By Kiersten Tomson
Back to school may mean new kicks and fresh pencils for the kids, but more grown-ups are grabbing their laptop bags and heading to class.
A new crop of professional workshops, classes and seminars are popping up across Chicago for adults and attendance is spiking.
“People are coming in to get a great deal of career support and advice,” says Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871. “And these are not by and large 20-year-old complexion challenged, young white men; they are a cross a very wide spectrum of ages, we have a very diverse population.”
1871 is known for its incubation, co-op working space for startups and entrepreneurs but the hub also hosts hundreds of events that are open to public – for free.
“Those are educational programs, panels, presentations,” lists Tullman. “They focus on all of the aspects of starting your own business, dealing with new technologies, dealing with the city.”
It’s not only taking the next step for your business or company, but it’s taking that next step to guarantee your job.
“I think that people who are 50 and up are more at risk today,” explains Tullman. “Kids are the digital natives; the people who are 50 and up need to be basically upskilled and if they are not, they are going to be very hard to employ going forward. It is not like they are going to retire at the age of 55, they are going to be in the workforce for a long time. They are feeling increasingly insecure so we are seeing some of them coming back here, to get those skills.”
Comcast is working to keep those skills flowing by keeping 1871 plugged in and online.
“The most important part is not just reliability but responsibility,” says Tullman. “Comcast has been very responsive and frankly, when you have two thousand people in 500 businesses dependent on the Wi-Fi and the assistance that we have here, you can’t go down.”
Sunshine Enterprises is another organization focused on building entrepreneurships in Chicagoland.
“We are basically identifying entrepreneurs in some of the disinvested neighborhoods in the city and we are training those entrepreneurs, connecting them to opportunities, whether it be the marketplace or networking and then we are also coaching them throughout their business management process,” explains Shandra Richardson, Development and Communications Associate.
From restaurant to nail salon owners, these adults go through a 12-week program called the Community Business Academy or CBA which covers the basics like developing a plan, how to reconcile your taxes, where to certify as a minority business owner, etc.
“The CBA curriculum is really fundamental it is not at all advanced, but it’s advanced enough to allow you to be really able to run your business the way it should be run,” explains Richardson.
The CBA is held a dozen times throughout the year – sometimes with more than 60 cohorts graduating at once.
“About 80% of them – maybe has a two year college degree at the most, single mother, black woman, that really is looking to entrepreneurship to just add some supplemental income,” says Richardson. “If those people can open, start a business…that will start to catalyze the economic activity in those communities that desperately need it.”
Another spot is the Duman Entrepreneurship Center, which is under the umbrella of the Jewish Family and Child Services of Chicago.
The Center was created in 2001, funded by an endowment provided by Highland Park philanthropist and entrepreneur Louis Duman.
“He was a Detroit native who grew up in Chicago,” explains Director Kenny Smilovitch. “Lou was a ‘raging success’, who never forgot that a charitable gift of $300 helped his father’s clock shop stay afloat during the Depression.”
The center, located in the Loop, offers primer and accelerator programs, workshops, loans, advising and mentorship for professionals who are looking for an extra edge.
“We give access to provide entrepreneurs with socioeconomic challenges the support to help minimize risk and make informed business decisions,” explains Smilovitch.
Plus, the center works in helping underserved populations and with an in-house loan fund, they can support startups which may not be able to get traditional financing.
These three Chicago spots offer free workshops and classes year-round, so there’s plenty of opportunity to become a student once again.