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Jimmy Odom Joins World Business Chicago as Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Program Leadership Council Announced

Civic and Business Leaders Join Effort on Inclusive Entrepreneurship in Communities Throughout Chicago

Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp and World Business Chicago (WBC) today announced Jimmy Odom will serve as ChicagoNEXT’s first Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Additionally, 13 civic and business leaders were named to the ChicagoNEXT Inclusive Entrepreneurship Leadership Council (ChicagoNEXT IE Council), whose initial focus will be on the Blackstone Challenge, a three-year pilot program to drive inclusive entrepreneurship announced earlier this year.

“To drive inclusive economic growth and reverse decades of economic inequity, minority communities need a full range of resources to help start and scale local entrepreneurs,” said Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp. “Under the leadership of Jimmy Odom and the ChicagoNEXT IE Council, the Blackstone Challenge will begin to help bolster these resources.”

Mr. Odom most recently served as the Acting Assistant Director for the Department of Central Management Services of the State of Illinois. Prior to that, he served as the Senior Advisor for Minority Business Development at the Illinois Department of Commerce, working with minority communities throughout the state to help create, develop and grow entrepreneurs. Before joining the State of Illinois, Jimmy Odom founded WeDeliver Inc., the largest hyper-local logistics service in Chicago. He is a celebrated leader in the entrepreneurial community, and his recognitions include the IBM’s North America’s Most Innovative Company Mentor Award, the Chicago Urban League Innovator Award, Crain’s Business Chicago’s 50 Most Influential People list and the Moxie Award for Best Founder(s) in Chicago.

“I joined the ChicagoNEXT team because I view this as a real opportunity to support underserved communities,” said Jimmy Odom. “Inclusive economic growth must be intentional, and I’m excited to manage a program that supports and amplifies organizations that serve marginalized entrepreneurs throughout Chicago.”

The ChicagoNEXT Inclusive Entrepreneurship Leadership Council will share best practices and networking opportunities with the Blackstone Challenge cohort. The members of the leadership council are:

  • Andrea Zopp, Deputy Mayor & Chief Neighborhood Development Officer for the City of Chicago, ex officio member;
  • Mark Tebbe, Chairman of ChicagoNEXT;
  • Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation;
  • Laura Ferris Anderson, Managing Director of JPMorgan Chase & Co.;
  • Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement for Microsoft Corporation;
  • William Heard, CEO & CIO of Heard Capital LLC;
  • Adolfo Hernandez, Director of Community Health for JB & MK Pritzker Family Foundation;
  • Israel Idonije, Founder of iF Charities;
  • Nichole Pinkard, Founder of Digital Youth Network, Associate Professor at DePaulUniversity;
  • Neal Sales-Griffin, CEO of CodeNow;
  • Charles Smith, President & CEO of CS Insurance Strategies Inc.;
  • Susana Vasquez, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for IFF
  • Alex Washington, Managing Director of Wind Point Partners;

“Chicago has a strong foundation of entrepreneurship,” said ChicagoNEXT Chairman Mark Tebbe. “We are excited to have the opportunity to expand that foundation to include more communities and grow the potential impact for innovation and venture growth throughout Chicago.”

The Blackstone Challenge is three-year pilot program that will award a total of $3 million in grants to innovative organizations that effectively support diverse entrepreneurs and scale start-ups in the Chicago area. The selected programs will serve communities of color, women, veterans and immigrants. Chicago has been chosen as the first city for this pilot program. Of nearly fifty applicants, a cohort of between four and ten organizations will be selected and announced later in the spring. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has partnered with ChicagoNEXT of World Business Chicago to operate the initiative and manage the grantees.

“In partnership with ChicagoNEXT, we are delighted that the Blackstone Challenge will be the first program in its inclusive entrepreneurship efforts,” said Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. “ChicagoNEXT has assembled a powerful community of local leaders to support and accelerate the impact of our program.”

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