Business Start-Up Training

Business Start-Up Training program is designed to provide expert guidance, training and support to minimize risk and maximize business launch success while providing access to an exclusive microloan fund post completion for individuals who live in and start their businesses in designated communities primarily on the West Side of Chicago.  Since inception in 2012 this program has served nearly 300 businesses.

The Winter 2019 cohort of the Business Start-Up Training will start on March 26, 2019 and meet on Tuesday evenings from 6:00-9:00pm for 12 consecutive weeks.

Applications for the upcoming cohort are now being taken through March 4th at 12:00 noon. The information below explains the application process. Please pay special attention to the dates and instructions in the narrative below to make sure you understand the procedure and are able to meet the deadlines and other time requirements for the class. Applications are only accepted electronically.

If you don’t have access to a computer to submit your application, there will be an information session (optional to attend but recommended) on February 13th at 6:00 at the Technology Elevation Center – TEC 4950 on the campus of Bethel New Life (4950 W. Thomas St. in Chicago) where potential applicants can attend to meet our staff, ask any questions, and if necessary, complete the application. If you have any other questions or concerns or need to set up a different time to come in to our offices and complete the application in our resource center, contact, or call 773-473-7876.

Click here to register for the February 13th Informational Session.


  • Final application deadline – March 5, 2019
  • All supporting application documents must be submitted – March 8, 2019 at 12 pm
  • Individual Business Case Presentation – March 11-14, 2019
  • Program Acceptance Notification – March 18, 2019
  • First Class Session and Orientation – March 26, 2019



The Business Start-Up Training Programs is a rigorous 12 week business training program comprised of specialized workshops, trainings and resources facilitated in conjunction with the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bethel New Life.

This entrepreneurship training program is for serious entrepreneurs who:

  • Have identified the area of business they want to pursue.
  • Currently operate an informal business now seeking to become licensed and legally structured.
  • Have been in business less than five seeking to expand or standardize their operations.
  • Will commit to starting or expanding their business within 6 months of program completion.
  • Will develop a plan to create new jobs in the community where their business is located.


This program is geared toward for-profit enterprises and entrepreneurs who want to start a new business, owners of informally run businesses who want to become licensed and legally structured, and owners of existing businesses less than five years old that want to expand or standardize their business operations. Entrepreneurs selected for this highly competitive program participate in 12 weeks of sessions on business plans, marketing, financing, accounting, risk management, legal issues, and more, followed by a year of personal mentoring from a business leader. Qualified participants are also eligible for low-interest loans up to $10,000 for a start-up business and $30,000 for an existing business from CIBC Bank upon graduation.

Special consideration is given to applicants that reside or seek to operate their business on the West Side of Chicago, businesses with high growth potential and entrepreneurs with a viable innovation in the manufacturing or technology field.


Entrepreneurship training programs are supported by and facilitated in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). A key component of Bethel New Life’s West Side Forward business development activities is its SBDC, which provides training and technical assistance to new and existing businesses.

Bethel’s SBDC is focused on providing consultation to any business that seeks support in every phase of the business cycle with business planning, legal clinics, marketing and social media, leveraging technologies, capital access readiness and accessing a host of other business resources.  The Illinois SBDC at Bethel New Life is led by staff with experience in the SBDC Network and a wealth of knowledge in the areas of small business development, management, and capital investment. Individual counseling is available at no charge and free training workshops open to the public are offered on a regular basis.

Click here to learn more about the Illinois SBDC at Bethel New Life.

Click here to begin the Business Start-Up Training application


Am I Eligible?

To enroll, applicants must meet a specific set of criteria. The criteria outlined below are the starting point for screening, but Bethel reserves the right to adjust these criteria as we determine the demand and capacity of the students to meet these criteria. They are as follows:

  • Applicants will designate in their application whether they are a start-up business (one year or less) or an emerging business (more than one year to 5 years old). Businesses that have been registered for more than 5 years old will not be eligible to participate
  • Primary consideration will be given to applicants that intend to start or expand for-profit businesses, while secondary consideration will be reserved for entities that may operate on a not-for-profit model.
  • Have a credit check with a score of 500 or better. The threshold to receive a microloan on completion of the class from CIBC will normally require a score of at least 625.
  • Primary consideration will be given to Chicago west side residents that also have businesses or specific plans to locate their business office within the designated communities of Austin, Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, North Lawndale, and South Lawndale.
  • These home address and/or intended business location will be one of these ten zip codes: 60608, 60612, 60622, 60623, 60624, 60639, 60644, 60647, 60651, and 60707. Secondary consideration may be given to those from other nearby geographic locations or businesses that have potential to positively impact a low to moderate income community.
  • Have at least a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid driver’s license or state identification
  • Proof of current address on above ID or recent utility bill


How Do I Apply?

The application deadline is 12:00 noon on Tuesday, March 5.  Please read all of the pages related to the Business Start-Up Training Program (formerly Entrepreneurship Training Program) before you complete the application link.

Go to the application link and follow the directions for answering all of the questions. When you have completed the application, click on submit and you should receive a message that thanks you for submitting the document, which is confirmation that the application has been successfully transmitted. It is important to apply early because if you wait until the deadline and are accepted for you will have a very short window of time as the deadline for submitting all required supporting application documents is 12:00 noon, on Friday, March 8.

If you are selected you will receive an email stating conditional acceptance status with a checklist of  items that relate to the eligibility criteria mentioned under Am I Eligible? that must be submitted.  Other items required separately include:

• Signed release form for performing a credit check (soft pull)

• Copy of a valid driver’s license or state identification

• Proof of current address on above ID or recent utility bill

• Copy of GED, transcripts or diploma from highest level of education completed, if possible.

• Business Case presentation (5-7 minute presentation)

Business Case Presentation

Selected applicants will be required to present their business idea in 5-7 minute presentation for our Make Your Case panels. During the presentation you will be expected to present your business idea and make your case for why your business is viable or posed for growth, and explain how your participation in the class will help your business reach that next level.

The Make Your Case panels will take place between March 11-14, 2019 with both daytime and evening slots available. Final decisions for acceptance into the class should be made by March 15, 2019, with final notification sent no later than March 18, 2019. The first session of the class will begin March 26, 2019 with an orientation for all the participants selected.

What Can I Expect If I am Selected?

  • Attend and participate in 80% of class sessions includes 2 presentation sessions
  • Must present final business case presentation
  • Submit final business plan within established guidelines with financial projections
  • Meet with the instructor(s) at least three times for individual business counseling sessions during the cohort.
  • Upon successful completion of the program students receive a certificate of completion


The classroom training will start on Tuesday, March 26th from 6-9 pm in our TEC4950 location at 4950 W. Thomas in Chicago. The training component will be 11 weeks long (with two more weeks for the final presentations) and the class will meet every Tuesday night for three hours.

During the training period, the participants will be required to submit periodic updates of key portions of their business design strategy to the trainers, and occasionally share those updates with other class participants. Those unable to provide such updates will be excused from the class. At the conclusion of the 10 weeks of formal training, the class will have two additional weekly sessions where the students present their business strategy to fellow students and to a panel made up of  small business experts, bankers, and SBDC counselors and mentors. This will be a key factor in determining how ready the students are to qualify for the microloan program described below. At the conclusion of the presentation sessions, a commencement/graduation ceremony will be held June 2019 to recognize the student’s accomplishments, and a certificate of completion will be given to those meeting the requirements of graduation.

CIBC will operate and manage a microloan fund pool specifically for program graduates. Loans will be written with more flexible underwriting criteria than the bank’s conventional commercial loans, with a high range of $10,000 for start-ups and a maximum of $30,000 for qualifying existing business, although in some cases a loan may even exceed this amount. Final decisions for the microloan fund will be made by the bank.

Another component includes matching each student with an experienced business mentor who can provide ongoing assistance and support through the class and once the class has ended. The individual mentor’s role is to provide feedback, access to networking resources, and provide guidance in the business start-up or expansion process. It is the intent to match each student with a mentor halfway through the class, if possible. Graduates become members of the alumni network entering into a larger entrepreneurial support network in addition to continual access to Bethel resources, workshops and Small Business Development Center guidance.

Click here to begin the Business Start-Up Training application

Class topics (tentative order) for the 12 week session include:
Week  1 Establishing Unique Value Proposition and Capital Access Readiness

Week 2 Mission and Vision Mapping

Week 3 Market Industry Research and Target Market Identification 

Week 4 Operational Strategy

Week 5 Business Finance

Week 6 Marketing Fundamentals

Week 7 Marketing and Branding Strategy

Week 8 Social Media Marketing

Week 9 Legal Structure and Insurance

Week 10 Presentation Pitch Preparation

Week 11 Final Student Presentations

Week 12 Final Student Presentations


Students that attend and participate in at least 10 of the 13 sessions (which include the 11 training and 2 presentation sessions), write an acceptable business plan with financial projections, and complete a presentation will be eligible to receive a certificate of completion and consideration for a microloan.

Apply now for the Winter 2019 Business Start-Up Training program

After submitting your application you should receive a notice on your screen that your application has been successfully submitted. No confirmation email is automatically sent, but if you have any question whether the submission went through, contact to confirm.

Click on this link for the Business Start-Up Training Program application.