National Non-Profit Founders First CDC Expands Program For Chicago Area Businesses

National Non-Profit Founders First CDC Expands Program For Chicago Area Businesses

Founders First CDC, a national nonprofit organization, announced its second round of grants and an expansion of its Job Creators Quest Grant.

Founders First will award 30 grants for a total of $100,000 along with access to a business accelerator program to minority and underrepresented businesses in the Chicago area. The grants will be awarded to Illinois-area diverse-led companies in business-to-business sectors with between two and 20 employees.

To be eligible for the grants, the company’s founder must be Black, indigenous, a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a veteran or a woman in a low- to moderate-income area, with revenues between $100,000 and $3 million. The application period for the grants is open between now and Feb. 4.

“Business owners have told us their needs have not changed—pandemic conditions continue and they need help now,” Shaylon Scott, executive director of Founders First, said in a release.

“Expanding our long-term commitment to Chicago-area Illinois-based entrepreneurs is an impactful way to drive job and wealth creation in underserved communities and help them make a difference.”

Funding for the program was provided by a $1 million national grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and regional support from the Chicago Community Trust through the Benefit Chicago Initiative, in conjunction with Founders First Capital Partners’ recent $9 million Series A financing accelerator to support underrepresented entrepreneurs in underserved communities across the country.

Additional national and regional partners include ADP, BLACK ENTERPRISE Magazine, JPMorgan Chase, The Kauffman Foundation, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), the Chicago Community Trust, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, World Business Chicago, Small Business Majority, the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, GET Cities, LISC, Chama Capital, National Black MBA Association and the North River Commission.

Last summer, Founders First awarded $60,000 in Job Creators Quest Grants to businesses in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden, Trenton, and Newark, New Jersey, that have retained and grown their workforce through the pandemic.

Here are four graduates of Founders First programs that are thriving in Chicago:

Johnathon Bush
Johnathon Bush

Johnathon Bush, Not Just Cookies

Johnathon Bush started Not Just Cookies when he was 13, which focuses on providing delicious, quality baked goods the right way. NJC offers traditional and allergen-free desserts to its customers using fresh, natural, and wholesome ingredients.

In addition to tasty desserts, NJC offers virtual fundraisers for schools, youth groups, and sports teams looking to raise money. Their ghost delivery allows us to deliver fresh cookies within the hour (day or night) to customers in Chicago. NJC currently operates out of five ghost kitchens in the Chicago area and is expanding to NYC with an additional nine ghost kitchens this spring.


Valarie King Bailey
Valarie King Bailey

Valarie King-Bailey, OnShore Technology Group

Valarie King-Bailey founded the OnShore Technology Group in 2004 as an Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) company delivering software products and services to life sciences companies across the globe.

IV&V is a rigorous software testing methodology required by companies regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other global regulatory bodies. OnShore has developed its own application for IV&V known as  the “ValidationMaster.” OnShore’s application has helped leading companies across the globe meet the mandates of global regulatory agencies and speed new products/therapies to market.


Dwayne Bryant
Dwayne Bryant

Dwayne Bryant, Inner Vision International Inc.

Realizing the need for developing effective mentoring programs, Dwayne Bryant left a lucrative sales career in 1997 to start Inner Vision International.

Bryant has built a team of powerful mentors called Visionaries, and over the past 25 years, Inner Vision has engaged over 35,000 students, 15,000 parents, and 1,500 teachers. Utilizing Inner Vision’s evidence-based curriculum entitled, The Vision™, Inner Vision has helped schools and districts improve student test scores by over 35%, reduce suspensions 70%, quadruple parental involvement, and dramatically improve school climate.

Moriel McClerklin
Moriel McClerklin

Moriel McClerklin, Southland Care Coordination Partners

Southland Care Coordination Partners (SCCP) is a high-performing Certified Minority Business Enterprise (CMBE) providing outsourced population health management services.

Southland Care’s aim is to help Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers to effectively manage the healthcare of their clients. Through its comprehensive care management services, Southland provides such services as member onboarding/engagement, health risk screenings/assessments, chronic disease self-management support, medication management, ongoing care coordination, long term care support, HCBS waiver services, behavior health support, post-hospitalization follow-up, prevention and wellness services, appointment scheduling, and linkages to social service/community resources.

Other award winners include:

● Back of the Yards Coffee

● PAC Leaders LLC

● Yoga Now Inc.

● Rylon’s Smokehouse Partners, LLP

● Nicole Jordan Catering, LLC

● Saigon Sisters LLC

● Justice of the Pies

● Metaphrasis Language and Cultural Solutions, LLC