Tag Archives: small business

Client Success Saturday!

Yovette Drake, owner of Flirtatious Lingerie Boutique, first accessed the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) through a Business Plan Critique Clinic, a small group setting that provides expert advice and precise feedback along with practical strategies to develop your business plan in conjunction with the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which helps entrepreneurs start a new business or expand or improve an existing business.

With 25 years of executive level experience and after conducting months of research and development, Yovette thought she knew what it would take to begin this entrepreneurial journey. However, within 3 months of opening her business, she realized that she couldn’t sustain the business with just selling lingerie.  Shortly after realizing this, and that she couldn’t rely solely on foot traffic and word of mouth, she went back to the drawing board. The idea of expansion and building out space not being utilized was the key to unlocking an entire set of new goals and developing a new plan. Flirtatious Lingerie Boutique now offers Kiss Studios, a space that allows their customers the opportunity to take fitness and dance classes, plus host parties and events.

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While going through the process of finding methods to improve her business, Meg Herman, the Director of Entrepreneurial services at the WBDC helped Yovette see things from a different perspective. The experience with WBDC helped her validate some of the things she knew but it also lead to question ideas she thought she knew in a more practical method.

When it comes to balancing personal life and work, she says “There is no real balance – it’s all a juggling act in which I work 90 percent of the time and sleep only 10 percent of the remaining time.” If you’re not ready to make that type of commitment to the business, you won’t last.”

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Yovette is very excited about the direction her business is going, but as any entrepreneur thinks, she is already strategizing ways to grow her business with the WBDC and other business partners. That is why she developed a series of workshops and events that will serve to bring the next generation of women entrepreneurs together to help empower and improve their businesses. In the next five years, Yovette hopes to see her business profitable with a strong client base.

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Client Success Saturday!

Paula Rodriguez, owner of Paula Interiors, learned of the Small Business Center (SBDC) at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) in November of 2013 through Starting a Business in Illinois, a workshop that explores the legal, licensing and general requirements of business ownership. At the time, Paula’s only objective was to see if her business idea was good enough to become reality. At an early age, Paula knew she wanted to be a designer but was uncertain as to what type of designer. When it was time to decide which path to follow, she asked herself what she wanted to accomplish in life. Paula knew that she wanted be able to create functional spaces and help people create a beautiful home and a space where family and friends can gather and create new memories. Through interior design, she is able to fulfill her creativity as well as express the passion that she has developed for structures and planning.

On August 2, 2014, Paula’s dream turned into a reality with opening her own design studio and retail space full of original pieces of art and sculptures along with a mix of vintage, antique and new furniture. She contributes her success to the help and support of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the WBDC.

“They (WBDC) guided me in all steps and laid down a path of how to start. I went to the WBDC to be paired with someone who helped me create a great business plan.”Paula_Interiors_Client photo

Paula goes on to say, “The counselors gave me a lot of feedback, answered all my questions and pointed me in the right direction. They also helped me analyze my financial options.”

Paula’s goal is to continue to strive to create a style that reflects the uniqueness of a house and its owner(s) by creating a space where functionality meets innovation.

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“Where do I find a grant to start my woman-owned business?”

All too often at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) we hear the question, “Where are the grants for women to start their businesses?” The answer: There are none.  No really, there are none.  If you find a grant for women starting a business, please post the information in the comments below, because in the last 27 years we have yet to see one.

Yes, there are loans for business start-ups, small business competitions with cash prizes and occasionally, you can find grants through Small Business Administration (SBA) non-profit partners, if you are already in business, but you aren’t going to find a grant without showing you have some “skin in the game.”  You need to prove that you are just as invested in your business as investors, grantors or lenders are going to be.  It’s time to get serious and shift your focus from looking for free money to building a solid foundation with a business plan, a thorough analysis of your financials (past personal and projected business) and target market research.

A question was recently posted on PartnerUp regarding the necessity of a traditional business plan.  Some thought they were irrelevant in this day and age of the ever changing business climate, while others saw them as completely necessary.  What do you think? Based on what we’ve seen with clients over the years, the ones that write down their idea into a solid plan and update that plan on a yearly basis have seen the greatest success and continue to sustain a fruitful business.  Plus, when it comes time to look for funding, it’s unlikely you’ll be taken seriously without putting your business in writing.

So what can you do if you’re a start-up looking for funding?  If you’re in Chicago, consider the WBDC Micro Finance Program, a direct lending program where the WBDC, as a core member of the Chicago Microlending Intitute (CMI), is making loans for Chicago business owners seeking additional support.  Plus, the WBDC provides a free webinar, Take the Mystery out of Finance, every month, and below is the most recent recording of the presentation, which covers crowdfunding and more. Watch it, take notes, and if you have questions ask us at wbdc@wbdc.org.

In two weeks, we’ll discuss more about furthering your education as a business owner when it comes to finance.  In the meantime, take time to become educated on financial resources available for you.  Here are just a few more, besides WBDC, to take a look at:

  1. Accion
  2. SBA
  3. FunderHut
  4. Family and friends

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Teaming for Contracts and Growing Your Business with the Federal Government

From (L-R): Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming; Freida Curry, PTAC Director, WBDC; Alexandra Ytuarte, American Express OPEN, Senior Manager, Customer Advocacy

American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement has done a fantastic job of creating a robust environment through its LinkedIn group, with discussion from group members, over 50% of who are either chief operating officers or business owners.  Denise Rodriguez-Lopez, American Express OPEN Advisor on Teaming, who recently spoke at the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government event, provides insight.

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez’s responses in the group, along with feedback from an attendee of the Chicago event, will give you a jumping off point in navigating government contracting and tell you what the Victory in Procurement program can offer your business.

Q: What do you look for in a successful teaming relationship?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“When you are looking at a potential teaming partner, there are a lot of questions you need to answer:  Are they reliable? Do they have experience? Do they have a positive industry reputation? Are they solid financially? You need to be comfortable and trust who you team with. Once you have vetted them, think about what the “team” will offer [you]:  do their services/products complement yours and is there a demand for what the team may offer? Also remember that teaming does not necessarily have to be with folks you don’t know.  Don’t overlook former employers and businesses within your circle.”

Q: Are there any particular websites that are used to identify companies in search of teaming partners?

Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez:

“Federal Procurement Data System www.fpds.gov; USA Spending www.usaspending.gov GSA E-Library http://www.gsaelibrary.gsa.gov/ElibMain/home.do; central Contractor Registration System www.ccr.gov*; trade associations for certain certifications, such as the 8(a) Association etc…”

Join the American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement LinkedIn group here: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4214818&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

Joanne Cleaver attended the May 3rd American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop. Below is her response when asked what she learned  from attending the May event as well as what attendees can learn from the Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government workshop in St.Louis on October 3rd?

“My key take away from the May OPEN [Marketing to the Federal Government] event was how to tailor my pitch to specific upcoming contracting opportunities. Denise Rodriguez-Lopez was an engaging and informative presenter, with well organized material and thorough answers to all our questions.

Based on what I learned, along with the ongoing coaching from the WBDC’s well informed staff, I have developed a ‘government pursuit plan’ that focuses on identifying the highest-potential opportunities, marketing my firm’s strategic communication services directly to small business advocates and hopefully to purchasing managers and customizing our materials to be most effective.  As a result of all this, I have been invited to respond to a proposal for a substantial subcontracting opportunity with another woman-owned business.”

-Joanne Cleaver, Wilson-Taylor Associates, Inc.  Develops and delivers effective strategic messages.  For more information about Ms. Cleaver’s business visit:  www.wilson-taylorassoc.com.

Register for the St. Louis American Express OPEN Victory in Procurement Marketing to the Federal Government here: http://goo.gl/I0Z1w

*Editors Note: As of July 29, 2012 ORCA and ccr.gov no longer exist. It is now www.sam.gov. If you have a prior CCR or ORCA account, it is possible to move data into www.sam.gov, once you have registered.


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Lisa Price – An Inspiring Guide to Entrepreneurial Success

Below is an article from Saundra Underwood, founder of Lady Alexandra Skincare Systems.  Ms. Underwood writes from a personal perspective of what Lisa Price, keynote speaker at the 26th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference Hall of Fame Luncheon, has meant to her.  Not only has Ms. Price served as an inspiration, but also as a guide to entrepreneurial success.

I love reading autobiographies and biographies to learn about the history of famous and not so famous people.  Reading them gives me more than just the details of their lives.  I get a glimpse into their minds, the times they lived in and the places they visited.  They also give me hope and inspiration especially when they begin their books with very little and end with all of their dreams realized.

I read Lisa Price’s book, Success Never Smelled So Sweet, as soon as it came off the presses.  Though I had been following her story for years by reading articles in Essence and Black Enterprise Magazine little did I know that I’d one day be writing a blog about her and Carol’s Daughter, her company.  The book is rich in details and very introspective.  She shared and bared her soul.  I remember her speaking frankly about the frustrations of going from job to job and not truly fitting in at some places of employment.  I understand more about myself and my quest to do what is best for me.  I too  am a maker and creator of natural skincare products.  I’ve gone from one job to another not quite feeling comfortable in many positions; feeling as if something is not quite right.  What’s not quite right for most entrepreneurs is the feeling of neglecting the entrepreneurial spirit.

That entrepreneurial spirit can never be denied, pushed aside or crushed.  It will rise up when you least expect it.  It will come again and again until it is nurtured and given enough attention to be a force to be reckoned with.  Many have put into words exactly what it is but the best way to define it is by action.

In her book Ms. Price became alive and active when she was making and creating magic with scents, flowers and potions. She became alive with the research of the effects of scent on the mood and mindset.  The feedback from customers drove her forward.    Something that struck me from Lisa’s book was that her family members worked for and with her for years without drawing a salary.  I remember thinking what an amazing family.

While reading Success Never Smelled So Sweet I would often compare my story to Lisa’s.  I figured if my actions lined up with hers then one day I’d become the owner of a multimillion dollar enterprise.  I have passions and dreams, the drive to create and customers who love my products just as she does..   The one thing I didn’t have was family support only because I live three states away from my family.  But what I did have was a network of friends who have come to my aid whenever I needed their expertise or just support.  I still plug along but know that with time and effort the entrepreneurial spirit will guide me.

– Saundra Underwood

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New NAICS Code Size Standards for Small Businesses

For the first time in about 25 years, the Small Business Administration recently changed its definition of “small business” in a variety of industries (see chart below). The end goal for these changes is to increase access to federal contracts and access to capital. “It allows small businesses to retain their small-business status and contracting officers to have a larger selection of small businesses to choose from for contracting opportunities,” said a SBA spokesperson.  The changes go into effect March 12,2012.  How do you think they’ll impact your small business?

Chart provided by: Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, published originally here.

NAICS Codes

NAICS industry title

Current size standard
($ millions)

Proposed size standard
($ millions)

Revised size standard
($ millions)

541110 Offices of Lawyers

$7.0

$10.0

$10.0

541191 Title Abstract and Settlement Offices

7.0

10.0

10.0

541199 All Other Legal Services

7.0

10.0

10.0

541211 Offices of Certified Public Accountants

8.5

14.0

19.0

541213 Tax Preparation Services

7.0

14.0

19.0

541214  Payroll Services

8.5

14.0

19.0

541219 Other Accounting Services

8.5

14.0

19.0

541310 Architectural Services

4.5

19.0

7.0

541320 Landscape Architectural Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

541330 Engineering Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

Except Military and Aerospace Equipment and Military Weapons

27.0

27.0

35.0

Except Contracts and Subcontracts for Engineering Services Awarded Under the National Energy Policy Act of 1992

27.0

27.0

35.5

Except Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture

18.5

25.5

35.5

541340 Drafting Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

Except Map Drafting

4.5

\1\

\1\

541350 Building Inspection Services

7.0

19.0

7.0

541360 Geophysical Surveying and Mapping Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

541370 Surveying and Mapping  (except Geophysical) Services

4.5

19.0

14.0

541380 Testing Laboratories

12.0

19.0

14.0

541410  Interior Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541420  Industrial Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541430 Graphic Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541490 Other Specialized Design Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541511 Custom Computer Programming Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541512 Computer Systems Design Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541513 Computer Facilities Management Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541519 Other Computer Related Services

25.0

25.5

25.5

541611 Administrative Management  and General Management Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541612 Human Resources Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541613 Marketing Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541614 Process, Physical  Distribution and Logistics Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541618 Other Management Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541620 Environmental Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541690 Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541720 Research and Development in the Social Sciences and Humanities

7.0

19.0

19.0

541810 Advertising Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541820 Public Relations Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541830 Media Buying Agencies

7.0

14.0

14.0

541840 Media Representatives

7.0

14.0

14.0

541850 Display Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541860 Direct Mail Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541870 Advertising Material Distribution Services

7.0

14.0

14.0

541890 Other Services Related to Advertising

7.0

14.0

14.0

541910 Marketing Research and Public Opinion Polling

7.0

7.0

14.0

541921 Photography Studios Portrait

7.0

7.0

7.0

541922 Commercial Photography

7.0

7.0

7.0

541930 Translation and Interpretation Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541940 Veterinary Services

7.0

7.0

7.0

541990 All Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

7.0

7.0

14.0

811212 Computer and Office Repair and Maintenance

25.0

25.5

25.5

“The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is increasing 37 small business size standards for 34 industries and three sub-industries (“exceptions” in SBA’s table of small business size standards) in North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Sector 54, Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services. SBA is also increasing the one size standard in NAICS Sector 81, Other Services, which it did not review in 2010. These size standards are all receipts based. SBA is retaining the current standards for the remaining industries in NAICS Sector 54. This rule also removes “Map Drafting” as the “exception” to NAICS 541340, Drafting Services. As part of its ongoing comprehensive review of all size standards, SBA has evaluated every receipts based size standard in NAICS Sector 54 as well as the one previously unreviewed size standard in NAICS Sector 81 to determine whether the existing standards should be retained or revised.” – from Federal Register

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Notes on the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership inaugural meeting

Tuesday morning, January 24, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted the inaugural meeting for the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership.  Members were invited by Secretary Clinton and include leaders of American and foreign public and private sector organizations.


For those that could not watch the live broadcasting, WBDC marketing assistant, Bethany Hartley has provided some notes from the meeting’s discussion.

First, what is the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership?

“The Secretary of State’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership (ICWBL) serves the United States Government in a solely advisory capacity concerning major issues and problems in international business and economic policy, including the effective integration of business interests and women’s economic empowerment into overall foreign policy; the role and limits of international economic institutions from a gender-specific perspective; and the Department of State’s role in advancing and promoting the role of women in a competitive global economy.”

-from the Secretary of State website

Objective for the meeting:

“What are the ideas that we can promote that can help women be able to fulfill their own potential. How do we widen that circle of prosperity which will lift the entire global economy – women and men alike – and how do we, within our own organizations, do more to train and promote women to positions of leadership?”  Secretary Clinton

The meeting targeted issues currently impacting countries around the world.  Hot topics included:

  1. Child Care Options
    For Sweden’s Maud Olofsson one of the main problems hindering financial growth and business leadership for women is the lack of child care options available to women.  By sharing parenting duties between parents and allowing for child care to be more easily accessible and financially feasible, women would not be derailed from their career.  South Africa’s Wend Luhabe affirmed these challenges.
  2. Insurance Offerings for Women
    South Africa’s Wendy Luhabe also raised the issue of insurance offerings for women.  It is Luhabe’s belief that women are not covered nearly enough, stating examples of families being destroyed from having to repay medical bills when children fall sick and a need for further coverage for women when a divorce takes place.
  3. Building Wealth Through Sustainable Credit and Grassroots Programming
    India’s Meera Sanyal discussed how there is no overt gender discrimination in India, yet constantly changing policies for credit cause confusion.  There is a need for basic savings methods because if women keep the money in their home they will spend it on their family.Jamaica’s M. Audrey Hinchcliffe discussed her country’s problem being that of a small, wealthy few control the less fortunate larger population.  It’s a pyramid that needs to be altered by implementing programs to provide training and financial assistance to the large base and thus creating a more stable economic standing for the whole country.
  4. Innovative Program Models
    Wanda Engel, Executive President, Unibanco Institute, discussed Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program where funding is provided for families with children as long as children are attending school on a consistent basis.  Brazil has a high number of uneducated people which creates a poor economic situation.  With this program, children are becoming educated and potentially able to achieve a higher economic standing than their parents through professional work.  Many of the other countries representatives at the meeting expressed interest in adapting the Bolsa Familia program in their homelands.
  5. Women on Boards – About 3% of United States CEOs are women

“One fact is already clear, including more women at the top of organizations, businesses and the public sector- it’s not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.  It’s good for business, it’s good for results” –Secretary Clinton

Overall, the meeting was inspiring and thought provoking.  Essential topics were discussed including access to capital, women helping women and getting more business education out there to promote women in leadership roles.  These are all issues we look at every day at the WBDC and the reason we continue to provide the support we do for women.

What do you think?  Did you watch the meeting?  What would you ask the members?  Most importantly, do you think anything will come of this council?

Supplemental Links:

Cherie Booth Blair’s foundation: MWomen Initiative

Secretary Clinton’s September speech at APEC

List of Members: ICWBL Council Members

Introduction of Meeting: Secretary Clinton

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Focus on Finance Part 1: Debt vs. Equity

Eva Brown is the Director of the Access to Capital Program at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC).  She provides financial business counseling and training to WBDC clients, including a monthly workshop titled “Take the Mystery out of Finance.” The next workshop will be held January 17,, 2012.  In Part 1: Debt vs. Equity of our two part video series on Finance, Eva discusses the differences and similarities between debt and equity.  The information provides a clear explanation of what can sometimes be a difficult topic for business owners. Next week, in part two of the finance video series, Eva will discuss the top three things lenders are looking for when determining eligibility for loans.  What other small business finance questions would you like Eva to answer?

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SBA CAPLines Program Revamped

On November 4, 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced it has revamped its CAPLines Loan Program to better correspond with the lending practices of most banks.  Changes are a result of suggestions to improve the process from lenders at over 150 banks.   “These changes were based on conversations with lenders in all 50 states.  We listened to them and created a program that works for small businesses and lenders alike,” says Steve Smits, SBA associate administrator for capital access.

The purpose of the CAPSLines program is to assist small business owners in meeting their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs.   The program addresses five specific lines of credit: seasonal, contract, builders, standard-asset based and small-asset based.

The CAPLines Loan Program began in the early 1990’s, but due to regulations and procedures that required lenders to diverge from their standard lending practices, the program only produced about 1,300 loans in 15 years.   In comparison, other SBA loan programs produced nearly 40 times that amount.

Previous CAPSLines Program rules did not adequately address the needs of smaller businesses requesting temporary capital for projects requiring the purchase of the materials necessary to fulfill contracts.  The rules also had no provision to handle the needs of small businesses that are run virtually and have no physical site.

The hope is that the changes in the CAPSLines Program will, without delay, create an environment for small businesses to compete for contracts on an equal plane with larger businesses.  “More than half the people who work in this country either own small businesses or work in them, and more than two-thirds of the net jobs created come from small businesses, so your work is vital to our prosperity,” SBA administrator Karen Mills said of the program.  “We can’t wait around for Congress to act or for things to get better by themselves. We need to do the blocking and tackling for small businesses and work hand-in-hand with them to generate success.”

Will these changes benefit your small business?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Kristin Travis   Kristin Travis is Program Assistant at the WBDC.

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Illinois Job Creation Tax Credit Still Available

Last spring, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn created the IL Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit, which we provided an overview of here. Illinois small businesses with 50 or fewer total employees, as of June 30, 2010, and any-sized businesses that hire a 2010 “Put Illinois to Work Program” worker-trainee, may be eligible to receive a $2,500 tax credit for one or more new eligible positions created between July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011.

If your business has hired a new employee in the past year, make sure to check if you are eligible for this tax credit before it expires on June 30, 2011!

Eligible jobs must meet the following criteria:

  • Position created between 7/1/10 – 6/30/11
  • Position pays no less than $10/hour or equivalent with minimum $18,200 annually
  • Position sustained for at least one year (not necessarily held by the same individual for the year)
  • Withholding tax goes to Illinois
  • Position is hourly or full-time, but not partners or independent contractors.

For more information, please visit the Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit website. The IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) has also recorded a webinar with more information. The webinar can be viewed here for free on “Recorded Information Session 5/12/11.”

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