UChicago’s Polsky Exchange Expands Its Commitment to South Side Economic Growth with the Launch of a New Illinois Small Business Development Center
The Center will be the first dedicated to supporting professional services and technology entrepreneurs on the south side.
The Polsky Exchange at the University of Chicago will soon launch a new Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to spur and support economic growth on Chicago’s South Side. It will be the first business development center specifically dedicated to supporting South Side professional services and technology business owners, such as accountants, digital marketers, web developers, content creators, and more—a gap identified by the Polsky Exchange.
Funded in part by a $100,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), the SBDC at the Polsky Exchange will support pre-venture entrepreneurs and existing business owners in nine neighborhoods, including Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park, and Woodlawn. A search has begun for a director and the center aims to open later this spring.
“Being selected to host an Illinois Small Business Development Center is an honor and a tremendous vote of confidence in the Polsky Exchange and the impact we have on our neighboring communities,” said Abigail Ingram, executive director of the Polsky Exchange. “For entrepreneurs offering professional services especially, it can be difficult to scale and grow a business because revenue is generated through your own talent and time. Chicago’s South Side is home to countless high-potential and high-achieving entrepreneurs, and it is our mission to help them grow and achieve greater success.”
With 39 locations throughout the state, Illinois SBDCs provide no-cost, one-on-one confidential business advice. The SBDC at the Polsky Exchange will offer assistance with business plans and growth strategies, financial reviews, sales and marketing strategies, as well as connections within the expansive business network and community at the University of Chicago.
“Entrepreneurship in today’s economy can be challenging, but the experts at the Polsky Exchange offer decades of unmatched business leadership experience,” said Jay Schrankler, associate vice president and head of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago. “We believe this new center will be a critical economic driver locally and will help increase wealth for individuals, families, and communities.”
Operated by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Polsky Exchange is a 34,000-square-foot startup incubator featuring work and meeting spaces, a Fabrication Lab for prototyping physical products, a full calendar of programming and workshops designed to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their ventures, and access to more than 100 mentors available to navigate business challenges and plan for growth and scale.
Since its launch in 2015, the Polsky Exchange has been home to 446 community-owned businesses, and 305 students have provided technical assistance to local businesses while learning about the operations and realities of owning a business.
“The Polsky Exchange is an important institution on Chicago’s South Side, and we are delighted to become a partner to help fuel the area’s economic growth. We believe this center will help drive the success of professional services entrepreneurs on the South Side, which is a priority for the State of Illinois,” said Ericka White, state director of the Illinois SBDC Network at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The SBDC at the Polsky Exchange joins a broader network of organizations providing services to businesses on Chicago’s South Side, including the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, the Illinois SBDC at Build Bronzeville and the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago in Woodlawn.
About the Polsky Exchange >>
Operated by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Polsky Exchange is a 34,000-square-foot startup incubator featuring work and meeting spaces, a Fabrication Lab for prototyping physical products, and a full calendar of programming and workshops designed to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their ventures.
Part of UChicago’s commitment to supporting economic development in the community, the Polsky Exchange has two buildings on Hyde Park’s vibrant 53rd Street corridor – Exchange North at 1452 E. 53rd St. and Exchange South at 1463 E. 53rd St. Membership is open to business owners and innovators in the community as well as UChicago students, faculty, and staff actively working on entrepreneurial ventures or involved in Polsky Center programs.
Through education, partnerships, and new venture support, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation advances the knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship and accelerates science and technology commercialization, bringing new ideas and breakthrough research to market.