Category Archives: Business News

Chicago Loans for SMEs

While Chicago ranks #3 in accommodating small businesses (boasting 230,000+ in its midst), unfortunately, the environment in which they should be thriving is not being nearly as accommodating as necessary. Given that the city’s principal banks seem to be more focused on big businesses, owners of SME’s and entrepreneurs are finding it increasingly difficult to get start-up loans from reputable sources.  As such, many “alternative” lenders are filling the niche and taking advantage of this situation in a less-than-legitimate manner.

It is often minority groups who pay the price.  Given that those struggling to obtain loans are usually minorities, women and veterans, vulnerability is running high.  As such Chicago has to come up with a new, more trustworthy solution.  One that is currently being promoted is SimpleGrowth – “the first lending platform built to strengthen the ability of Chicagoland small business owners to gain the capital they need to launch or grow their businesses.”

Should we look further afield to other parts of the state of Illinois, we find that SMEs are truly thriving.  the figures speak for themselves.  Currently approximately 1.2 million SMEs are in existence (lending employment to over 2.4 million individuals – comprising 46% of the private workforce).  These companies are providing incredibly “innovative solutions, meeting the needs of consumers, and pursuing their own dreams.”

Other resources available include the Illinois District of the U.S. Small Business Administration which has a branch in both Springfield and Chicago.  So there is good news in the Illinois area for small businesses; there just has to be more of a focus on giving a push start to struggling new firms in the Chicago region.

Small Business Saturday

On November 25, the entire country was able to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Chicago was not about to miss out.  Both owners of small businesses and consumers were able to benefit from what Chicago had to offer, especially at the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.  In fact, it’s one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Small Business Saturday has, over the years (since its inception in 2010), garnered a reputation for providing shoppers with better quality and more unique purchases.

Over in Bronzeville, there were around 20 local businesses that took the initiative to set up a spot where they sold their wares and which was especially useful for those selling pre-Christmas orders such as bakeries and decorative stores.

Meanwhile a new Andersonville store, Cowboys and Astronauts enjoyed great publicity as it had some great exposure.  After getting into the holiday spirit on Thanksgiving, this was the perfect opportunity to take it to the next level.

Business News in Chicago

Illinois-based Acquilon Energy Services has created an Energy Settlement Network using the power of Internet technology and big-data analytics to facilitate the process for firms to trade commodities such as natural gas, oil and power. Given that there has been an increase in renewable power and smart-grid technologies, more powerful mechanisms are needed to record, evaluate and affirm the exchange of energy.

Meanwhile, Kentech Consulting was awarded a contract worth $1.975 m by Baltimore’s Board of Estimates.  It will use the money for its speedy process of police recruit background checks (10 times faster than city workers).  This has caused a bit of a stir in Baltimore whose officials believe contracts such as these should be awarded locally.

And then there is Between States – a show in which 50 designers come together to “imagine the future of the city’s 50 aldermanic wards.”  A joint venture of the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the 50 participating firms are being requested to look at Chicago’s underutilized spaces and figure out a future.  The event will run until January 7, 2018.

Positives of Conducting Business in Illinois

According to a recent article by Chicago-based CPA Tom Jordan, conducting business in Illinois has many positive attractions.  Business owners in the region can actually do really well.  He further explains as follows:

  • The third largest population and GDP in America is Chicago and Analytics suggest Chicago will continue to drive the economy. As well, it is a place filled with great talent, top educational institutes and many qualities required to drive a business.
  • Strong manufacturing in the area
  • America’s transportation hub with an economic output of $40.9 billion via its air transportation per the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics.

For more practical information on starting and maintaining a business in Illinois, click here.

Chicago’s K.I.S.S Approach to the Business of Food

A food trend is happening nationwide and now businesses in Chicago are part of it.  Starting as a small basement project in Chicago back in the summer of 2013, a few best friends who were broke and “couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better protein bar out there” got together.  It was simple and it was honest.

They were told their packaging wouldn’t work:  not appetizing, just boring facts.  But that’s what they did and today they just list the four ingredients on their packages:

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 14 Peanuts
  • 2 Dates
  • No B.S.

Or:

  • 3 Egg Whites
  • 6 Almonds
  • 4 Cashews
  • 2 Dates
  • No B.S.

And now, it has been purchased by Kellogg’s.  For $600m.

According to a recent Forbes article by contributor Peter Wilkins, this transaction is indicative of “a growth signal for one of  Chicago’s booming new industries: simple food and beverage. Simple food and beverage companies are ones that focus on producing and distributing foods with whole, pronounceable ingredients that are transparently presented and are meant to be nutritionally good for you.”

And it seems to be what consumers want.  They want to be able to pronounce and recognize each ingredient on a label and are seeking out “less is more.”  The businesses that are providing this seem to be increasing their revenue around three times faster, while encountering a market share increase by 1.7% with their counterparts’ share simultaneously declining 0.7%.

Other Chicagoan examples include: SkinnyPop, Mike’s Hard, Peapod, Protein Bar and GrubHub.

Good Vibrations from Reverb

Chicago-based Reverb.com is doing really great things.  Just recently the company (that sells instrument and music gear online) launched its e-commerce site for music collectors.  Specializing in vinyl it is anticipated that this move will bolster the firm’s success, when it goes live later this year.

And with an injection of $15 million in funding, Reverb is clearly making a name for itself in the tech industry.  Big names like Max Levchin (co-founder of PayPal) and Adam Bain (ex-COO at Twitter) are making investments in the firm which will be used for new employee hires as well as the expansion of the company, worldwide.

Not surprisingly therefore, the company also landed a place on Inc. Magazine’s annual Inc. 500 list.

Forbes Recognition for Illinois Largest Private Firms

A recent Forbes list of top largest private firms in America had some astonishing results for Chicago.  Illinois, it seems is home to 13 of the country’s best largest firms for 2017. Although that figure was 14 a year ago, it’s still a very impressive record.

Number 11 on the 33rd annual list of 225 companies hails from Chicago.  Reyes Holding – the firm that owns food service and beer distribution companies – is based in Rosemont and has an annual revenue of $26.5 billion. This was up a spot from last year’s Number 12 position.

The list features private firms that have an annual revenue of $2 billion+ and at least 100 staff members.  Hence there were 225 companies this year and 223 last.

Here are the top 10 Illinois companies on the list and their rank:

  1. Reyes Holdings (Rosemont)
  2. Medline Industries (Mundelein)
  3. OSI Group (Aurora)
  4. Flex-N-Gate (Mundelein)
  5. Dot Foods (Mt. Sterling)
  6. Eby-Brown (Naperville)
  7. Walsh Group (Chicago)
  8. Amsted Industries (Chicago)
  9. Follett (Westchester)
  10. Koch Foods (Park Ridge)

 

Chicago Assisting Female Entrepreneurs

The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) recent opened a branch in the south suburbs, offering assistance to women who want to become entrepreneurs in the region.

Already – for over 30 years – this non-profit (based in Chicago) has been giving women (free) advice, programs, and services in order to bolster the amount of enterprises owned by women. Earlier this year, a small business development center satellite office was opened at Governors State University in University Park, by the organization. This was most welcome given the budgetary cuts which resulted in the closure of the Illinois Small Business Development Center.

Now though — thanks to a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the U.S. Small Business Administration – the WBDC is opened for business!