The Entrepreneurs Access Network is helping Black and Latinx entrepreneurs break barriers and thrive.
Chicago is a big city with a small-town vibe that is home to a vast array of cultures and ethnicities.
And yet, the diversity of the more than 200 neighborhoods that comprise this great city on the shores of Lake Michigan is not reflected in Chicago’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. A recent study by Chicago:Blend found that men make up 68% of Chicago’s venture capital industry, a group which is 81% white. It also found that only 22.4% of the startup teams in Chicago’s business community are Black or Hispanic.
The lack of diversity when it comes to entrepreneurship and access to capital has made it difficult to shift the paradigm and create opportunity for more diverse leadership, including Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. To address these systemic disparities, Ernst & Young LLP has launched the Entrepreneurs Access Network¹ (EAN), a program designed to elevate scalable Black- and Latinx-owned companies by providing access to resources, networks and capital delivered through a planned curriculum.
We believe that by providing this access — and expanding those networks to include more Black and Latinx business owners — we help entrepreneurs sustain success.
The EAN builds on the unparalleled EY history of helping entrepreneurs succeed: 34 years of Entrepreneur Of The Year®² and 12 years of Entrepreneurial Winning Women™³. Like those initiatives, the EAN opens the doors of opportunity by giving entrepreneurs, such as Emmanuel Jackson, access to the powerful EY business and entrepreneurial ecosystem. As founder, chairman and CEO at Evanston Technology Partners, Jackson works with health care companies to identify tools that can boost performance. Through his participation in the EAN this year, Jackson is developing thought leadership content, evaluating venture capital referrals and positioning his firm for exponential growth.
The EAN program affords multiple avenues for growth, with a Curated program, as well as OnDemand learning. Those selected for the Curated path come from both emerging (more than two years in business, up to $5m in revenue) and established companies (more than five years in business, $6m in revenue or more) that are more than 51% minority-owned and are largely based in 10 markets across the US, including Chicago.
The Curated program pairs these entrepreneurs with EY relationship advisors and Entrepreneur Of The Year mentors who will help build networks inside and outside the firm. The program is designed to create connections with incubators, accelerators, and potential customers and clients. Further, in the spirit of zero barriers, the EAN OnDemand program is available to all entrepreneurs who apply regardless of revenue, ownership and operational maturity levels. It offers free access to online curricula, webcasts and other content that can help them achieve their entrepreneurial goals.
One of the keys in creating a more diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs is developing a system that doesn’t just focus on providing education but also on the right education for each person’s unique skills and aspirations. “It’s the responsibility of everyone — from investors, to lenders, to retailers — to make sure the path to business ownership is available to all entrepreneurs,” Henderson says.
When Black and Latinx entrepreneurs rise, the entire community benefits. Their success sparks new innovative models of thinking, job creation and economic growth. Our intention is to make a positive, quantifiable impact in participating entrepreneurs’ journeys and, subsequently, greatly influence Chicago and beyond.