Autonomy Works Adds New Clients and Expands Staff
Funded in May 2017,
, the for-profit entity that provides meaningful paid work to individuals with autism, has used its funds to invest in technology that has increased the number of clients, enhanced revenue by 30 percent, and most important to their mission, increased the paid hours for their workforce.
CNI Fuels Pullman Renaissance
Receiving part of the funding is the 111th Street Gateway retail center. Anchored by a Potbelly franchise, the first sit-down restaurant in Pullman in many years, the Center will also house locally owned businesses such as Star Cleaners, a new food hall featuring Laine's Bake Shop, Majani's, and Exquisite Catering, opening in January 2019, and a new Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois health and wellness center, opening in the Spring.
CNI has invested the remaining funds in the creation of a new facility for Gotham Greens, which today operates the world's largest rooftop greenhouse atop the Method Products plant in Pullman Park. The 140,000-square-foot facility will house both a new greenhouse and the administrative staff, enhance the growth capacity of the firm, and bring another 60 green collar jobs to Pullman.
CRF Brings Needed Capital to Chicago's South Side
The first investment is in South Shore Brew, a new coffee shop that will open just steps from the historic Cultural Center at 71st Street and the lakefront. With only one existing coffee shop in the neighborhood, there is anticipation and excitement among residents creating hope among the investors and proprietors of long-term success.
"We know that coffee shops connect people within neighborhoods," says Jennifer Barnes, who runs the business with her husband Cory, both educators-turned-entrepreneurs and South Shore residents. "We want to be part of making connections in this neighborhood we love."
CRF's second investment is in South Loop Fit Intention, a boutique fitness and indoor cycling studio coming to South Wabash Avenue. Founded by a mother-daughter team of South Loop natives, the studio will offer state-of-the-art cycling equipment and a variety of group exercise and fitness classes, and add ten jobs to the neighborhood.
Garfield Park Benefits from Fresh Produce and Ideas
, the hydroponic vegetable grower that provides sustainable employment for the formerly incarcerated, has used its loan to upgrade its growing system and expand its physical space. Improvements to its climate-controlled grow room and hydroponic growing systems have allowed Garfield Produce to increase its production capacity and successfully pass a third-party food safety audit.
IFF Invests Broadly in Chicago
, the largest non-profit Community Development Finance Institution in the Midwest, is financing a variety of mission-driven community facilities in underinvested Chicago neighborhoods with its loan from Benefit Chicago. IFF's loan is supporting eight local nonprofits, four of which are bringing much-needed community assets to the South Side of Chicago, including: a new Heartland Health Outreach facility in Englewood, specializing in care for people experiencing homelessness - the only such specialized Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) facility in the area - and a new athletic and academic center in Bronzeville led by the XS Tennis and Education Foundation, which serves more than 2,000 Chicago Public School students and has created 50 jobs.
LISC Investments Renew Vital Corridor
Two years ago, with a focus on targeted neighborhood development, and in partnership with Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, Southwest Organizing Project, and Teamwork Englewood,
launched the Southwest Corridor Collaborative (SWCC). Their goal was to create an economic development model that could rebuild neighborhood economies and improve incomes and community wealth by investing in local businesses and attracting new or national ones. Benefit Chicago resources have contributed to the following efforts:
- The redevelopment of a 15,625 square-foot retail building at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove, in partnership with Preservation of Affordable Housing. Part of the renewal of Woodlawn, this project is creating a new gateway to the Woodlawn area.
- Farther west on the corridor at 79th and Halsted, LISC is working with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation to rehab a long-vacant 60,000-square-foot building, which will become a Healthy Lifestyle Facility, housing a variety of healthcare services.
- On 63rd and Racine, LISC is working with E.G. Woode, a retail collective and incubator for minority business owners, to provide a home for small businesses. The first tenants will be Powell's barbershop, a consignment shop, and a design firm.
The entrepreneurial Chicago startup is using a digital platform and data analytics to connect individuals to prescribed healthcare and social services as a way to improve patient health and health provider effectiveness. Armed with its loan from Benefit Chicago,
has added new clients such as Northwestern Medicine and Medical Home Network, grown its staff from 45 to 60 full-time employees, and created a partnership with Chicago Thrive to connect youth to employment and education opportunities.
Explosive Growth for Sweet Beginnings
Among Benefit Chicago's first borrowers,
has grown exponentially, increasing annual sales by more than 80 percent and adding employees.
The company, which employs several formerly incarcerated individuals, used its loan to upgrade operations, launch a new retail sales website, and hire the company's first full-time sales and marketing managers. The result is unprecedented growth in sales, which in turn has led to the hiring of 27 new employees, all of whom are acquiring new skills and gaining valuable experience producing and promoting honey and honey-based products.
"Prior to Benefit Chicago, we were seen as a cute, boutique company," says Brenda Palms-Barber, founder and CEO of Sweet Beginnings. "Now with the Benefit Chicago investment, we are doing the things that for the first time have given us the strength and credibility to be taken seriously."