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Former Chicago area football player opens new South Side incubator

New South Side incubator opens thanks to former Chicago area college and NFL star
Former Chicago area football player opens new South Side incubator 02:27

CHICAGO (CBS) — A former college football player has opened a small business incubator for young Black and Brown men in Chicago to help them become successful students, employees, or business owners.

"I can relate to him because we don't have too many Black superheroes where I come from," said Jaurice Winston, referring to Walter Mendenhall, a former college football player who now gives back to his community.

"I wanted to be a hero on the field, but what I realized, there's so much more joy helping others than really helping myself and then to find myself," Mendenhall said. 

Mendenhall said young people of color can play a crucial role in revitalizing the city's South and West Sides.

As a part of that vision, his nonprofit organization, Male Mogul Initiative, launched Co-LLAB right off the Dan Ryan at 61st and Wentworth.

It provides members with direct and indirect services they need to launch their businesses or find valuable career opportunities.

He says it's a solution to supply chain problems related to the COVID pandemic in 2021 and 2022.

"Just a lot of markup in materials and raw materials. And we were no longer able to buy the product and sell it at a reasonable price. So Co-LLAB is a solution to that where let's make our own products," Mendenhall said. 

The South Side incubator is for creatives of color developing businesses in the arts, entertainment, and retail.

Members will have access to machinery to print and manufacture their products.

More than 20 people have been on the waitlist to join Co-LLAB. By the end of the year, Mendenhall hopes to have 120 members.

It helps young men from the ages of 14 to 24.

Vondale Singleton from CHAMPS Male Mentoring and Jermaine Anderson from I Am A Gentleman said their kids will benefit from this space.

"Some of the young men from I Am A Gentleman have recently created their own clothing line. They started this project before we knew the Co-LLAB space," Anderson said. 

"It's just like, whoa, I got a brother beside me that's doing similar work and making an impact on young men in Chicago," said Singleton. 

Co-LLAB charges a small membership fee, starting at $20 a month.

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