Black-owned and operated craft cafe Overflow Coffee works to expand, as founder seeks to inspire entrepreneurs

CHICAGO (CBS) — Overflow Coffee is one of the only black-owned and operated craft cafes in the city — and as it grows, its founder wants to pay for its success too.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Perlman reported on Wednesday, the cafe wants to help black, Latino and women entrepreneurs get started.

Ask entrepreneur Brian Jenkins, founder and president of Entrenuity, what fills his cup. He’ll tell you it’s the faith, family, and fuel of Chicago’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

“For me, it’s just a sense of responsibility to serve,” Jenkins said.

Entrenuity is headquartered at 1449 S. Michigan Ave. in the south loop. Downstairs, you’ll find artisan coffee, local pastries, and music at Overflow Coffee. But upstairs you’ll find mox.E – a coworking support space that allows people to turn their ideas into business.

“Our goal is to grow black and brown and women-owned businesses,” Jenkins said.

The South Loop building has its own entrepreneurial history. It is the original home of Vee-Jay Records – the largest black-owned record label in the 1950s and 1960s.

Vee-Jay was known for his roster of blues and R&B musical artists – including John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Betty Everett, Jerry “Iceman” Butler and Gene Chandler – as well as the Four Seasons.

The label also released the first Beatles record for the US market in 1963.

“We had no idea the Beatles were brought to the United States by Vee-Jay,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins and his team now use an original photo of Vee-Jay’s management team – Jimmy Bracken, Ewart Abner and Vivian and Calvin Carter – as inspiration.

“We have this entrepreneurial legacy of what Vee-Jay brought to the table in this building,” Jenkins said.

And now Jenkins and his team are powering Overflow to grow.

“I want to grow. I want to develop. I want to create opportunities for people like me,” Jenkins said.

This opportunity will come through a program – the Chicago Venture Summit with World Business Chicago. The overflow will extend to the West Side neighborhood of Austin – Jenkins. It will find its place in the Soul City Corridor, along Chicago Avenue, between Austin Boulevard and Cicero Avenue.

The Austin community doesn’t have many black-run, locally-run craft cafes.

“That’s something we want to be able to change and be able to offer a resource like this in the Austin community,” Jenkins said.

Manny Flores, chief executive of nonprofit development company SomerCor, will help navigate the expansion.

“Here in our communities on the West Side and South Side of Chicago, we see the need for more development,” Flores said.

Specifically, they want to see more development from black, Latina and women-owned businesses that struggle to raise capital — but need spaces like to shine.

“A lot of communities don’t have that, do they?” said Flores. “And the reality is that a lot of communities don’t have small businesses.”

For Jenkins, it’s a passion to pass on his South Loop space to others.

“We’re not just doing this for ourselves,” he said. “We do this with the intention of being a resource for others.”