Long ago, I consulted for various neighborhood businesses and organizations which helped me indulge my two loves: local community development and repurposing old buildings. (Much of the latter stemmed from living in a rehabbed furniture warehouse in St. Louis). So when the opportunity came to learn more and write about E G Woode (a new commercial development on Chicago's south side), I felt that this was a story worth sharing...and a neighbor to get to know.
Especially since LISC, working with of JPMorgan Chase and Fifth Third Bank through the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund and Benefit Chicago, recently closed a loan with E G Woode. Thanks to LISC's efforts to provide local partners with capital and support for community-based projects, many organizations like E G Woode are able to better serve their communities.
E G Woode is a unique business-real estate co-op model providing needed resources and services (like marketing) to minority entrepreneurs who may not traditionally have access. Located at 63rd and May, E G Woode provides small and expanding businesses an opportunity to leverage resources and foster growth while rebuilding both a commercial corridor and repurposing a formerly vacant building. (Travel further east on 63rd into the Woodlawn neighborhood, and you're near similar initiatives like Greenline Coffee, Sunshine Enterprises, and University Cowork).
And it all sprung from the mind of a person who wanted to provide opportunities for his fellow community residents.
Growing up in East Garfield Park and North Lawndale, Dean Lucas has a strong interest in architecture since he was 16. As a high school student, Lucas won the Newhouse Architecture Competition and interned at Smith & Smith Associates. As a volunteer for Teamwork Englewood, Lucas met and conversed with a variety of entrepreneurs who were eager to engage the city's Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and Retail Thrive Zones. However, many of those entrepreneurs believed that they were unable to fully participate on their own. Seeing a unique opportunity, Dean Lucas had a creative solution that would allow for smart business growth...
Rather than compete for these funds, why not collaborate and build on each other's skills?
With that in mind, Dean Lucas formed a collaborative with other business owners to assist each other in applying for these grants. When all of the businesses within the collaborative were awarded funds, Lucas believed that this approach could benefit a wider range of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Three businesses (Powell’s Barber Shop, Marie Wesley Consignment, and Beehyyve Design Studio) occupy 3,900 square feet with the main building, which is available for community use (including private events) in the off-hours. Tenants and entrepreneurs who are part of E.G. Woode collective own 51% yet retain 100% ownership of their businesses. (Members of the collective also share the cost of marketing, accounting, and other business resources).
With a greater shift towards fostering the growth of small businesses and social enterprises in the Chicago area, E G Woode takes a creative approach to foster neighborhood business growth. Collaboration and communication effectively foster strong community advocacy efforts, so taking a similar approach to foster neighborhood-based entrepreneurship should not be that surprising. With a unique approach and philosophy, E G Woode is one collective that hopes to drive small neighborhood-based businesses and mobilize other like-minded organizations.
And E G Woode is one neighbor worth knowing.
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As always, thanks for reading!