New grant opens doors for aspiring entrepreneurs

ILLINOIS (WCIA) -- Getting a business off the ground is tough, especially when it comes to finances. But, a new state program could open new doors.

Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill to help low-income entrepreneurs pursue their dreams.

"I never gave up, but there are many times I thought, 'What am I doing? Am I crazy?'"

Judy Smith says opening her event planning business has been a roller-coaster ride this past year.

"I had to take one obstacle at a time. I've been doing this since August and I'm just now in the shop. I'm still working on the shop."

She's already invested more than $1,000; most going toward remodeling and supplies.

"It's extremely difficult and extremely expensive."

Now, those at the Capitol want to make the process easier, giving aspiring entrepreneurs a better chance at success.

"I think it's going to let a lot of people's dreams come true with what they want to do."

A new pilot program will give low-income people free state dollars for start-ups. It's something Smith says she would've wanted.

"If I would have had a grant, that would've helped me out. That would've saved me so much stress and tears. It would be amazing."

Lawmakers hope the program evens the playing field and brings much needed economic growth to struggling communities.

"I think they should go for it and, if they get a grant, they should try. You won't be successful unless you try."

Applicants will be asked to submit a business proposal to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. They'll need to reapply each year.

It's unclear how much money is up for grabs. According to the US Small Business Administration, the average cost of a start-up is $29,000. For food service, it spikes up to $125,000.


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