Since its inception in 1994, Accion Chicago has helped communities grow by investing in entrepreneurs in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods. Through quality business training and affordable credit, Accion equips local entrepreneurs with the means necessary to establish successful small businesses that generate income and jobs in high-need areas.
Thirty-six full-time staff work closely in the communities they serve to combat obstacles, including violence and falling income levels. “We work very hard to build trusted relationships in the neighborhoods we are most interested in serving, and those are particularly the West, Southwest, and South Sides of Chicago,” says CEO Brad McConnell.
According to McConnell, Accion is the most efficient way to help small business owners in these communities. Accion businesses survive at a rate of 96 percent two years after obtaining a responsible Accion loan, and in the past three years, Accion clients have produced 6,000 local jobs that have generated more than $87 million in local wages.
When returning citizen Jimmie Williams could not get a steady job because of his record, he decided to hire himself. He and his wife, Tiffany, built a thriving snowplowing and landscaping business in the South Side with the help of an Accion loan. Today, “he’s always eager to talk to anyone we send his way about how you can — even with a troubled background — create and run a thriving business and do so by hiring people from your own community and partnering with organizations like Accion, who will do things that traditional lenders would never do,” says McConnell.