Walter Mendenhall former NFL Player Launches Co-LLAB- Small Business Art Incubator

Walter Mendenhall
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Co-LLAB, established by Walter Mendenhall, offers resources for aspiring entrepreneurs in the arts, entertainment, and retail sectors. It provides equipment for creating clothing and prints for on-site sales, as well as trade workshops and business development opportunities.

Young individuals with a passion for creativity and entrepreneurship now have the opportunity to kickstart their careers at a unique small business incubator located in Englewood.

Former NFL player Walter Mendenhall, surrounded by eager young people, ceremoniously cut the grand-opening ribbon at Co-LLAB, situated at 6033 S. Wentworth Ave. The name “Co-LLAB” is a play on the word “collaboration” and represents the collaborative spirit of the initiative.

Co-LLAB is the latest endeavor of Mendenhall’s nonprofit organization, the Male Mogul Initiative, which aims to empower Black and Brown youth aged 14-24 to excel academically and thrive as employees or entrepreneurs.

Since its inception in 2017 at New Life Southeast Church, the Male Mogul Initiative has grown significantly, initially serving five children and now reaching over 3,000 young individuals. Additionally, it has facilitated over 200 job opportunities, illustrating its positive impact on the community.

Mendenhall, who hails from Skokie, Illinois, rose to prominence alongside his brother, Rashard, while attending Niles West High School. Both siblings continued their education at the University of Illinois before pursuing careers in the NFL, with Walter Mendenhall playing for four different teams.

According to Mendenhall, Co-LLAB will serve as a gathering place for young Chicagoans to collaborate on solutions to pressing issues facing the city. Additionally, it will uphold the nonprofit’s mission of empowering youth on the South and West sides.

Members of the Englewood hub will have access to printing and manufacturing equipment to produce clothing, art prints, and embroidery. The incubator will also provide on-site experts in branding, marketing, taxes, finances, and more to assist with business development. Furthermore, members will have the opportunity to sell their creations at an in-house storefront.

For individuals interested in pursuing careers in the trades or construction, Co-LLAB will offer workshops in electrical work, welding, and aviation.

Membership fees for Co-LLAB begin at $20 per month. Currently, over 20 individuals are on a waitlist to join, and Mendenhall aims to have 120 members by the end of the year.

Those interested in becoming members of Co-LLAB can reach out to Mendenhall at

Jaurice Winston and Keith Bass, graduates of Mendenhall’s Male Mogul Initiative program, are experiencing a “full-circle moment” as co-managers of Co-LLAB. They expressed their enthusiasm for guiding others towards success.

Mendenhall established the Male Mogul Initiative with the goal of creating a community wealth-building ecosystem. Co-LLAB represents the initial phase of this vision.

Mendenhall emphasized the significance of creativity as a valuable asset in under-resourced communities in Chicago. He described Co-LLAB as a space where individuals can harness their creativity and turn it into financial opportunities.