Local Entrepreneurs Get Helping Hand
Debut sessions of local business mentoring program a success.
For those brave souls who want to open a local business, the landscape can be daunting, fraught with permits, tax information, payroll upkeep, marketing and a host of other considerations to weigh heavy on those entreprenurial shoulders.
A new partnership between the Oak Park Development Corporation and a group of seasoned business professionals Senior Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) Chicago aims to help navigate the icy waters of business ownership. The program, which pairs business owners and entreprenuers for mentoring sessions, is free and open to nonprofits and for-profits alike.
To see the the partnership in action on Tuesday, we paid a visit to the OPDC's offices at 104 N. Oak Park Ave., where Diane Palma and Bob Nevin sat beside one another at a large conference table in a room overlooking the lobby of U.S. Bank.
Palma will soon open her reflexology business inside 1042 Pleasant Street. She's never launched a business alone before, so her main focus, in short, is "making sure I do it right."
She's wondering where to drop her business cards, where to market, how to find referrals. Nevin, who recently retired from the medical sales industry, helped her pinpoint some areas to target. He also encouraged her to develop her business plan, "because having a good business plan gives you at least a road map."
Nevin estimates about 70 percent of those seeking consultations are forming start-ups like Palma's. The remainder are owners of existing businesses in search of a fresh pair of eyes to review their operations.
And that's precisely what was taking place in another nearby office, where SCORE's Dan Czuba was speaking with Rachel Dennis, owner of the in Oak Park. Her restaurant at 1101 Lake Street is "off to a great start" and she's hoping to keep it sustained.
Dennis said the hour long session was a chance to step away from her daily responsibilities at the restaurant and take a long view about its future.
"I didn't really go in with an agenda," she said. "My main desire was to get some insight with someone who's been in business a long time because that's what I'd like to be."
Free consultations for business owners and local entrepreneurs are scheduled to take place on the first Tuesday of every month in the OPDC offices at 104 N. Oak Park Ave., Suite 203. Appointments can be made online at the SCORE Chicago website or by calling (312) 353-7724. For scheduling assistance, contact the Oak Park Development Corporation at (708) 383-3838.