Find how and where to get loans and/or free grants in Illinois for your business. There will funds allocated to disadvantaged businesses, which include minority companies (Black, Latino, Asian owned) as well as women owned or veteran businesses. Find the lenders, corporations and programs below that are near you in Illinois for funds. Everything from free grants to low cost loans, mentoring, and other small business or start up assistance is provided.
Small business funding may be provided by the federal government or state of Illinois. There are also non-profit grant programs, loans from banks or foundations, and more. Each loan or free grant program listed will allocate some of the money for women as well as minority owned (or run companies). Some of the agencies may also give startup funding to entrepreneurs or mid sized companies as well.
Funds are allocated across the state. There is financial assistance for minority and women owned businesses in Chicago, Joliet, Springfield and other cities. Free grants or loans can generally cover any business expense, ranging from rent to insurance, equipment, payroll, and other costs. The money can help save a business, such as MWBE, or provide the capital they need to grow.
Small business loans or free grants in Illinois
The list below is updated daily, as new free grants as well as loan programs are announced. Call or look online to apply for help. Black owned companies, LGBTQ, Latinos, Asians, and women owned businesses can get the help they need.
Ongoing, year round programs
Allies for Community Business (Accion Chicago) is a non-profit community lender in Chicago. They offer loans, grants, free coaching or mentoring to entrepreneurs, financial aid and more. The assistance is for Cook County and Chicago small businesses, with a focus on Black, Latino, Veteran, LGTBG and women among others. Most of the financing will be in the form of loans. Learn more here. https://a4cb.org/
Chicago Neighborhood Initiative Micro Finance Group – Greenwood Archer Capital offers microloans to minority and Black owned businesses. The non-profit will lend out up to $50,000, based on business revenue, business plans, income and other factors. Some borrowers with poor or limited credit can also get a microloan from CNI. A major focus is on providing funds to businesses owned by people of color in low income communities in Chicago. Learn more. https://www.cnigroup.org/
Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is based in Chicago but operates across the state. Programs include an Incubator/Startup service; Business Development Center; Procurement and Certification Assistance for Latino businesses; Free Coaching and more. A number of assistance programs, including loans and grants, are offered for Hispanic companies or entrepreneurs. Learn more on the non-profit. https://ihccbusiness.net/
The Women’s Business Development Center helps both women and people of color. They help them access capital, whether loans, government grants, or some other form of financial aid. They have offices in Chicago as well as Aurora. They even offer loans of up to $50,000 (with no application fees) as well as business advising, minority or women owned business certifications, networking and more. Read more here. https://www.wbdc.org/
September and October 2021
Quad Cities region, including Rock Island and Moline in Illinois minority owned businesses, can apply for grants from Mercado on 5th. The non-profit agency is part of the Small Business Community Navigator. The non-profit assists minority, English, and Spanish speaking businesses. They also operate small business development workshops. There is also free counseling around budgeting, raising capital, business plan creation and other services. Read more on the non-profit. https://www.mercadoonfifth.org/
Freeport businesses, that have faced a reduction in revenue during 2020 due to the COVID-pandemic, can apply for free grants from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The city is working with the Greater Freeport Partnership to help small to even mid-sized businesses, with a focus on women, minority, veteran owned businesses. Up to $150,000 can be provided for operation costs, salaries, rent, and more. Continue here. https://greaterfreeport.com/
State of Illinois and federal government funds are used as part of the Back to Business Grant Program. Businesses with under $5 million in revenue, that have been impacted by the pandemic, can apply for free grants. Some funds/priority will be for minority, veteran, LGBTQ, and minority owned businesses among others. Up to $150,000 can be provided to each business, with most money expected to go towards service type businesses. Read up on the program. https://a4cb.loanwell.com/processes/29f7dbe5-c7fe-4554-806a-41162e8b6337/questionnaires/ededc49e-45d7-4f65-a986-6bb85b9dfa5c/agreements/new?utm_source=Members+List&utm_campaign=5548273cb8-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_09_12_02_01_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_71edb48f21-5548273cb8-223007945
August and September 2021
Cook County Small Business Assistance Program is providing financial help to small businesses that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants, interest free loans, and other sources of funding (and support) are offered. BIPOC businesses as well as others can apply. There is also a free Advising Program, and the funds are available in Chicago too. Learn more. https://cookcountysmallbiz.org/
Up to $2 million in micro-loans is being provided to small businesses in the city of Springfield. Some of the financial assistance will be allocated to women owned businesses, minorities, black owned companies and even borrowers with limited or poor credit. The city is working with a non-profit known as Justine PETERSEN as well as the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce. Get details and funding here. https://www.springfieldbcc.org/business-resources/
March and April 2021
Chicago small disadvantaged businesses can receive financial help from a $25 million program created by the city. The funds are for minority, veteran, immigrant, Black or Latino owned and borrowers with bad or poor credit. It is run in partnership with the SBA as well as PPP program. The Chicago Impact Fund is aimed at ensuring the most disadvantaged businesses have access to the capital they need. Read more here. https://crfusappploans.com/partners/city-of-chicago/
November and December 2020
Rockford Illinois small businesses can get free cash/grants from the CARES Act. The funds are part of the Community Development Program. Everything from rent to working capital, sales and marketing help, utilities, salaries, and other bills can be paid. Tens of thousands of dollars will be allocated to minority businesses, including females, LGTBQ, Veterans, African Americans and others. Apply here https://rockfordil.gov/city-departments/community-and-economic-development/neighborhood-development/
Restaurants and/or bars in Chicago can get financial help in the form of free grants. The federal government, state, and city of Chicago are partnering together to help small, independent owned restaurants, pubs as well as bars including Black, Brown, and women keep their doors open. The assistance program is known as the Chicago Hospitality Grant, and up to $10,000 can be paid out for rent, salaries, food, utilities, inventory, and other bills. It can also help food delivery costs. Apply here. https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/depts/cdph/provdrs/health_protection_and_response/news/2020/november/mayor-lightfoot-announces–10-million-chicago-hospitality-grant-.html
Chicago and Cook County businesses that have been hit by riots’, fire, civil unrests or other issues can apply for the Rebuild Distressed Communities (RDC) program. The funds are only for businesses impacted by civil disorder, whether minority, male, women, or anything else. Most of the grants are for the city of Chicago. Read more or apply here. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/default.aspx
Service type businesses in Illinois, such as bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centers, pubs and others can get grants from the Illinois Business Interruption Grants (BIG). While funds are offered to all small businesses or sole-proprietors, some of the BIG grants will be reserved for minority owned companies, black owned businesses, veterans and others. Millions of dollars are being paid out to businesses hard hit by COVID. Apply here or read more. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Pages/C19DisadvantagedBusGrants.aspx
Over $200 million in grants will be issued to businesses struggling from the Pandemic and/or Civil Unrest. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) is accepting applications and disbursing funds. Both of them, the Business Interruption Grants (BIG) as well as the Rebuild Distressed Communities (RDC), are free grants with a focus on disadvantaged businesses, including immigrants, Black, Latina, female, veterans and others in Illinois. There are funds for small businesses in low income communities, farmers, and others. The bottom line is Illinois is offering many startup and small to mid sized business grants to minorities, women, and struggling companies. More details are here. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/default.aspx
The Chicago Urban League is offering free grants (of up to $5000), technical assistance, mentoring and other support to small businesses that are Black owned. Most of the aid is for very small businesses that are one, two, or small firms. the grants and resources are offered in partnership with the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. Applications are at the Urban League Chicago Help Center. https://www.culcovid19.com/
Over $270 million in free grants will be issued by the state of Illinois run Business Interruption Grant program. To date, about 50 percent of BIG grant recipients are women and/or minority owned. About one quarter are Asian owned companies and about 25% are Latinx-owned or Black business owners. https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Pages/C19DisadvantagedBusGrants.aspx
By Jon McNamara