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.”
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
Truth Chicago, LLC
Yassa African Restaurant inc
A Lotta Good Stuff Upscale Resale and More
Amber Inn, Incorporated
Be Creative Makers Box
Brite New Mind Daycare Center Inc.
Bronzeville Boutique By Lady Mocha
CBQ Facial Beauty Bar
Cleo's Southern Cuisine
Clips and Cuts, Etc. Ltd.
Good Thoughts Tea Company, LLC + The Ayaba Series, LLC
Island Tax Service
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
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
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.
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.
57th Street Wines
APWB Group dba Sip & Savor Chicago
Bettye O. Day Spa
Blue Cube Medical, LLC
Busted Bra Shop Chicago, LLC
C & L Postal Service
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.
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
Kilimanjaro International, Inc.
Little Inspirations, Inc. and Balanced Development, LLC dba Little Inspirations
Nova Driving School
Pershing Animal Hospital, LLC
Piccolo Mondo Restaurant
Powell's Books Chicago
Pure Woori Taekwondo & Hapkido Academy
Sprocket & Stone
The Security Shop Inc. dba Security Shop Inc.
The Sit Down Cafe & Sushi Bar
The Soul Shack
The Space, LLC
Thrive Psychological Services, LLC
Another Barber Shop
Bridgeport Coffee Hyde Park
Faie African Art
Fewer Boiler Inc
Goree Cuisine LLC
Ivory Dental Specialists
Kenwood School of Ballet
Premier Urgent Care and Occupational Health Center
Queen Noir Body Waxing
Terrace Grill, Inc.
Vbody Power Fitness
Some Like It Black Creative Arts Bar
Stratisphere Healthcare Solutions
A.L. Taylor & Associates, PC
Bell Tax Accountants
Cornerstone Property Rehab Inc. II
Cut It Out Curt Barber & Beauty Salon
Full Video Production Services, Inc./Studio 2226
Give Me Some Sugah Bakery
Hair 4 U Salon
Integrated Medical Center
Kenyattas Daycare Center
Little Apple Seeds Learning Academy
Majani Food Emporium Inc.
Natou Hair Braiding
Pink Giraffe Art Studio
Roseco Auto Rebuilders,Inc.
Royal Flat Carribbean Jerk Cuisine
RPC Computing Inc., LLC
South Shore Brew
Steve V O Moving Service
Surf's Up South Shore
The Foodie's Spot
With You In Mind Resale Shoppe, LLC
13th Flow, LLC
Evelyn's Food Love
Lola Belle Kidz
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.
Tiny Scholars Academy, INC
Tonye, LLC dba GiGi Tonye' Arts and Fitness
Woodlawn Dental Gallery