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West Side Entrepreneurs Get New Help Launching Businesses

CHICAGO, Dec. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Bethel New Life and The PrivateBank are pleased to introduce a new program to help entrepreneurs on Chicago's West Side launch new businesses.

Thirty entrepreneurs from the communities served by Bethel New Life have been selected to participate in a one-year training program. Qualified graduates of the program who save at least $1,500 of their own funds will receive a grant of up to $6,000 and will be eligible for up to $10,000 in financing from The PrivateBank's Entrepreneurial Loan Program for start-up business expenses.

"We're working to build a vibrant economy on Chicago's West Side and we know small businesses are the key," said Lori Vallelunga, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Bethel New Life. "By equipping entrepreneurs who have good ideas for new businesses, together we will create critical jobs in our community."

More than 160 people went through a rigorous application process that culminated in fifty finalists presenting their business ideas to a panel fashioned after the popular ABC show "Shark Tank."

Participants will attend 15 weekly classes to develop a business plan, work with experienced business mentors for a year, and join a community of innovators on Chicago's West Side. Students who successfully save $1,500 of their own income receive matching funds of $6,000 from Bethel.

"This program will help me hire, train and pay people a livable wage from my community," says Ricky Veal, who plans to launch a contracting business to restore abandoned homes on the West Side. "I love to see the faces of families when you hand them the keys to their own home."

The program is a public-private partnership between Bethel New Life and several corporate partners. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will provide matching grants for each entrepreneur. The PrivateBank has created the Entrepreneurial Loan Program, providing loans of up to $10,000 to qualified participants who successfully complete the program. The PrivateBank, along with other partners including Bank of America, Wintrust, Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest, Urban Partnership Bank, and BMO Harris, sent bank executives to help select the strongest candidates. An individual donor has pledged a $50,000 matching grant to support administrative costs.

"Small businesses employ more than half of the private sector workforce in the United States," said Larry D. Richman, President and Chief Executive Officer at The PrivateBank. "These new businesses will provide jobs and economic growth in these West Side communities. The PrivateBank is committed to fueling this important economic engine in the city by providing an important source of funding to these new small business entrepreneurs."

Vallelunga added, "Our community faces challenging economic conditions, but West Siders have long known that if there aren't jobs, you create them. Our community has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and track record of small business development. We are excited to provide opportunities for new entrepreneurs to develop the skills and access the resources that they will need to build their business and to strengthen our community."

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