Evanston’s Economic Development Committee is recommending that the City Council fund two projects to encourage more entrepreneurs to launch businesses in Evanston.

Both projects are proposed by local start-up business owners.

Miguel Wong and Eric Harper, founders of the co-working space coLab Evanston, want to host a series of classes, workshops and meetups for entrepreneurs and create a mentorship program.

They’re seeking $32,400 from the city to fund about 45 percent of the cost of the program from Aug. 1 through the end of the year.

CoLab, at 900 Chicago Ave., has already hosted a number of similar programs that Wong and Harper say have been very successful, and the additional funds would allow them to substantially expand program offerings.

The owners say coLab, which opened last October, now has 45 active members, most of whom are independent professionals in software development, design, sales and marketing and research.

While the coLab project focuses largely on high-tech businesses, Now We’re Cookin’ founder Nell Funk  seeks to target entrepreneurs who want to develop new food products.

Top: Miguel Wong and Eric Harper of coLab. Above: Nell Funk of Now We’re Cookin’.

Funk’s business has operated at 1601 Payne St. since 2007 as a shared kitchen space for startup food businesses that also offers cooking classes and events.

She says over 60 people are now employed by 35 companies that use the shared kitchen.

But only 16 percent of the 57 businesses that have used the space since it opened have grown large enough to establish their own spaces.

She says she hopes to improve that success rate by implementing an incubator model that will provide up-front training, on-going education and stronger support services.

“A lot of people can bake and have a product idea,” Funk says, “but they don’t have the general business knowledge to make their operations successful.”

She’s seeking $35,050 from the city to fund about 52 percent of the program from Aug. 1 through the end of the year.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she believes more resources for entrepeneurs, like those planned for both projects, would help encourage more businesses to launch and grow in Evanston.

The committee Wednesday night voted to recommend both projects, after getting the organizers to promise to provide some participation in the programs at a discount to low income or unemployed Evanston residents.

Both coLab and Now We’re Cookin’ plan to ask for additional city funding next year, but gradually reduce their dependence on the city aid.

The plans will be up for final approval by the full City Council next month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Not Again

    This city council is unbelievable. It has no qualms about wasting taxpayer money. FDR and Obama actions should be a learning lesson for them to follow. Both men threw their policy in with the failure of spend, spend, spend. It didn't work for FDR and it didn't work for Obama but our city council thinks that it will work for them.

    Look at their voting records and throw all the spenders out at the next election.

  2. I should start up a business too…

    Wow- with our city government, with public tax money, taking all the risk for so many various ventures, we all should start up businesses!!  Think of the investment opportunities!

      Some ideas that for sure have merit-

    1.  squirrel poop collection services

    2.  Schnitzel and wurst restaurant- THis town for sure needs more meat

    3.  Fruit on bikes- So local that you can roll out of bed and grab it

    Seriously though, this council is spending out of control.    The next elections can not come soon enough.

  3. Does any one on the the council have any sense?

    Why in the world would we give $75,000 to these people to expand internet businesses?  Does anyone get the idea this is just giving money to private interests with no public purpose? 

    The issue is Wally is cutting, funding from public programs, like closing a branch library, which you can say few use, but it still is for the public, He is squeezing other programs by not staffing them correctly that serve the public. He steals most of ETCV funding.

    He is going to be selling zoning along with parkland and a builiding which he claims he has not funds to maintain, yet he can give a couple of individuals $75,000 of our money.

    On top of all this he is playing all kinds of games with the budget to keep it a flow.

    Maybe its time to down size the economic development department, if this is all the better projects it can come up with? 

    By the way I hear the renters on in above the Wine and Cheese Bar, I am wondering if they are paying the rent or will it turn into another mess, like a few years back when they did not collect the rent for over a year on the apartment the city owned behind the Civic Center.( wonder if any council care?)

  4. Should have asked for more money

    Being an any-stage business in Evanston is easy money. From a non-existent "museum" ($500K) to updating private business buildings (several instances) to establishing a wine bar ($1M+) and  buying real estate for the benefit of a grocery store chain ($1M+).

    These folks should have asked for $1M or at least $500K. The city doesn't have any problems tossing that money around. They seem like a decent group who could do some general good, so they probably won't get the funding.

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