The Cook County Bureau of Economic Development chose to partner with Next Street to efficiently and effectively leverage and deploy federal funding, resulting in the Cook County Small Business Source.

How We Helped

Cook County, the Fund for Equitable Business Growth, and a network of local Business Support Organizations relied on Next Street to design and launch the Cook County Small Business Source in 2020, a program in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Next Street continues to guide this nationally recognized program, and recently launched The Source Grow Grant, a capital offering administered by the Women’s Business Development Center that will leverage American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) funding to deploy $71 million to small businesses over the next three years. The first round of Grow Grant funding, open for application in October 2022, specifically targets historically excluded populations – businesses owned by Black-, Latino(a)-, other people of color-, Women-, LGBQT+, Veterans-, and Persons with a Disability – and will award 2,550 grants of $10,000 each.

Partners across the small business ecosystem, including a robust network of more than 30 Business Support Organizations, provide small businesses in their communities with three important program components:

  • One-on-one business advising to help businesses address their unique needs, use new tools, and navigate resources
  • Webinars with topics like financial wellness and marketing best practices that guide businesses through analyzing their business needs with a COVID-19 recovery lens
  • Grants for businesses that suffered losses due to COVID-19

As the program coordinator, Next Street facilitates shared resources for Cook County and our Business Service Organization partners, including creating shared marketing materials, creating a centralized small business intake and management platform, leading partner communications and learning exchanges, and designing webinars to deliver consistent, quality content to small business participants.

Our Impact

In its first year, the program touched more than 10,000 small businesses, including helping more than 2,500 businesses access training, one-on-one advising, and small business grants totaling $17.1 million. Unique to the program is its focus on small businesses that are typically and systemically held back – 50%+ of participants were women, and 66%+ were people of color.

“Cook County created The Source to offer critical support to our local entrepreneurs when they needed it most. We partnered with Next Street throughout the life of the program – from conducting the research to help us understand the state of the ecosystem, to program design and coordination, to providing ongoing support to our network of over 30 business service organizations and the continual evolution and expansion of our offerings.

As a result of The Source, Cook County has received national recognition and has assisted thousands of businesses. We are proud of its impact to date and are thrilled to have Next Street as a critical part of our team.”

Irene Sherr, Deputy Bureau Chief, Economic Development, Cook County
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