(Special thanks to Taneka Pernell and for Loren Williams for their time and their insights
Entrepreneurship is more than just creating a new initiative; it also consists of doing the work that moves that initiative forward. LISC Chicago recently facilitated a partnership between Sunshine Enterprises’ Community Business Academy and the North Lawndale Employment Network. Both organizations recently put on a twelve-week session focusing and financial and other business-related skills (like marketing) to help local community-based entrepreneurs make progress in running their business. As Caroline Rendon, LISC Chicago Program Officer explains,
“LISC saw an opportunity to bring the longstanding FOC’s coaching expertise to a strong entrepreneurship training organization, and a partnership was born…The partnership between NLEN and Sunshine is really a matter of these two organizations coming together with their own expertise to demonstrate the value of this approach to financial coaching.”
Since we highlighted both Sunshine Enterprises and North Lawndale Employment Network on this blog in the past, we were fortunate enough to receive insights into this partnership from representatives from both organizations.
Please tell me your name and how you’re affiliated with the LISC Chicago/Sunshine Enterprises initiative in North Lawndale?
Taneka: My name is Taneka Pernell. I am a Financial Capability Coach with the North Lawndale Employment Network, working within the Financial Opportunity Center; which is a branch of the LISC Chicago network. LISC married the concept of having Sunshine Enterprise’s entrepreneurs financially coached by North Lawndale Employment Network’s financial coaches.
Loren: My name is Loren Williams and I am the Regional Director at Sunshine Enterprises. I have taught the 12-week Community Business Academy in partnership with New Covenant CDC for the past 3 years. I have also coached entrepreneurs in business for 3 years in North Lawndale. LISC has provided funding for us, which has allowed us to partner with North Lawndale Employment Network to provide credit counseling to our entrepreneurs.
How did you get involved in these efforts?
Taneka: LISC chose our FOC over many to take on this project. Our then director; approached me to take on this opportunity for NLEN. I was in soon as expectations and goals were laid out.
What is it about this collaboration that appeals to you?
Taneka: Hard to decide what didn’t appeal to me about this collaboration; being educated on and seeing the efforts that Sunshine places into building up the entrepreneurs are great motivation.
I believe that LISC and Sunshine Enterprises see and believed in the work that North Lawndale Employment Network is doing within the FOC and know that this collaboration as great as well
Loren: This relationship proved to be very valuable to our entrepreneurs in that it helped them improve their credit scores which positioned them to access capital for their businesses.
North Lawndale is a neighborhood that has some very specific challenges. Please describe some of those challenges, as well as highlight the successes that you have seen or experienced.
Taneka: As a Financial Coach within the North Lawndale community, one of the greatest challenges I see is that the community is severely underbanked. Unlike other communities, North Lawndale has little to no banks, leaving residents to seek less favorable and untraditional alternatives to banking. However, North Lawndale Employment Network will soon open our newest location that will include a space with Wintrust Bank, bringing a much-needed banking option to the community.
Loren: North Lawndale is one of many under-resourced, underserved communities. One of the resources that are lacking are resources for entrepreneurs. Through the Community Business Academy and our Business Acceleration Services, we have been able to help many of our entrepreneurs start or scale their businesses.
“Entrepreneurship” can often be overused to the point where it becomes just another buzzword. Please tell us how you perceive the NLEN/Sunset Enterprises collaboration fostering entrepreneurship in the community.
Taneka: We are bridging the gap between just using the word “Entrepreneurship” with the actual actions of what it takes to become an “Entrepreneur”. Sunshine Enterprise provides the participants with the small business blueprint and provides a warm handover to us at North Lawndale Employment to work with the participants on personal finances; both of which are needed to become a great small business owner.
Loren: Both organizations have a strong mission to uplift, support and grow the community. The NLEN/Sunshine Enterprises collaboration fosters entrepreneurship in the community through its various programs to help people start and grow their businesses.
What current and potential benefits are you experiencing personally or professionally?
Taneka: It’s great personally and professionally getting to know each entrepreneur and what they have to offer. I have been able to get great gifts for my friends and family supporting small businesses. Also, North Lawndale Employment Network has used several of the catering businesses for various events.
How have participants (whether they’re businesses or individuals) described their experience in this program?
Taneka: It has been great feedback; I think people truly understand how and why this collaboration works weather they’re a participant or individual.
What I hear a lot from participants on our end, is that now that they have gotten their personal finances in order, they can now take what they have learned and apply it to how they handle their small business finances.
Loren: Many of our entrepreneurs have reported starting and growing their businesses, improving their credit, purchasing a home, etc.
Finally, how do you expect this collaboration between NLEN and Sunset Enterprises to further impact residents and businesses in North Lawndale?
Taneka: We have truly seen this partnership come full circle, North Lawndale Employment Network happily refer participants who are a part of our program and interested in building a small business to Sunshine Enterprise. I expect this collaboration to go further helping expand and create more small businesses within our neighborhood.
Fostering community-based entrepreneurship presents a unique set of challenges, especially in key Chicago neighborhoods. Thanks to LISC Chicago, Sunshine Enterprises and North Lawndale Employment Network are rising to the challenge.
As always, thanks for reading!