Thank you to everyone who joined us for Doing Good in the Neighborhood: The Rise of Community-Based Incubators. We hope you enjoyed the discussion about the importance of local business incubators, centering neighborhood needs, and expanding access to resources and professional networks for BIPOC entrepreneurs. We look forward to continuing the conversation about how we can work together to create a social ecosystem that is supportive of everyone and how the community can continue to drive innovative business and opportunity.
If you were unable to join us on January 26, 2022, a recording is available below.
In 2016, Britney Robbins started The Gray Matter Experience, a nonprofit dedicated to unlocking the self-determining power of Black youth and strengthen their ties to community through real-world experience in entrepreneurship, which has since served over 600 Chicago youth in this mission. Among her many accolades for this work, Britney has been named one of the 26 Most Influential, 20 Most Inspiring Chicagoans and one of The Chicago Defender’s Women of the Year for 2021.
Britney is passionate about improving the well-being of Black communities and is focused on providing quality resources, more direct access and education to see that vision made reality.
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Jonathan joined the Chicago Urban League in 2020 and is currently a Program Associate within the Urban League’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Jonathan works to provide entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the Chicago area with the tools, resources and networks they need to be successful. He has been working primarily with businesses affected by COVID-19 and represents the Urban League as a part of NextLevel Exchange, a partnership with Sunshine Enterprises and Women’s Business Development Center to provide budding entrepreneurs with mentorship and help them expand their networks.
Prior to joining the Urban League, Jonathan worked at Lyft’s offices in Chicago in an operations role where he focused on the effectiveness of Lyft’s daily operations, conducted quality control and helped solve drivers’ problems. Additionally, Jonathan led initiatives to tailor services to Spanish-speaking drivers in Chicago and conducted driver outreach events.
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Bernita brings nearly 20 years of neighborhood and business development experience to her role as Director of Strategic Relationships at Cleveland Avenue. Most recently, she was Executive Vice President for Neighborhood and Strategic Initiatives at World Business Chicago where she was responsible for leading the organization’s efforts to support economic growth and job creation for Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Bernita served in the Office of the Mayor, Neighborhood Development, where she led several targeted economic development projects and neighborhood revitalization efforts to generate clear and impactful outcomes for communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides. She also expanded the city’s development lens to include residential, transportation, infrastructure and other development data for a more holistic approach to neighborhood growth.
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Desiree builds products and programs that help people feel less isolated and bring resources together to maximize outcomes. She’s bringing her passion for equity and inclusion to P33 where, with the help of corporate partners, they’ll help underrepresented founders get the support they need to launch and thrive. She is an innovative problem-solver who loves building businesses that matter. Desiree started Pearachute to solve a need she had personally, which was that as a busy mom, she wanted an easy way to spend more quality time with her children during these fleeting years. She wanted to feel more present with them and wanted to make sure they were doing things that connected them to friends and the community.
Previously, Desiree co-founded GiveForward, one of the world's first crowdfunding platforms. Over her seven years there, they helped hundreds of thousands of families raise more than $190 million and at their peak had 1/10th of U.S. adults visiting their site annually. She learned so much through their multiple rounds of funding (Angel, series A, venture debt and strategic) and was grateful for the opportunity to take those lessons to those she mentors and to her next adventure.
Desiree is passionate about how technology can make the world a smaller and more connected place. She subscribes to the belief that every one of us can take small actions that change someone’s world. As a believer in the Conscious Capitalism movement, she is deeply committed to maximizing stakeholder value and creating a workplace that elevates every team member. She is an active mentor to other entrepreneurs and enjoys sharing the lessons they have learned along the way as a panelist or keynote speaker.
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Ella McCann is Manager of External Relations and Strategic Partnerships for the Baumhart Center, an interdisciplinary center at Loyola University Chicago that prepares leaders to tackle society’s most pressing challenges through education, engagement, and research.
Before joining Baumhart, Ella was an International Program Manager with Chicago Sister Cities International, an initiative of World Business Chicago, the Economic Development arm of the City of Chicago. In this capacity, Ella managed volunteer sister city committees; coordinated exchanges that focused on cultural arts and tourism, international business and economic development, global education and government relations between Chicago and its sister cities; facilitated international delegation visits; and produced CSCI program-wide events.
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Founder & CEO
The Gray Matter Experience
Chicago Urban League
Bernita Johnson Gabriel
Director, CAST US Strategic Partnerships
Desiree Vargas Wrigley
Executive Director of TechRise
Manager of External Relations and Strategic Partnerships
Baumhart Center of Loyola University Chicago