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Ready to take your business to the next level?

Our 9-month program is especially designed to help Black-owned businesses scale and grow.

Now accepting applications for the 2024 cohort. 


  • Program Informational #1 (Virtual):  Wednesday, April 17, 2024
  • Program Informational #2 (@CUL):  Wednesday, May 22, 2024
  • Close of Candidate Recruitment: May 31, 2024
  • Selection Notifications: By Friday June 7, 2024


About the nextONE Business Leadership Accelerator 

The nextONE program is an empowering business accelerator specifically designed for African American entrepreneurs in Chicago, targeting those with annual revenues ranging from $250K to $4M. This initiative aims to catalyze the growth of black-owned businesses, enabling them to expand their reach, increase their impact, and play a pivotal role in their communities. 

By providing business owners with advanced business education and key socio-economic and political context, nextONE equips participants with the necessary skills to not only enhance their business performance but also to assume leadership roles that contribute to the vibrancy and resilience of Chicago’s Black communities.

The program will officially begin in June 2024 and meet at least monthly for nine months ending in March 2025.

The nextONE program has the following program components:


  • Specialized courses designed to assist entrepreneurs in scaling their businesses and advancing their leadership capabilities.
  • Training on AI prompt engineering and business operations, including revenue enhancement, talent development, operational efficiency, and financial management.
  • 16 hours of one-on-one support from business experts in marketing, HR, Finance, and Operations.


  • Exposure to broader societal and community issues, highlighting the critical role of business leaders in fostering community well-being and development.


  • Facilitated introductions to key stakeholders such as bankers, corporate procurement officers, chambers of commerce, and other business support organizations.

Is nextONE Right for You?

The program will be most beneficial for business owners who:

  • Own an established business that is poised for growth
  • Lack a support system for thinking through business challenges
  • Is interested in considering new frameworks for marketing, operations, and financial gaps
  • Wants to take inspired action towards their business goals
  • Business revenues between $250,000 – $4 million in the most recent fiscal year
  • At least two employees (including the business owner)
  • Business in operation for at least two years
  • Have financial documents including business tax returns, income statements and balance sheets
  • The potential and desire to grow and create jobs in the community

Program Requirements and Expectations

If your application is selected for consideration, you must commit to attending the entire nine-month program (nine monthly learning sessions, associated workshops, and graduation), complete homework in advance of each session (this commitment totals approximately 6-8 hours per week), submit a completed growth plan prior to the final session, and provide a business pitch to a group audience.


Final Notes 

Applications are currently being accepted.

Don’t wait until the last minute; start applying today! To apply, please complete all the sections in their entirety to be considered for participation.  You will receive an email when there’s an update on the status of your application including acknowledgement of receipt of your materials.  If your application is moved forward in the process, you will receive an email request to provide supporting documentation to substantiate the information you provided in this application and to schedule an interview.



Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Chicago




Polk Foundation




Hyatt Corp.




Tuesday, January 17, 2023 – 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

   This session has ended. Watch the recording.