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mHUB Innovation Center Announces Partnership with West Side Forward


Press Contact: 
Kim Blomquist 


mHUB Innovation Center Announces Partnership with West Side Forward to Launch Hardtech Business Program in Garfield Park

A part of the mHUB Catalyze Initiative, the partnership includes funding and programmatic support to expand access to hardtech acceleration on the South and West Sides of Chicago

(CHICAGO March 2, 2023) – mHUB, a leading independent hardtech and manufacturing innovation center, today announced a partnership with West Side Forward to relaunch its BIT program for hardtech entrepreneurs. The partnership is part of an effort at mHUB called the Catalyze Initiative, which will grant $100,000 to 3 organizations annually to extend resources to entrepreneurship throughout Chicago’s South and West Sides.

West Side Forward is the first community partner to be awarded grant funding through the Catalyze Initiative. It was selected from an RFP seeking organizations that deliver technical assistance programming for Black and Latino product-based businesses on the South or West Side of Chicago. The grant will support the expansion of specific West Side Forward services as well as one-year of mHUB programming through the partnership. This work is supported by We Rise Together at the Chicago Community Trust.

West Side Forward is committed to the economic revitalization of communities on the west side of Chicago. The organization seeks to bring jobs and infrastructure to connect residents into long-term career opportunities and the creation of viable businesses.

West Side Forward will launch the second phase of its Business Innovation Technology (BIT) program, initially launched in 2017 in partnership with Blackstone Charitable Foundation and World Business Chicago. The three-year initiative developed 15 new businesses and connected 80 local residents into the manufacturing and tech ecosystems. Revitalizing the BIT program will support 20 black founders in bringing products to market as well as focus on training and building a talent pipeline for the aging manufacturing workforce, which has historically been poorly represented. Phase two of the BIT program features a Workforce Innovation Institute offering a suite of courses and resources for local residents to explore careers in manufacturing and technology.

“While we’ve had longstanding partnerships with West Side Forward and other community-based business support organizations, it’s clear that we have to dig deeper and invest in truly collaborative programming to drive stronger pipelines to entrepreneurship,” said Shannon McGhee, Director, mHUB Community Impact and Engagement. “While this is not the first step in our partnership, it’s a substantial leap in investing in the bridge between place-based economic development and high-tech. We are so thrilled to launch this work to establish satellite sites to catalyze hardtech startup growth with such a perfectly-aligned partner.”

The West Side Forward BIT program provides training, mentorship, and capital resources for propelling early to mid-stage manufacturing based businesses forward. BIT includes cohort-based programming and exclusive industry access, both of which Catalyze funding will help activate. Through this initiative the BIT program will enable entrepreneurs and minority owned businesses to produce initial prototypes of their products or to bring a physical product to scale. Partnering with mHUB will build further capacity for prototyping and handling small manufacturing runs while tapping into the technological expertise and product capabilities needed.

“This has the potential to truly impact residents of the West Side,” said Ed Coleman, West Side Forward Founding President and Chief Executive Officer. “The coupling of mHUB’s expertise in product acceleration and our backbone in business and community development is the foundation for a dynamic blueprint for wealth building.”

Applications for West Side Forward BIT programs are opening soon. Programming and access provided by mHUB will kick-off when participants are selected, and BIT is fully relaunched.

The granted community partners program, of which West Side Forward will participate, is just one of the four programs under the Catalyze Initiative umbrella. The other programs include the mPOWER program for startup founders, the Landis Family Foundation HardTech Fellowship, and the Equity in Innovation Scholarship Fund. The goal of the Catalyze Initiative is to drive wealth creation for a more diverse set of business owners by supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs at the earliest stages to take an idea to proof of concept and then towards commercialization.

“Through partnerships with trusted partners like mHUB, West Side Forward is fueling the pipeline to true wealth building opportunities,” said Roxanne Charles, West Side Chief Engagement Officer.

At full scale, the Catalyze Initiative is projected to support more than 300 companies to generate more than $500 million in revenue, raise more than $300 million in capital, and support more than 3,000 jobs throughout the economy.

To learn more about the Catalyze Initiative and how to get involved, visit: https://www.mhubchicago.com/catalyze

To learn more about the West Side Forward BIT program, visit: https://www.westsideforward.org/tech-startup

About mHUB 

mHUB is a leading independent hardtech and manufacturing innovation center that exists to convene the entrepreneurial ecosystem around physical product innovation to ensure that the manufacturing industry continues to accelerate, grow and thrive. The mHUB community includes over 428 active and alumni startups and small businesses supported by a deep talent pool of product designers and developers, entrepreneurs, engineers and manufacturers, corporate leaders, industry experts, mentors and investors. mHUB provides a hyper-resourced environment to entrepreneurs with the goal of commercializing new hardtech innovation that will lead to new businesses, intellectual property, investment, revenue and job creation. Since launching in 2017, the mHUB community has generated more than $721M in revenue, launched more than 1,398 products, hired more than 3,987 employees, and raised over $1B in capital. 

About West Side Forward

West Side Forward is focused on delivering community transformation through business development, workforce development and industrial development advocacy on the west side of Chicago. Through a community driven, regionally connected ecosystem of opportunities, West Side Forward, is driving the attraction of sustainable, living wage jobs and the creation of entrepreneurship opportunities in industry sectors traditionally lacking diversity and inclusivity. Annually West Side Forward provides opportunities for individuals and families to invest in themselves through career preparation, elevation, and fulfillment in high demand high potential industries paying living wages, as well as job and income creation based on business ownership and management.