After months of hard work, GET Cities Chicago, WEI, and Gumbo Media announce the launch of the Chicago Digital Equity Fund and Tech Desk (Chicago Tech Desk for short). Verizon is sponsoring the program in an effort of supporting equity as well.
The Chicago Tech Desk was born as a pilot in 2021, at GET Cities Chicago Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG). TEWG is an alliance of Chicago accelerators, incubators, and funds creating city-wide solutions. Their goal is to end systemic inequities in Chicago’s tech entrepreneurship ecosystem. The group’s aim is to jumpstart, accelerate, and fund more Chicago tech startups. The group focuses on those founded by women, trans, non-binary, Black, Indigenous, Latino/a, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ founders.
“The ambition of this group is to collaboratively ideate, pilot, and scale interventions. And most importantly, doing so targets systemic gender and racial inequities that impact Chicago tech founders. Last year’s pilots, including the Tech Desk, were a success. And we’re even more excited about the ongoing partnerships that help these projects expand. They increase reach and impact,” said Elle Ramel, Director, GET Cities Chicago.
Gumbo Media to host Chicago Tech Desk
Seven qualified participants in the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) Accelerator Program will receive a $5,000 technology grant this year. The goal is to use the grant toward their tech enablement need. That is, as an expansion of the WEI program they just completed. Whether that may be digital marketing, social media channels, e-commerce integration, or other tech-related services.
“Receiving this tech grant is great. It will help my company speed up the process of establishing the best tech stack. And also help operational processes for my company,” says Karyna do Monte. She is the founder of Archie.io, and one of the entrepreneurs receiving the technology grant. “I am excited to demonstrate how a bit of help can go a long way. For me, as a small business owner, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such a supportive organization.”
WEI’s goal is to provide women entrepreneurs with the tools and resources for growing their businesses and reaching new markets. WEI supports women entrepreneurs through research and programs that invest in the success and sustainability of women-owned businesses. As a 100% women-led institute, board members and WEI staff use their entrepreneurial experience. They often address women’s funding gap and obstacles in scaling their businesses, board positions, and funding.
“This is a game changer for Chicago’s women entrepreneurs. At WEI, we are excited to provide the Chicago Tech Desk to our cohort members. This is a way to help level the playing field,” says Kimberly Campbell, Program Manager at WEI.
The support will help each WEI entrepreneur
The newly launched program will assess their technology needs. Tech Desk will help WEI entrepreneurs with branding, digital storytelling, communications, and online marketing. They will also receive assistance with search/paid advertising and SEO. And lastly, other relevant tech enablement activities, such as information technology (IT), client relationship management, and database systems.
“As a Black, creatively powered ecosystem. Of storytellers, cultural curators, visual architects, reality shifters, and legacy builders, we hold a special place for the initiative. Entities like our own, on a daily basis, are defying odds and contributing to a more equitable world. We are participating in this coordinated effort to bridge technology gaps that level the economic playing field. It is one way we seek to cultivate the communities we serve. And make plentiful the resources they deserve to have access to,” says Etiti Ayeni, Director of Operations, Gumbo Media.
Last year, the Chicago Equity Tech Desk pilot was led by a partnership. The YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago and the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) at DePaul University joined forces and hosted the program. The University of Chicago Polsky Center, MATTER, and Mhub also participated as partners in the pilot. Verizon, once again, acted as a sponsor. The pilot served eight women entrepreneurs in the WEI program, providing tech curriculum, microgrants, and introductions to BIPOC tech vendors.
The Chicago Equity Tech Desk is a collaborative effort with an aligned vision and mission. The number of marginalized entrepreneurs it can directly support and help connect to new businesses will measure its success. And of course, the growth of the ecosystem as a whole.
To learn more about the Chicago Digital Equity Fund and Tech Desk, please visit GET Cities, WEI, and Gumbo Media. To partner with the Chicago Tech Desk, contact email@example.com.