Chicago, a city in the midst of growing many for profit startups and enterprises but one you may not be so familiar with is A Better Chicago or I should say you should get more familiar with. I first heard about the organization in passing last year. And then at the first project impact where Its BOD is a Who’s Who of Chicago including Trish Rooney Alden and Sherman Wright, but aside from that it’s the core of that mission that made me want to find out more. Unlike most non-profit foundations in the city, A Better Chicago is a venture fund for non-profit startups.

We provide funding and management support to a portfolio of high-performing nonprofit organizations that are dramatically advancing opportunities for our region’s low-income population.

This past Thursday(11/7), A Better Chicago hosted the second annual Project Impact. In the vein of how a for-profit startup would pitch, the final four non-profits pitched a packed crowd. The startups were EMBARC, INTRINSIC SCHOOLS, NEW CLASSROOMS & PROJECT SYNCERE.

The evening began with a Jewell Event catered reception. Guests made their way to their seats to begin the program. Liam Krehbiel, Founder & CEO of A Better Chicago welcomed everyone and introduced judges: Timothy Knowles-John Dewey Director at University of Chicago, Matt Ferguson-CEO of Careerbuilder, Desiree Rogers-CEO of Johnson Publishing, David Jacobson-Vice Chairman of BMO Financial Group, Gillian Darlow-CEO of Polk Bros. Foundation and Thomas Elden CEO of Origami Capital Partners.

Before the final four presentation began, last year’s project impact winner  Sally Hazelgrove of Restoring the Path now rebranded as Crushers Club gave an update on how the $100,00 and support they’ve received has impacted their growth. They’ve gained their first sponsor and hired their first full time project coordinator.

Imran Khan of EMBARC kicked off the presentation and truthfully he gave such a charismatic, moving and convincing pitch that I didn’t know how the others would stand up but they did. New Classrooms already had traction and presenter Joel Rose who stated that based on their theory on the fact that Algebra readiness will equate to college readiness. This has been validated through their system thus far.
Jason Coleman of Project Syncere was up thereafter. Their mission is to increase the number of minority, female and underserved students in S.T.E.M. STEM has been getting a lot of attention lately due to the heavy demand for college graduates in the science/tech/math field as we move forward in the digital age. There was definitely a case made for this organization and though some of the questions the judges asked in terms of scalability and how students that have moved on from the program are tracked was not sufficiently answered, the organization can be sustainable.

The final presentation of the evening was from Melissa Zaikos of Intrinsic Schools. I will be honest, her opening was just not it. The presentation started with polio and Jonas Salk but didn’t really make sense. In the end the charisma, energy and well though out presentation of Imran Khan won embarc the $100,000 project impact prize.

The winning team was embarc and I can’t wait to see how they grow the program and integrate into more CPS schools.

If you would like to contribute to A Better Chicago’s efforts CLICK HERE 

For us all living in Chicago we want to make this second city A Better Chicago, supporting the organizations mission to do that will not only be a tax writeoff for you but it goes towards helping these organizations in their portfolio working to make a difference in our underserved communities.

Bolaji Sosan
Bolaji Sosan

pronounced: Boh-la-jee, like the Bellagio but w/o the O. SLC Founder and Editor, loves to write about topics at the intersection of career and lifestyle for today's young professional and future leaders.

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