CHICAGO, IL – Today, GET Cities Chicago, WEI and Gumbo Media announce the launch of the Chicago Digital Equity Fund and Tech Desk (Chicago Tech Desk for short), sponsored by Verizon.
The Chicago Tech Desk was initially incubated as a pilot in 2021 in the GET Cities Chicago Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG). The TEWG is an alliance of Chicago accelerators, incubators, and funds creating city-wide solutions to systemic inequities in Chicago's tech entrepreneurship ecosystem. The group's aim is to jumpstart, accelerate, and fund more Chicago tech startups 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 targeting systemic gender and racial inequities that impact Chicago tech founders. We were thrilled by the success of many of last year's pilots, including the Tech Desk, and we're even more excited about the ongoing partnerships that help these projects expand, increasing reach and impact," said Elle Ramel, Director, GET Cities Chicago.
This year, the program is officially being launched and hosted at Gumbo Media, where seven qualified participants in the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) Accelerator Program will receive a $5,000 technology grant to use toward their tech enablement needs - whether that be digital marketing, social media channels, e-commerce integration, or other tech-related services - as an expansion of the WEI program they just completed.
"Receiving this tech grant is great because it will help my company speed up the process of establishing the best tech stack and operational processes for my company," says Karyna do Monte, 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 and 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 they need to grow their businesses and reach 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 own entrepreneurial experience to 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. The cards have been stacked against women business owners in terms of financing and gender bias for far too long. At WEI, we are excited to provide the Chicago Tech Desk to our cohort members as a way to help level the playing field," says Kimberly Campbell, Program Manager at Women in Entrepreneurship Institute.
Tech Desk support, provided by Gumbo Media, will help each WEI entrepreneur to assess their technology needs, branding, digital storytelling and communications, online marketing, search/paid advertising, SEO as well as information technology (IT), client relationship management and database systems and other relevant tech enablement activities targeted by the WEI program.
"As a Black, creatively powered ecosystem of storytellers, cultural curators, visual architects, reality shifters, and legacy builders, we hold a special place for initiative and entities like our own, who on a daily basis, are defying odds and contributing to a more equitable world. Participating in this coordinated effort to bridge technology gaps that level the economic playing field is but 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 between the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago and the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) at DePaul University. The University of Chicago Polsky Center, MATTER and Mhub also participated as partners in the pilot and Verizon acted as a sponsor. The pilot served 8 women entrepreneurs in the WEI program, providing tech curriculum, micro-grants and introductions to BIPOC tech vendors.
The Chicago Equity Tech Desk is a collaborative effort with an aligned vision and mission. Its success will be measured by the number of marginalized entrepreneurs we're able to directly support, the number of marginalized service providers connected to new business, and the growth of the ecosystem as a whole.