Posted by: Lauren Talley | June 25, 2009

Hard Working Event Helps Future Small Business Entrepreneurs

Wednesday marked our third Hard Working event. This time we focused on starting a small business. The event had an expert panel, Q & A session and info tables where visitors could explore the different resources available. The audio of the event should be posted in the next week or so.

So who was there? About 100 people showed up to learn more about how to set up shop and where to go for help.

Carole Harris is a lead business development specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Illinois District Office.

Mark Hutchens is in the winery business. He co-owns Robert Houde Wines, LLC with Robert Houde out of Bensenville, Illinois.

Efrat Dallal Stein is the director of public information with the City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection.

Curt Roeschley is the director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Hull House.

Elizabeth Gardner is the director of The Women’s Business Development Center.

Carole Harris noted two important tips to starting a small business: Once you’ve created an idea, outline it and then look for business development resources at a local Small Business Development Center.

Mark Hutchens of Robert Houde Wines, LLC started a business with his partner Robert Houde. He said one of the most important part of starting your own business is to determine if there’s a viable market. Ask if it’s the right place, time and product and if it is, go for it, if not, keep churning out ideas until you find one that fits.

We answered some of your questions:

Q1: Register your business, register your name and your assumed name, are all three of these the same thing?

A1: No. Registering your business with the city and state and getting an LLC doesn’t protect your name. You have to register your name with a trademark company and this is separate from the business registration.

Q2: Where should I look for loans?

A2: Mark found smaller community banks helpful because they usually keep the money local. Find a bank that’s willing to work with the SBA. He also suggested trying microloans.

Q3: How can I get startup money for a nonprofit?

A3: This is where it gets kinda tough. Some banks may have money set aside, but generally the nonprofit is working with a grant or cooperative. Carole suggests the Community Economic Development Law Project.

Q4: How can I write a strong business plan?

A4: Mark picked up a cliff notes version of “how to write a business model” from a used bookstore. I found an online version here. Ask business people and experts at SBDCs for help.

Q5: How can I find market research?

A5: For market research, Mark suggested using Google and looking at the U.S. Census Bureau. Carole also suggested looking up North American Industry Classification System codes.

Q6: I already have a small business, how can I increase my sales?

A6: Work with a marketing plan and talk to others in your industry. Carole suggested speaking with a small business development center and trade organizations.

If you couldn’t make it this time, don’t worry! Chicago Amplified recorded the whole session and we’ll have it up on the site as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, you can check out these additional resources:

Small Business Administration

City of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection

Illinois Small Business Development Center at Hull House

The Women’s Business Development Center

Small Business Development Center

Community Economic Development Law Project


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