Block Club Chicago: E.G. Woode Wants To Expand To South Shore To Help More People

Originally Published by Block Club Chicago: Team Behind Englewood Business Incubator Wants To Expand To South Shore To Help More People

The E.G. Woode crew aims to add more South and West Side entrepreneurs to its team.

ENGLEWOOD — Even before E.G. Woode breaks ground, the team behind the ambitious Englewood business incubator is eyeing a second South Side site to revitalize another retail corridor.

While the deal hasn’t been finalized, the team has bid on a building to open a second business incubator at 1728 E. 79th St. in South Shore, said Deon Lucas, an architect who serves as the de facto leader of the enterprise. An earlier push to acquire a property in Grand Crossing fell through.

The E.G. Woode project got underway earlier this year, when a group of architects, designers, entrepreneurs and journeymen teamed up to create a hub for low-profit startups in a nondescript building at 63rd and May streets in Englewood. It allows entrepreneurs who have been traditionally shut out the opportunity to own the building in which they work.

Essentially, E.G. Woode is considered a real estate partner, working with the minority-owned businesses within the collective to develop their storefronts — and using the income generated from leasing and sales to reinvest in minority businesses across the country. The name was picked as a nod to Englewood, with a classic sound that could be a man or a woman.

The second South Side site is just part of E.G. Woode’s expansion plans, which also envision a West Side site. Ahead of its Englewood groundbreaking, E.G. Woode is also aiming to add entrepreneurs from North Lawndale to its roster, said Lucas, who grew up on the West Side. The entrepreneurs will be opening two event-focused businesses — one event planning, the other for event hosting — in addition to a coffee shop and restaurant, keeping in theme with the collective’s focus on socially conscious, civically-minded capitalism.

Since announcing its plans, the group has secured several Thrive grants and financing through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. They also recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise more money, holding an event at Blue Lacuna, 2150 S. Canalport Ave. in Pilsen, last month. They met their goal, which will go towards equipment costs for the businesses setting up shop in the building on 63rd and May, and netted two new investors in the collective.

“We’ve raised $230,000 in additional capital since our first official launch,” Lucas said.

To date, the E.G. Woode project has raised $704,000 — $250,000 in city grants, $270,000 from private investors, $180,000 in the form of an LISC loan and $4,700 from crowdfunding.

The private capital raised will be split between the Englewood and second South Side site.

Lucas said the team is working toward breaking ground on the Englewood site now.

“A lot of the work that I’ve been doing has been focused on the entrepreneur, and when you’re doing it from the lens of an individual, you don’t really see the impact that it’s having,” Lucas said.

“You can see the excitement in their faces,” he said. “To me, that’s invaluable.”

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