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Benefit Chicago’s Support of Self-Help Ventures Fund Expands Business and Nonprofit Lending to Provide Fair and Responsible Financial Opportunities for Entrepreneurs of Color and Women in Chicago

Benefit Chicago is proud to announce a $5 million investment in Self-Help Ventures Fund, a Community Development Financial Institution that is part of the broader Self-Help family of nonprofits. Self-Help Ventures Fund will use Benefit Chicago’s investment to support entrepreneurs and nonprofit service providers across Chicago, particularly in neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

“With Benefit Chicago’s support, Self-Help Ventures Fund is bringing additional resources and opportunities to deserving Chicago communities,” said Self-Help’s CEO and Co-Founder Martin Eakes. “The $5 million loan will undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing revitalization of these neighborhoods and provide entrepreneurial opportunities and needed services for community residents.”

Self-Help was founded in 1980 to provide technical assistance to laid-off North Carolina mill workers interested in starting worker-owned businesses. The organization quickly learned these types of businesses—which were typically led by people of color and women—could not access conventional financing to pursue their goals. To Self-Help’s leadership, the solution was evident, and a credit union and nonprofit loan fund were born.

Over the years, Self-Help has expanded its focus to help entrepreneurs of color access affordable financing to help their businesses grow and thrive. The organization develops real estate that provides accessible and affordable spaces for nonprofit and community-based tenants, and it has also formed a public policy arm to fight predatory lending and advocate for the needs of underserved populations.

Where is the investment making a difference in Chicago?

Through its acquisitions of minority-led financial institutions Second Federal and Seaway Bank, Self-Help has retained existing leadership and is continuing the work of these two important community institutions. With Benefit Chicago’s assistance, Self-Help is looking to expand its efforts and fill market gaps, offering more flexible commercial loan products than are standard through regulated credit unions.

Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) Chicago’s South Side Hub Grand Opening. L-R: Daryl Newell, Seaway Bank, a Division of Self-Help FCU; Neda Sims Fears, Greater Chatham Initiative; Jerry Lumpkins, BMO Harris; Kristin Faust, NHS; William W. Towns, Benefit Chicago; Nicholas Smith, Illinois Representative 34th District; and Robert McGhee, Citibank.

Specifically, the $5 million investment from Benefit Chicago will finance myriad projects across the city, with strategic pipeline loans.  

On Chicago’s South side, pipeline projects include:

  • a nonprofit social services hub and a church community center expanding its capacity and neighborhood services
  • several entrepreneurs and local business owners who have faced barriers to growth seeking to expand their physical footprints for wholesale food and local restaurant endeavors

In addition, this capital will support the transformation of Seaway Bank’s historic headquarters in Chatham into a community hub serving nonprofit and small business tenants seeking collaborative and affordable business space.

 “Self-Help’s commitment to preserving the legacies of Second Federal and Seaway Bank is critical to the continued economic development in the neighborhoods they serve,” said William W. Towns, Executive Director of Benefit Chicago. “Benefit Chicago’s investment of $5 million to Self-Help Ventures Fund will support their flexible business and nonprofit lending, critical real estate developments, and continued partnerships with area community organizations.”

Benefit Chicago has committed $63 million in impact investments since 2016 and raised $97 million in capital. Benefit Chicago is proud to work with Self-Help to continue to provide economic opportunities and make lasting change for entrepreneurs, businesses, and nonprofits across Chicago.

Self-Help Ventures Fund is part of the Center for Community Self-Help (Self-Help), a leading national community development financial institution headquartered in Durham, NC. Since 1980, Self-Help has provided over $8.5 billion in financing to over 159,000 families, individuals and businesses. Self-Help drives economic development and strengthens communities by providing responsible financial services; lending to individuals, small businesses and nonprofits; developing real estate; and promoting fair financial practices. Through its credit union network, Self-Help serves thousands of people in California, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

More information about Self-Help Ventures Fund can be found at Self-HelpFCU.org.