 2226

Give Me Some Sugah Bakery

Hair 4 U Salon

Hairology LLC

Integrated Medical Center

Kenyattas Daycare Center

Little Apple Seeds Learning Academy

Majani Food Emporium Inc.

Natou Hair Braiding

Perfect Pieces

Pink Giraffe Art Studio

Prestige Chiropractic

Roseco Auto Rebuilders,Inc.

Royal Flat Carribbean Jerk Cuisine

RPC Computing Inc., LLC

Sara’s Cafe

Slab Bar-B-Que

South Shore Brew

Steve V O Moving Service

Surf's Up South Shore

The Foodie's Spot

With You In Mind Resale Shoppe, LLC

Washington Park

13th Flow, LLC

Evelyn's Food Love

Lola Belle Kidz

Shaun's Barbershop

Skidoes Cafe and Grill

The Fitness Annex


A Child's Place Academy

Alexander Movers, Inc.

Blue Lotus Yoga

Build Coffee, LLC

Busy Bumble Bee Academy Daycare Inc.

Civic Projects Architecture

Crystal Clear Window Washing & Janitorial Service Co.

Dust Em Clean Maintenance Company, Inc.

Exquisite Catering & Events

Honeypot Enterprises, LLC

Kidz Creative Concepts I and Kidz Creative Concepts II

New Daley's Restaurant, Inc.

Robust Coffee Lounge, LLC

S & I Fashion, Inc. dba Regal Men's Fashion

Sleek Hair Salon

South Side Suzuki Cooperative

TabPilates and Bodyworks Center, Inc

Techmark Multi-Services, Inc.

ThinkBox312, Inc.

Tiny Scholars Academy, INC

Tonye, LLC dba GiGi Tonye' Arts and Fitness

Woodlawn Dental Gallery

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