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Participants attend the Entrepreneurs Works Fund “Pitch and Brew” event. During the events, entrepreneurs discuss business ideas and challenges. — PHOTO SUBMITTED BY THE ENTREPRENEUR WORKS FUND

Support for creative entrepreneurs in West Philadelphia and Chester is on the horizon.

The Entrepreneur Works Fund has received $100,000 from the Kresge and Surdna Foundations to support a two-year pilot program to provide creative entrepreneurs in West Philadelphia and Chester with access to loan capital, matching grants and business guidance.

These entrepreneurs will play a pivotal role in revitalizing their communities — by leasing gallery or performance space along emerging arts corridors, hiring local residents, building community among local residents and business owners from all walks of life and encouraging equitable development.

“Creative entrepreneurs have long been among our clientele, and we see them as tremendous community assets,” Leslie Benoliel, executive director of Entrepreneur Works Fund said in a press release. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to offer them loan capital and business guidance in a more concentrated and strategic way. This award will allow us to maximize the impact of our services, benefiting both individual artists and the communities of Chester and West Philadelphia.”

Entrepreneur Works is a nonprofit organization that focuses on growing businesses and jobs in the region. The organization is one of seven community development financial institutions that received a total of $1.3 million in funding from the Kresge and Surdna Foundations.

Entrepreneur Works Fund will partner with the community-based organizations People’s Emergency Center (PEC) in West Philadelphia and will focus on furthering PEC’s efforts to develop a thriving arts corridor along Lancaster Avenue. In the city of Chester Entrepreneur Works Fund will work with Chester Arts Alive! to help creative entrepreneurs thrive and grow their businesses in downtown Chester.

The joint Kresge-Surdna initiative, called Catalyzing Culture and Community through CDFIs, is intended to help support and expand CDFIs’ involvement in integrating arts and culture into local revitalization work, an approach to community development known as creative placemaking. The one-time competitive grant opportunity received more than 40 responses from community lenders to an open request for proposals launched in Sept. 2014.

The foundation funding allows the lenders to experiment with projects they might not have considered otherwise.

“It provides risk capital,” said Rip Rapson, the Kresge Foundation’s president and CEO. “We’re very pleased that these CDFIs are open to exploring the ways that investment in arts, culture and creative enterprises might help them meet their mission.”

The Kresge Foundation is a $3 billion private, national foundation that works to expand opportunities in America’s cities through grant-making and investing in arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services, and community development efforts in Detroit.

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable neighborhoods in the United States.

ajones@phillytrib.com

(215) 893-5747

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