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A.R.I.S.E 2.0 Business Accelerator Opens Doors for Minority Entrepreneurs

A.R.I.S.E 2.0 Business Accelerator Opens Doors for Minority Entrepreneurs


Demo Day provides community-based companies with access to investors and senior counsel


CHICAGO, May 1, 2014 – Empowered by mentors and access to at least $20,000 in funding, four minority business owners are now well positioned to negotiate capital investments to expand their operations and, ultimately, create jobs in their communities.


Yesterday’s Demo Day event at the 1871 tech hub in the Merchandise Mart connected community-based businesses participating in the A.R.I.S.E. 2.0 Business Accelerator program with the intellectual and financial capital typically focused downtown. It was the culmination of a four-month program that was created by Salem Baptist Church, leveraged the expertise of University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and shared the experience of more than 30 speakers and mentors. The program was made possible by AAR CORP. Chairman and CEO David P. Storch’s $500,000 personal investment in A.R.I.S.E. 2.0 and its participants, to whom he committed at least $20,000 each.


The owners of four small businesses presented their expansion plans before a group that included Storch and other potential private investors, bank representatives, fellow entrepreneurs and community members. The presentations were followed by a reception where potential investors could meet the business owners and set up future meetings.


The companies were selected from 90 applicants and do business in the manufacturing, retail, healthcare and education industries. They include Ma’s Best, maker of home-style rolls and coffee cakes, owned by Earl, Gwendolyn and Brian Smith; the Frock Shop, a special-occasion dress rental business owned by Jennifer Burrell; RS Independent Home Healthcare, a caregiver service owned by Ted and Rena Williams; and Swish Dreams, which integrates math and reading principles with sports and teaches youth fitness, literacy and leadership, owned by Joshua and Kenya Mercer.


Storch, who decided to fund A.R.I.S.E. 2.0 last November after attending the A.R.I.S.E. Business Expo and seeing the minority-owned businesses with the potential to create jobs, was impressed by the presentations.


“These entrepreneurs have made great progress and gained powerful insight over the past few months,” Storch said. “They are well on their way to growing their businesses, which will also have a positive impact on their communities. My hope is that more people will understand the significant effect that a capital investment can have and get involved.”


The University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business’ Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Social Enterprise Initiative provided program participants with access to its world-class curriculum with A.R.I.S.E. 2.0 sessions focused on hiring and firing, legal, marketing, funding, operations and pitch practice.


”A solid educational foundation is a critical component of building a successful company,” said Robert Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder professor of strategy and finance, deputy dean, and co-faculty director of the Social Enterprise Initiative. “Part of our mission is to foster venture creation, and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to work with these entrepreneurs as they honed their skills and businesses to make a greater impact within the community.”


A.R.I.S.E 2.0 wants to economically empower communities by building sustainable, scalable companies that generate a return on investment and create jobs. Storch’s $500,000 investment ensures that graduates of Salem Baptist’s A.R.I.S.E. Entrepreneurship Program will be eligible to compete for participation in A.R.I.S.E. 2.0 for the next 10 years. The goal through 2023 is to mentor 40 businesses, create four major corporations and a minimum of 400 jobs.


“Sometimes, it takes just one person to make the first step and others will follow. David Storch opened a door; now other investors are interested in taking a look at these great companies,” said Jamell Meeks. “It’s critical for mom-and-pop businesses to access people who can help them get to the next level of success. That’s what this business accelerator is all about: Pushing past artificial barriers to supercharge businesses.”


AAR (NYSE: AIR), based in Wood Dale, Ill., is a global aerospace and defense contractor that employs more than 6,000 people in 17 countries.

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