Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab

The Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab partners – Allies for Community Business, Chicago Community Trust, and our funders – believe that entrepreneurs from any background can start and grow businesses that create generational wealth for their families and communities.

NEL pairs community business owners with investors, advisors, project strategists, community liaisons, and corporate liaisons who provide intensive support for nine months to help execute a growth initiative for each business. A4CB invites each NEL participant based on previous success in running or supporting a small business.

Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab Overview

Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab Roles

Every participant must contribute to the success of the community businesses in the Lab.

Community Business Owner

Propose the growth initiative they wish to execute and owns the results of the Lab.

Allies for Community Business

Carefully selects the Lab participants, creates the nine-month content sequence, and manages the cohort overall.


Contribute to a pool of funds from which each entrepreneur receives a $20,000 grant to support the growth initiative.

Project Advisor

Offer introductions to influential contacts within their personal networks, and oversee a small group of entrepreneurs and strategists who work together to execute the chosen growth initiatives.

Project Strategist

Serves as the primary consultant for the business project of one entrepreneur participating in the Lab.

Community Partner

Help A4CB identify potential business owners for the Lab, prepare selected community businesses, and encourage Lab participants to find additional resources for community businesses.

Corporate Partner

Help A4CB identify potential project strategists, match corporate procurement needs to NEL businesses who can supply those goods and services locally, and provide grant funds to support the program.

Lab Supporter

Connect A4CB leadership to community business owners, investors, advisors, strategists, community liaisons, and corporate liaisons that could potentially participate in future Labs.

The entire team holds each other accountable for the success of the business throughout the Lab and beyond. Learn more about the roles within the Lab here.

Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab Goals

By the end of each nine-month Lab:

Each community business owner will launch his or her growth initiative and apply early lessons from the initial experience

Each advisor will create at least two valuable business connections for the community business owners in the Lab

All participants will rate the experience as at least a 9 on a 10-point scale

Two years after the Lab concludes:

Each community business owner will have increased profits by at least 20% relative to the year during which the Lab began

Each investor, advisor, strategist, and liaison will have referred at least two people that A4CB has then selected to participate in at least one Lab

Current and Previous Lab Businesses

      • Englewood Branded Corie Luckett
        The opportunity to be in a program where I can learn from not only experts but a whole collective of different people [was] instrumental.
        Read Story ›
      • Saigon Sisters Mary Aregoni
        It’s been great to work with Allies for Community Business to help me get through the pandemic.
        Read Story ›
      • Agriculture Milton Latrell
        The Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab has been very instrumental in building our business.
        Read Story ›
      • Brewpoint Coffee Melissa Villanueva
        Allies for Community Business tried to accommodate us to make sure that we got what we needed
        Read Story ›

      Want to participate in a future Lab?


      Volunteer as a Business Strategist