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Archive for July 2014

Meet Your Neighbor: Sunshine Enterprises

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Businesses are the cornerstone of any neighborhood, providing stability, growth, and a sense of community investment. Local businesses often rely on each other, so when businesses close or shut down, that often results in community deterioration. Sunshine Enterprises, a Chicago-area non-profit, is looking to make a positive impact matters in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

Located in a small retail strip along 61st Street between King Drive and Champlain Avenue, Sunshine Enterprises is planning to open a small business incubator in August to revive the south side neighborhood. Starting with a small coffee shop (appropriately named Greenline Coffee), a recent news article stated that Sunshine Enterprises may be receiving funding by Madison Dearborn Partners to drive its efforts. (Plans include possibly expanding to the Austin or West Garfield Park neighborhoods, followed by possible expansion into the southwest side or far south side in the fall of 2015). Sunshine Enterprises hopes to create 45 new businesses and 60 new jobs each year, and works on a sliding-scale fee for potential entrepreneurs and “microenterprises”. (A free informational session will be held on Tuesday, August 5th, and further details and RSVP information can be found via Eventbrite.)

Modeled on a successful New Jersey program that has graduated 750 small business owners, Sunshine Enterprises articipants engage in a two-phase process starting with an initial 12-week Business Leadership Academy. Sessions focus on building basic business skills, including capital management, business planning, managing cash flow, technology management, and identifying potential growth opportunities. Participants are then provided complimentary “accelerator services”, focusing on mentoring and coaching, and are connected with potential microlenders. A third round of participants will be graduating on Thursday, and past participants have created a variety of home businesses focusing on everything from e-mail marketing to home decor.

With its focus on small business development and entrepreneurship, Sunshine Enterprises is moving in a direction much different than typical non-profits. As Executive Director Joel Hamerick stated in a recent article:

We were giving away services that people were using again and again, but we weren’t changing the circumstances of the people using the services…We decided we need to work more in the direction of development and less in charity.”

Chicago has always seen a divide between the north and south sides that extends beyond baseball – and that divide includes a huge split in perception around socioeconomic status. With increasing disparities in expanding neighborhood businesses throughout the city, Sunshine Enterprises is taking a much more assertive and proactive stance. Recognizing that local businesses can often spur strong economic growth (especially in the Woodlawn area, where entrepreneurs can engage with potential anchor organizations like the University of Chicago), Sunshine Enterprises is providing business incubation and acceleration opportunities for a typically underserved population. With efforts to bring broadband as a way to foster economic development, Sunshine Enterprises is now part of a greater trend to spur economic development throughout the entire city. With many north side incubators (namely 1871 at the Merchandise Mart) the focus of attention, it is extremely heartening to see efforts begin on the city’s south side.

As stated before, Sunshine Enteprises is holding a free informational session on August 5th. It’s close to the CTA Green Line, and is part of overall efforts to revive south side neighborhoods. If you have an interest in seeing efforts to drive enterpreneurship, this is definitely a must-attend event.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We regularly update our Facebook page, , so please feel free to visit, like, and share on your Facebook feed. If you would like to contact me directly, you can find contact information via this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

July 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

Your Summer Social Entrepreneurship Reading List

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(Note: complimentary electronic and hard copies of the following books were provided for review purposes. My opinions are my own.)

Chicago-area social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and other social change agents are always seeking resources, information, and guidance in fulfilling their mission. Many books are often recommended as “starter” books, providing some insight. This week, we will look at three books which cover very diverse subjects, but which contain great information about job seeking, marketing, and thinking about entrepreneurship. Consider this a kind of “summer reading list”.

everyday entrepreneurOur first selection focuses on the very idea of entrepreneurship – an idea that is often misunderstood by social change agents as being very business-oriented. Focusing on a series of conversations around entrepreneurship, Fred Dawkin’s Everyday Entrepreneur: Making it Happen provides a strong gateway into thinking about entrepreneurship. Granted, it is focused primarily on starting a business, but many of the thought patterns and challenges can easily be applied to non-profits, small businesses, or any other startup venture.

(And yes, there is an increasing number of individuals dedicated to social change who are looking to adopt more entrepreneurial strategies into their work. It’s not incompatible with non-profit thought: after all, funders are increasingly focused on outcomes, and with increasing numbers of advocates resistant to such efforts….it can be challenging. Thankfully, Dawkin’s book focuses on the entrepreneurial mindset, and that’s what makes it such a terrific read for current and potential social change agents. Claiming to want to make an impact is one thing: acquiring the mindset and doing the work is another).OwnYourFuture

One key still leading to success is adopting an entrepreneurial approach…and for many struggling in this current economy, it can seem rather daunting. Although geared more towards career planning and job seeking, Paul B. Brown’s Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy provides an excellent model for approaching professional matters. Advocating for developing values and goals then taking small steps, Brown provides an easy-to-understand approach around career entrepreneurship. Like Everyday Entrepreneurs, it is an easy read (each volume took one to two days to read on my tablet), and Own Your Future serves as a great introductory guide towards developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

(That’s a particular challenge within social change, especially with funders and financial resources often difficult to locate and utilize. Many non-profit executives and advocates are adopting a “lean startup”-like attitude towards moving their organizations forward, hoping to strike a delicate balance between healthy experimentation and making positive, measurable impacts. With social change organizations adopting a much more business-like approach towards organizational development (for more details, read The Mission Myth), Brown’s book provides some simple tools that cultivate not just a greater sense of mission and values, but also strategy and procedure.)

digitalbranidngFinally, many organizations are finding themselves moving towards being more digital-marketing savvy, rethinking how they present themselves in the digital realm. Thankfully, Daniel Rowles’ Digital Branding: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Strategy, Tactics and Measurement is a dense, but thorough guide towards understanding how to “brand” an organization online. For many in the digital realm, several of the concepts (like e-mail, web design, and social media) seem like “old hat”, but Rowles provides a great entry point for both veterans and relative newcomers. With equal emphasis on strategy and measurement, Digital Branding provides a relatively easy-to-understand guide towards driving positive outcomes in digital engagement.

Social entrepreneurship is more than just a buzzword – it is becoming an increasingly prevalent mindset, focusing as much on creativity and ingenuity within the non-profit sphere as it is on mission-driven businesses. All three of these books provide some great lessons in easy-to-understand language for people working (or who wish to work) in the field. They are definitely worth purchasing….or at the very least, checking out of the Chicago Public Library.

Do you have any recommendations for reading around social entrepreneurship? Any questions or comments? You’re more than welcome to leave them below. In addition, you are always welcome to pleas visit and join us on Facebook and you can contact me privately and directly – my contact information can be found via this blog’s About page.
And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

July 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm