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 project advisors, project strategists, community partners, and corporate partners who provide intensive support 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

NEL Outcomes

Two years after starting NEL, NEL graduates report:

Average number of employees increased by


Average annual revenue increased by


Average profit increased by


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 content sequence, and manages the cohort overall.


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

Project Advisor

Offer introductions to influential contacts within their personal networks, provide core content to all community business owners, and oversee a small group of entrepreneurs and project strategists who work together to design the chosen growth strategies.

Project Strategist

Serves in a critical support role, helping community business owners maximize the immersive experience and stay on track to complete deliverables on time.

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, project advisors, project strategists, community partners, and corporate partners 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.

Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab Goals

By the end of each Lab:

Each community business owner will complete a growth strategy and will begin to execute that strategy

Each project advisor and project strategist will create at least one valuable business connection for one or more Lab participants

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, project advisor, project strategist, and partner 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 ›

      The application for NEL cohort 9 is closed. The application for NEL cohort 10 will open in July 2024.

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