Press Releases

Loyola University Chicago Seeks to Strengthen Chicago’s Minority-Owned Businesses by Closing Equity Gaps

April 5, 2024

The sun shines upon a glass building that reads Quinlan School of Business

CHICAGO – April 5, 2024

Loyola University Chicago and its Quinlan School of Business received a $625,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to strengthen Chicago’s women and minority-owned businesses, starting with a pilot project in the Rogers Park and Edgewater neighborhoods surrounding Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.

“The Quinlan School of Business is dedicated to being a difference maker in Chicago,” says Michael Behnam, dean of the Quinlan School of Business. “Through research, knowledge-building, and our close partnerships with the local business community, we are helping to tackle inequality, which is one of the city’s most complex issues.”

“We are very grateful to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky for securing the Community Project Funding, which has made this project possible,” continued Behnam. “We also thank Alderwoman Maria Hadden, Illinois State Senator Mike Simmons, and Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy for their warm letters of support.”

The three-year project will help address inequality by collecting data on equity gaps faced by minority-owned businesses and by developing equitable outreach strategies. The outreach seeks to reduce information gaps, build capacity in Chicago’s minority-owned business ecosystem, and strengthen knowledge sharing among minority-serving organizations and businesses.

The project includes a “Capacity Building for Capacity Builders” workshop on June 6 to convene city-wide stakeholders and the creation of a dashboard enabling minority-owned businesses to easily access support services.  The pilot project will pave the way for expanding equitable outreach strategies to all Chicago neighborhoods, with a focus on the south and west sides.

Convening a broad community coalition

The project will bring together a broad coalition, including capacity-building organizations that provide technical assistance and funds to women- and minority-owned businesses and community partners including the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce and Rogers Park Business Alliance. In Rogers Park and Edgewater, the project will employ students from neighborhood high schools Senn and Sullivan and engage Loyola students, staff, and faculty to help interview and survey local businesses to understand their challenges and needs.

A key supporting project partner is Loyola’s Institute for Racial Justice, which has a proven track record as a research partner including its work on the Chicago Urban League’s “State of Black Chicago” report and helping Fifth Third Bank assess the impact of its $20 million project to revitalize a southside neighborhood of Chicago. According to Malik S. Henfield, professor and founding dean of the Institute for Racial Justice, “We are honored to lend our research expertise to this vital project supporting economic empowerment in underserved Chicago communities. Our team is committed to conducting rigorous, actionable research that advances equity and opportunity for all.”

Sean Connolly leads on-the-ground outreach in Rogers Park and Edgewater. He is co-founder and executive director of Helix Education, a nonprofit based in Rogers Park, as well as a Loyola alumnus and adjunct instructor for the Quinlan School of Business.

“Loyola and Quinlan are committed to being an anchor institution for community businesses,” said Connolly. “Through this project, we are looking at how to leverage each Quinlan class, research initiative, student club, symposium, and more to support minority-owned businesses and service providers.”

Jonathan McGee, a Chicago-based economic development expert and a Loyola alumnus, will advise the project on city-wide engagement.

“We are partnering with trusted, community-based organizations to help minority-owned businesses believe in the opportunities that exist in this city,” said McGee. “I’m excited to see Loyola champion this initiative and be the convener, coordinator, and facilitator of the creation of a more equitable business ecosystem.”

Women- and minority-owned businesses in Rogers Park and Edgewater, business service organizations, and government officials can reach out to to join the project or to be invited to the June 6 capacity builders workshop. More information is available at the project’s website.


About Loyola University Chicago
Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic universities, with nearly 16,600 students. The University has five campuses: four in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy, as well as course offerings at the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The University features 15 schools, colleges, and institutes. Ranked a leading national university by U.S. News & World Report, Loyola is also among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations including AmeriCorps and the Carnegie Foundation. To learn more about Loyola, visit or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaChicago.

About the Quinlan School of Business 
The Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago educates responsible leaders who strengthen the local and global business system. Quinlan draws on the resources of a world-class location in the heart of Chicago and on industry-leading faculty to offer leading undergraduate, graduate, and executive education. Quinlan’s highly respected degrees include the Baumhart Scholars MBA for purpose-driven professionals and the one-of-a-kind Next Generation MBA. The school is named for Michael R. Quinlan, a double Loyola alumnus, and former president and CEO of McDonald’s Corporation. Learn more at or find us on LinkedIn, as well as on Twitter and Instagram at @LoyolaQuinlan.