Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs find new ally

L. Brian Jenkins has brought his businesses Entrenuity, Mox.E and Overflow Coffee to the South Loop to provide services to help entrepreneurs.

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L. Brian Jenkins stands in his new Overflow Coffee underneath his co-working space Mox.E, at 1449 S. Michigan Ave.

L. Brian Jenkins’s Overflow Coffee, at 1449 S. Michigan Ave., is in the building where the famous black-owned label VeeJay Records once operated. Besides the coffee shop, Jenkins also has a co-working space, Mox.E, upstairs. Jenkins has spend more than 20 years helping Black, Latino and female entrepreneurs in Chicago.

Zachary Clingenpeel/Sun-Times

When L. Brian Jenkins earned his master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College in 1993, many of his classmates went on to doctorate programs.

Jenkins, though, wanted to serve his religion in a way that brought change to his local community’s youth.

He stared working with Lawndale Christian Development Corp., a nonprofit that taught young people to own and operate their own businesses. That’s when he decided to leave the world of theology and help Chicago entrepreneurs — even though he had no formal training in business or entrepreneurship; he studied English and religion at the University of Iowa before going to grad school at Wheaton.

“That transition became where I really started to see the impact,” Jenkins said. “I started thinking, ‘Maybe the Lord wants to use me in this,’ even though I didn’t see it right away.”

In the decades since, Jenkins has worked with dozens of Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs to get their small businesses off the ground with workshops, books and his nonprofit businesses Entrenuity and Mox.E.

Jenkins began Entrenuity in 1999. It provides classes, business plan development and capital investment to entrepreneurs with a focus on Black, Latino and women business owners. Mox.E, which opened in February, provides working spaces for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Jenkins said he became “infatuated” with entrepreneurship because it “creates freedom” for poor communities. “It has never, never been about money for me,” he said.

L. Brian Jenkins, owner of Entrenuity, sits in the conference room in his new South Loop co-working space Mox.E, where his non-profit company will provide business services to Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs.

L. Brian Jenkins in the conference room in his new South Loop co-working space Mox.E, which provides business services to Black, Latino and women entrepreneurs.

Zachary Clingenpeel/Sun-times

Jenkins opened a new location for Mox.E and his coffee shop, Overflow Coffee, at 1449 S. Michigan Ave., on Feb. 19. The building is the previous home to VeeJay Records, which was at one point one of the largest Black-owned record companies in the U.S.

Overflow Coffee is on the first floor; co-working space, with rentable private offices and conference rooms, is on the second.

The building is in Ald. Pat Dowell’s 3rd Ward. Dowell has taken active interest in the new location, helping Jenkins get more involved with South Loop businesses.

“Not only is Entrenuity a Black-owned business,” Dowell said, “but their whole success model is about helping other minority entrepreneurs and small business owners grow and become stronger parts of our community.”

Angela Madaha, Mox.E director of operations, helps to coordinate two business groups — the Chicago Entrepreneurship Operators and the women-led Get Cities Chicago — that help “create funded programs and access points for [business] founders.”

Madaha got involved with Mox.E after working with Jenkins to teach women entrepreneurs. 

“I was really attracted to the business model here, which is a nonprofit that works as a social enterprise,” Madaha said. “They don’t depend on funding, but they are self-sustainable.”

Candace Washington credits Jenkins’ Entrenuity with helping her take her business to the next level. Two years ago, Washington worked with Entrenuity to rebrand her career training business, Pivotal Impact Learning, which is geared at helping Black and Brown professionals develop career skills.

“There is a heart of passion behind everything you see with Overflow, Entrenuity and Mox.E,” Washington said. “It’s all about service and how we can help one another grow, get better and prosper.”

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce said businesses like Entrenuity “are a critical part of Chicago’s future and our economic recovery.”

Jenkins has written two books about entrepreneurship and business management and has started a third: “Theology of Entrepreneurship: God as Creative Disruptor.”

“My faith has always been my motivator,” Jenkins said. ”It has gotten me through tough times as well as good times. It is my core conviction of why I do what I do.”

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