Cook County Small Business Source


Cook County Small Business Source strives to support, grow, and elevate small businesses as the backbone of our economy. They offer one-on-one interaction advising as well as online resources, including webinars.

The 2023 Source Grow Grant provides $10,000 cash grants paired with coaching and advising services, anticipating demand exceeding available funds and prioritizing small businesses owned by historically excluded populations.

Advising and Coaching

An effective small business relies on having access to advice and coaching that fits its unique business. Various resources are available, from community business accelerators and government grant programs through local organizations to funders that offer funding or mentoring – including events dedicated to topics like how to access capital, legal assistance, or marketing strategies – even connecting you with lenders!

Cook County Small Business Source is a network of business support organizations and referral partners offering advisory, coaching, and one-on-one services to small businesses at every stage of development. This program employs an innovative assistance model by prioritizing businesses owned by historically excluded communities or sectors most severely impacted by pandemic outbreaks.

One of the critical obstacles to small-business growth is access to capital. Cook County Small Business Source can assist in finding resources and loans as well as grants for research, marketing, and expansion needs. In addition, SBA loan programs exist for those in this region while the Illinois Department of Commerce maintains an online directory of lenders; through Advantage Illinois, you may even qualify for business grants!

One way of securing funding is with a community-based microlender loan. These microlenders offer more flexible terms than banks, low to moderate interest rates, and no fees. There are a few in the Chicago area, such as Allies for Community Business, that specialize in these microloans – they might even connect you with mentors and experts in your industry!

The Chicagoland Opportunity Zones Consortium provides community-based microlenders with support through matchmaking, education, and technical assistance to increase investments into Opportunity Zones while encouraging equitable development in Chicago and Cook County. Their partnership aims to attract Opportunity Zone investments while encouraging equitable development across both areas – their goals include attracting Opportunity Zone Investments, informing and supporting community Partners, creating jobs and wealth Creation, and transforming communities through Equitable Development while fostering lasting Partnerships. They have partnered with Scale Link, which facilitates connections through matchmaking while operating a secondary market for loans originated by community microlenders.


Cook County Bureau of Economic Development (BED) and Next Street have collaborated to efficiently leverage and deploy federal funds, creating The Source Grow Grant program. Designed to bolster and elevate small businesses that form the backbone of our local economy, The Source Grow Grant offers no-cost business advising with access to over 50 support organizations/resources/webinars/events and no-cost 1-on-1 expert advisory.

The Source Grow Grant provides $10,000 grants combined with advice and coaching to assist small businesses in recovering from a pandemic, expanding operations, and flourishing within Cook County. It prioritizes historically excluded companies such as those owned by Black, Latino(a), other people of color-, women-, LGBQT+- veterans or persons with disabilities-owned enterprises as well as businesses located in suburbs that were hardest hit by the pandemic, such as Accommodations & Hospitality; Arts & Entertainment; Childcare & Social Assistance; Retail Trade or Transportation & Warehousing industries.

Cook County businesses that earned at least $20,000 in gross revenue during 2019 and have demonstrated financial need can apply. Applications must be received by October 31.

This program is funded with $25.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, and 4 million is dedicated to minority and women-owned businesses. An expected 550 grants of $10,000 each should be distributed from this fund.

Hundreds of small business owners applied for grant money during this pandemic. Most reported they were already experiencing significant struggles as rents, utility costs, and cash flow had increased, leading them to lay off employees or consider closing their doors altogether.

As part of its program, BED is working closely with leading business support organizations in the region to offer a full suite of services – such as advice and workshops on finance and marketing – while collaborating with organizations like the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Illinois Small Business Association to disseminate information regarding additional grant opportunities.

Partners not only deliver a comprehensive selection of services but are also equipped to administer and manage grant funding effectively. This involves offering centralized application/intake processes, creating a shared communications platform, supporting learning exchanges between partners, designing webinars for entrepreneurs, and organizing in-person events for them.

Referral Partners

Cook County has joined forces with leading business support organizations in the region to connect small businesses with free, one-on-one expert business advice. Program ambassadors serve as program representatives who identify eligible small businesses to apply for The 2023 Source Grant. This $25.5 million funding package features $10,000 grants paired with advisory and coaching sessions to address disparities in wealth and opportunity across races. Priority will be given to businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, women veterans, LGBQT+ individuals, as well as companies from industries that are hardest hit, such as accommodation, hospitality, food, arts, entertainment, childcare social assistance, retail trade, and transportation warehousing.

Cook County is committed to supporting small business resilience through innovative, sustainable, and impactful initiatives that go beyond The Source Grow Grant’s promise of The Source Grow Grant. One such effort involves working with partners like the Chicagoland Opportunity Zones Consortium, which connects investors, community-based financial institutions, and small businesses throughout its jurisdiction – it works towards its five core goals of Attract Investors, informing and Support Community Partners, creating jobs & Wealth Creation as well as Promoting Equitable Development.

Cook County is proud to be one of the founding funders for this Initiative, thanks to generous support from the Polk Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and McCormick Foundation. Furthermore, we’ve received additional help from the Fund for Equitable Business Growth and local business supporters.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development (BED) has worked tirelessly to ensure no small business is left behind in our communities. Working alongside the Women’s Business Development Center and Allies for Community Business, BED continues to offer support for small businesses affected by this pandemic.

The Business Enterprise Development District recently extended the application window for The 2023 Source Grant until Friday, August 18 at 11:59 p.m. To be considered for this grant, small businesses must have operated in Cook County before 2020 and generated more than $20,000 in gross revenue during that year.

Due to feedback, BED has altered the required documentation for The 2023 Source Grant. More specifically, they modified their requirement that applicants submit their 2022 tax filings so businesses that haven’t filed can still submit applications.


Events are available physically and virtually to assist affected businesses with applying for the Source Grow Grant in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants aim to stabilize operations while simultaneously building resilience in post-pandemic economies – offering assistance for small businesses, entrepreneurs, women- and minority-owned brands.

Cook County recently unveiled a program designed to assist, grow, and elevate small businesses – the cornerstone of its economy. The 2023 Source Grant will award $40 million in grants across Cook County in early 2024 via funds provided through the American Rescue Plan Act.

This initiative seeks to close the racial wealth gap and empower small businesses owned by historically excluded populations. To accomplish this, $10,000 grants will be combined with company advising services for selected small businesses that prioritize Black-, Latino- and other people of color-owned; Women-, LQBTQ+-, Veteran- or Person with Disabilities-owned, and suburban Cook County companies.

This program will focus on sectors most affected by the pandemic, including accommodations and hospitality services, arts and entertainment, childcare and social assistance, retail trade, transportation, and warehousing. As many small businesses experienced increased costs and decreased income due to this pandemic, maintaining operations has become complex, and these programs provide much-needed relief.

Grants provide small businesses with several advantages, including access to mentorship programs, financial assistance, and business training. You can use these grants to expand and strengthen your company while creating additional revenue and growing a solid network.

As the pandemic lingers, these opportunities for small business funding will remain critical to your survival and long-term growth. These programs aim to provide you with both the financial resources and expertise necessary for recovering from this pandemic and continuing to thrive in the future.