Twelve Hispanic-Owned Companies to Participate in Three-Month Accelerator Program; Will Receive Access to Educational Programming, Mentors and Technology to Build their Businesses

Chicago-based technology incubator 1871 and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) announced Thursday the 12 businesses that make up the first cohort of a new incubator focused on fostering opportunities for Hispanic-owned technology companies. As part of the 12-week program, the tech companies will be provided educational programming, resources, technological support and guidance toward raising funding.

"IHCC is pleased to partner with 1871 to help develop this next generation of innovative Latinx entrepreneurs,” said Omar Duque, President & CEO of IHCC. “The incubator will provide the participating businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities to learn, connect and and collaborate with each other, fulfilling IHCC’s mission to help grow companies that will create transformational social change and sustainable economic impact in the future.”

The joint incubator provides the businesses within the cohort direct access to mentors from a variety of backgrounds, and tailored content designed specifically for the individual businesses.

“Building diversity and inclusion in the tech community is a core pillar of 1871’s efforts, and this new accelerator is a crucial addition to our ongoing efforts,” said Howard A. Tullman, 1871 CEO. “Through a strong partnership with IHCC, these companies will be provided access to all manner of resources and opportunities that will accelerate their growth.”

Member companies in the first cohort include:

Women In Comedy
Game Seed Inc.
Menta TV

1871 has previously partnered with Chicago Urban League, CODE2040, ImBlackinTech, Ms. Tech, Code Latino and many other organizations in an effort to increase opportunities for underserved entrepreneurs. The Hispanic technology incubator is supported by a number of organizations, including JPMorgan Chase and Wintrust Financial.

"I am incredibly excited to be part of the first IHCC and 1871 cohort,” said Victoria Nones, founder of Women in Comedy. “Gaining valuable resources and education in order to further the efforts of my company, Women In Comedy, will be monumental. I can't wait to collaborate with other Latinx entrepreneurs and am grateful for the opportunity."

The accelerator is directed by Manny Ozaeta, who brings extensive knowledge of 1871, its member companies, and a strong understanding of the Hispanic business community. Ozaeta was previously 1871’s director of membership and has worked for a variety of organizations in Chicago, including Culloton Strategies and the Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“Being a part of the IHCC and 1871 program is an incredible opportunity to create meaningful relationships within the Latinx and 1871 communities and take my work at Paladin to the next level,” said Kristen Sonday, co-founder and COO of Paladin. “I'm grateful for the mentorship and resources provided through the program and look forward to contributing to the future of Latinx entrepreneurs in Chicago.”

For more information on the program, or to speak with one of the cohort members, email press@1871.com

About the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC)

The Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) is the leading Hispanic business, networking, advocacy and development organization in the state of Illinois. IHCC empowers entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. We are a community of business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals committed to empowering individuals through economic growth. With decades of combined business experience, IHCC engages entrepreneurs through community advocacy, networking, and innovative one-on-one training designed to help them be leaders and agents of change in today’s world. We contribute to the financial strength of the economy by helping businesses create jobs, increase their revenue and be more profitable. For more info visit www.ihccbusiness.net.

About 1871

1871 is the home of almost 500 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 130,000 square-foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators Techstars Chicago and the Good Food Business Accelerator; impact investing fund Impact Engine; half a dozen industry-specific incubators in key areas such as real estate, education technology, food and financial technology; several emerging tech talent schools (Fullstack Academy, Actualize, Future Founders, Designation and Evolve Security Academy), and the state’s leading technology advocate, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. It is the second home to Chicago-based VCs, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, MATH Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for DePaul University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology and DeVry. 1871 has fast become recognized as the hub for the city’s entrepreneurial/technology ecosystem and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

Women's Small Business Month - Purple Group

As part of Women’s Small Business Month, IHCC is highlighting some of the women-owned businesses that are part of our community of passionate entrepreneurs. Answers have been edited for clarity.

Laritza Lopez, Founder & CEO of Purple Group

Laritza Lopez, Founder & CEO of Purple Group

Laritza Lopez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States with her family when she was 12 years old. She grew up in the Little Village area, played trombone in the Kelly High School marching band, and graduated from Loyola University Chicago. After spending the first part of her career working for Fortune 200 companies, Laritza founded Purple Group, a strategic marketing and communications consulting firm.

How did you discover your passion for marketing?
I started my marketing career when I was 16. I had gotten this job working at an auto place that I absolutely hated. It was dirty and I had to work late at night. I started talking with my teachers about my job and my band teacher said his wife ran a non-profit that had their offices in downtown Chicago. He introduced me to his wife and got me an interview, and I started as an intern doing data-entry and other office tasks. Every evening when the other staff left, the marketing team would still be there doing their work and I would go over and talk to them. I eventually asked to be moved to the marketing area, and after asking a couple of times they agreed. I used to write all the copy for trade shows and events, and when I got to college they asked if I could stay with them and I worked there my first year.

What inspired you to take the leap and become an entrepreneur?
After college, I was recruited into a management program with a bank, and it also transformed my life. I got to rotate into different areas of the bank to learn how to analyze business and network.  After the program, I went straight into a marketing officer position with that bank and I spent 17 years in corporate. After that, the idea of “What do I want to be doing when I’m 50?” popped into my head, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t doing what I was doing. I resigned and then spent some time backpacking through Latin America. It was then that I decided to start my own company.

How has your business evolved throughout the years and what has been the biggest challenge the organization has overcome?
Fifteen years ago, I started my company as a strategic communications consulting service. We grew with our clients, and have added services as our clients ask for them. We became Purple Group because we saw the demographic shift in America, saw the rise of the multi-ethnic millennial generation. The biggest challenge we have encountered was the recession (in 2008). It was the most difficult time for any business, just surviving.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Make sure you nail down what your revenue model is going to be. Make sure you know how you’re going to make money.

What are your future goals for Purple Group?
Our goal now is to double in size over the next few years, but we want to do it profitably. We recently launched a consumer product division and we are pursuing different clients, which is exciting. I also want to continue to provide a high energy, fulfilling environment for our team members.  

Learn more about Purple Group at www.purplegrp.com


Women's Small Business Month - Multilingual Connections

As part of Women’s Small Business Month, IHCC is highlighting some of the women-owned businesses that are part of our community of passionate entrepreneurs.

Jill Bishop is the founder and CEO of Multilingual Connections, an agency that provides professional translation and interpretation services in over 75 languages. Jill founded her company 11 years ago when she was looking for career flexibility and now leads a staff of 11, translating for clients such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Stanford University and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

What inspired you to take the leap and become an entrepreneur?
I had turned in a voluntary resignation letter and decided it was the perfect time to take the risk of starting my own business. I knew I wanted to have a family and have flexibility, so I decided to take a year to see if I could create a business that could sustain me and fulfill me professionally.

Jill Bishop, Founder/CEO of Multilingual Connections

Jill Bishop, Founder/CEO of Multilingual Connections

What is the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
Just like a human being, a business grows and changes over the course of its life. I’ve had to learn to stay flexible for what the business needs and the vision I had for it. My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to stay open to the different directions your business may take and be flexible in the way that you look at things.

What are your long term goals and dreams for Multilingual Connections?
I want to continue growing the business and also create additional opportunities for career growth for Multilingual Connection’s employees.  I would like to be giving them the tools to run with it and constantly be learning and growing.

Learn more about Multilingual Connections at http://multilingualconnections.com/