From the Executive Director
Dear Friend,  

As the summer winds down and the new school year begins, it is a great time to reflect on the summer as we prepare for the fall.  Chicago saw many new exciting construction projects breaking ground across our entire city, bring new daycare centers, head start programs, and recreational facilities. We also had several new businesses open their doors providing everything from a fresh cup of coffee to healthy food options for lunch and dinner. All across Chicago, we continue to make progress, but we still have a lot of work to do.  We at Benefit Chicago are fueling many of these projects with our unique blend of direct and indirect investments in small businesses and intermediaries like IFF and DL3 Realty Advisors, a new impact investment company, created by DL3 Realty, L.P. (DL3), a Chicago-based real estate developer.

Leon Walker and his team at DL3 have a long track record of revitalizing communities through dynamic development projects in neighborhoods including Englewood and Woodlawn. They led the work on Englewood Square (Whole Foods, Chipotle, Starbucks and AT&T retail anchor), which opened in 2016, and earlier this year were part of the team that opened the Jewel-Osco in Woodlawn, the first full-service grocery store to open in the neighborhood in more than 40 years. In each development project, DL3 held true to the community-centric ' venture developer model' that embraces private-public partnerships. We are excited to support them as they look to establish additional resources and infrastructure around their anchor projects.

Our hope is that through partnerships with organizations like DL3 and others that operate with similar community-centered approaches, we will attract capital and long-term investments to emerging communities. The south and west sides of Chicago have tremendous potential, and it is our job to overcome the challenges we face in attracting and retaining investments.

These challenges are nothing new. What is new is the way we address these challenges. We have an acute focus on expanding impact through a unique financing model and this ultimately, allows investors to support the work on the ground happening in our communities.

William W. Towns, Ph.D., MBA
Executive Director

Brenda Palms-Barber
Capital at Work
New Beginnings Spur Growth

"Our organization has grown and expanded to include five locations, presenting challenges that limit our ability to leverage important synergies that naturally occur between our programs," said Brenda Palms-Barber, CEO of Sweet Beginnings. 

Innovation All-Stars

Dr. Towns recently participated as a speaker at the Chicago Innovation Summit which included topics ranging from the power of storytelling to the need for diversity and inclusion, all related to this year's theme sharpening your innovation mindset. He  was interviewed as part of a segment called ' Inclusion Ignites Innovation, ' where he spoke about what inclusion means to him and how we can continue to encourage innovation through collaboration. 
Chicago Innovation William Towns
Event Insights
  • Tweet: "Before launching a new project, we have a 'pre-mortem' where we not only ask what success looks like, but also what failure looks like, so we can map out how to avoid potential problems." - our Chief Commercial Officer Julie Winkler at #chiinnovationsummit
  • Tweet: "We don't know what's going to sell, so we call new products "seeds". We try to plant as many seeds as possible...and lower the cost per seed. We think of failure as part of the circle of life, so seeds that die help fertilize future seeds." Robert Pasin, CEO (Radio Flyer) #ChiInnovationSummit
By the Numbers

$271 million
34/71 $97 million $63 million
in financing 
for-profit and 
nonprofit applicants
in investment capital raised, closing in on our goal of $100 million
committed to local impact enterprises

News and Views
Nonprofit Utopia  | Valerie Leonard

Benefit Chicago's Executive Director, William W. Towns, PhD, discusses Michael Porter's shared corporate value strategy, a concept that allows companies to create sustainable business models that enhance their competitiveness, while simultaneously doing good in their communities. He will also share case studies highlighting successful social enterprises that have used shared value concepts to drive sustainable business and community impact.

Next Billion | William W. Towns, Ph.D., MBA

The private sector is undergoing a transformation, with a new focus on social impact moving front and center. Read how Sweet Beginnings, LLC, DL3 Realty, L.P., and NowPow, are combining profits with purpose in Chicago.

Block Club Chicago | Maxwell Evans

"This is intended to be long-term, patient capital," Towns said. "We're excited to develop projects across the South Side and the underserved markets that have been historically disinvested." 

Crain's Chicago BusinessStephanie Goldberg

The facility, which is expected to bring more than 500 new jobs to the Morgan Park neighborhood, will combine employee workspace with community resources.

Next City  | Oscar Perry Abello

Thanks in large part to its (Sweet Beginnings) success, the North Lawndale Employment Network recently broke ground on a new headquarters that will bring the organization's five current programming locations under one roof. More broadly, the new headquarters will be a major coup for a neighborhood-wide, cross-silo effort to revitalize historic North Lawndale, the place Martin Luther King Jr. choose as his northern base for the civil rights movement.

West Side nonprofit gets funding for new home to help train, employ more ex-offenders
Chicago Sun-Times | Maudlyne Ihejirika

The new workforce-development campus, to include a cafe and event space, is expected to contribute significantly to the transformation of the beleaguered West Side community - with an unemployment rate of over 23 percent - when it opens in spring 2020.

Impact Alpha  | Dennis Price

set of briefs  from Urban Institute and Mission Investors Exchange round up the 'tricks of the trade' in local investing. Among the highlights: need and opportunity maps in Minneapolis-St. Paul and New Mexico; collaborative investment efforts in Buffalo and Chicago; and coordinated ecosystems in Michigan and Baltimore.

Block Club Chicago | Jamie Nesbitt Golden

The second South Side site is just part of E.G. Woode's expansion plans, which also envision a West Side site. Ahead of its Englewood groundbreaking, E.G. Woode is also aiming to add entrepreneurs from North Lawndale to its roster, said Lucas, who grew up on the West Side.

Upcoming Events William Towns Presentation

Sept. 9 - 11 | Chicago, IL  

Sept. 13 | Lisle, IL