Economic First Responders

This article was originally published on The Daily Herald Business Ledger on May 13, 2020 titled “Working Together to Keep Business as Usual.”

During these critical times, a network of Economic First Responders is needed more than ever before. Joseph Cassidy, Assistant Vice President of Economic Development and Dean of Continuing Education and Public Services at College of DuPage shares the work of economic development agencies and the resources that are available for the small business community.

Key Takeaways

  • Economic development agencies are adjusting swiftly to changing demands by transitioning their resources and programs online
  • Local organizations such as Choose DuPage, workNet DuPage and College of DuPage Business Development Center are contributing business support services
  • Supporting small businesses and uniting as a community will help move us forward
  • Working Together to Keep Business as Usual: Dean Cassidy

    The Great Lockdown in response to the coronavirus will likely lead to a recession that is more severe than that of 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. While a highly educated workforce, a diversified set of industry clusters and strong municipal and county leadership have mitigated impact, it is clear that we are all going to have to work together to support the small businesses that will drive economic recovery.

    Collaboration between regional workforce boards like workNet DuPage, economic development agencies like Choose DuPage and College of DuPage’s Business Development Center (BDC) is critical. These entities are working with regional chambers of commerce, the business incubator/accelerator known as Innovation DuPage (ID) and a number of colleges and universities to continue the necessary support of the small businesses that are impacted most during these uncertain times. COD’s BDC houses the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well as the Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center and the Illinois International Trade Center.

    The BDC Center staff is working around the clock to help companies apply for payroll protection, business loans and to develop contingency plans while seeking to expand revenue streams. In fact, the BDC offered over 42 webinars, served hundreds of clients with over 500 hours of free consultation since mid-March.

    Undoubtedly, the closure of society followed by a gradual reopening to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will have dramatic and negative consequences on both large and small businesses.

    We encourage everyone to support the small businesses that make the region unique. At the same time, we see opportunity as new business ideas, products and modes of delivery are created in response to the closures and continuing public health safety precautions. Innovation DuPage reports higher than normal client volume as startups consider new business opportunities and young companies look for guidance in navigating these unprecedented times.

    While these economic development partners miss the face-to-face connection with clients and members, each has moved services and resources online to support business continuity.

    We see opportunity as new business ideas, products and modes of delivery are created in response to the closure

    The DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau is offering virtual tours of area attractions to help residents and businesses connect even while social distancing keeps us apart.

    Choose DuPage, and workNet DuPage, along with chambers of commerce, the BDC and ID are also conducting webinars, Zoom meetings and virtual meetups to continue learning and connection across our regional business ecosystem.

    For instance, the COD BDC and the Naperville Chamber of Commerce offered “Small Business Current Financial Disaster Relief” as a webinar, and Innovation DuPage sponsored Concordia University’s “Cougar Tank” virtual student pitch contest.

    ID, COD Business Solutions and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association are collaborating on two new programs to further diversify the talent pool for both new and mature construction companies.

    COD Adult Education, the BDC and ID are collaborating on an entrepreneurship course for English language learners. The partners and clients have been extremely flexible, as all of these efforts were moved online and are continuing quite successfully. This agility and willingness to collaborate are critical to recovery.

    Almost overnight, schools moved thousands of courses from on ground to online. The challenges to staff and faculty alike are immense, but these efforts, when assessed and refined, will ultimately promote increased efficiency and improve pedagogy.

    College of DuPage is gearing up to serve not only the students who were planning on attending this fall, but also those who may be hesitant to go away to school at this time.

    I’ve witnessed an aligning of leaders and philosophies over the past several years in support of regional cooperation in the area of economic development — I think this needs to continue into the future, with large and small companies, municipalities, colleges and universities continuing the shift to a ‘coopetition’ model which benefits the whole as well as the individual organization. As we seek out the new normal while working in this quickly shifting environment, we need to stay alert for new opportunities. Through heightened collaboration and synergy, we will move from surviving to thriving in the months to come.

    Thank you to Dean Cassidy for featuring ID in the many entities that are ready to serve the community. Together we are boundless.

    Connect with Dean Joe Cassidy on Linkedin.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Innovation DuPage Reopening Guidelines

    This is a living document that will be updated as guidance evolves. Please check back often to ensure you are working with the most up-to-date information. We are all working through the ever-fluctuating news and regular changes to the COVID-19 State guidelines.

    The ID Community should note that Innovation DuPage continues to deliver many services virtually over Zoom and Slack.

    Current Phase: 4

    GUIDING PRINCIPLES

  • The health and safety of the ID Community as a whole is our top priority. We will foster a culture of safety.
  • We will follow science and the guidance of experts. We will not lead on this, but lag in moving from phase to phase as we learn from others.
  • We will err on the side of more restrictive measures at the outset and relax them as we can. Returning to the office space is a privilege and carries responsibilities each of us has to one another.
  • IDHQ Modifications

    The safety of the ID Members, ID Team and the public who visit our facility remains our top priority. As such, members and visitors who must conduct business in person will notice changes when entering the facility in following the Illinois Department of Health guidance for reopening public spaces:

    1. Face coverings are required for all visitors to Village of Glen Ellyn facilities.
    2. Social distancing measures are in place requiring at least 6 feet of distance between all members, visitors and staff.
    3. All visitors must enter only through the north entrance of the Glen Ellyn Civic Center (on Duane Street) using the center door. Remaining doors can only be used as emergency exits.
    4. The ID slash card do not work on any other doors in the GE Civic Center.
    5. There are partitions at the public-facing department counters in the Civic Center to protect visitors and staff, and hand sanitizer is available for use.
    6. IDHQ’s front door at the top of our stairs will remain closed all day from 8am – 4pm. Members will need to utilize their re-activated slash cards in order to enter the facility.
    7. Innovation DuPage’s hours match the Glen Ellyn Civic Center hours 8am – 4pm. We have an additional 30 minutes to exit the building before the doors are locked at 4:30pm.
    8. There are plastic partitions between working spaces (at least 6-feet apart) throughout IDHQ and the flow of traffic is directed per signage.
    9. Seating is assigned by individual company and cannot be used on a first-come first-served basis.
    10. Conference room usage needs to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance directly with staff.

    The ID Team

    To help maintain the limited capacity restrictions, between 1 – 4 ID team members will work in the shared space at any given time on a semi-regular basis, with the rest continuing to work remotely. The Director of Operations is present on a regular basis.

    Travis Linderman (Managing Director) holds 1-on-1 Zoom consultations from 10am – 3pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and most Fridays. You can schedule them here.

    Travis will be at IDHQ each Wednesday to meet with Members individually and tour new startups.

    Business Hours

    Business Hours During Phase 4, revised business hours of Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm are in effect to promote the safety of our on-site team, and to correlate with the hours that the Glen Ellyn Civic Center is open to the public. IDHQ is not open on Saturdays and Sundays. There are no evening hours. We are monitoring the visiting patterns of our community and will adjust as needed to promote a safe environment for everyone.

    Entrance and Exits

    All members must enter only through the north entrance of the Civic Center (on Duane Street), using the center door. We are encouraging one-way traffic as much as possible to reduce the chance of congestion. Please follow signage in the office. Slash card access continue to be turned off to the doors outside – but work on the door to enter IDHQ. Social distancing measures are in place.

    Movement

    Each ID Team Member is housed in a closed-door office. It is your responsibility to check in with one of them when you arrive – so that your temperature can be taken. A blue line has been set up – to ensure that a 6 foot distance from the office doors are maintained until both you and the ID Team Member can ensure that the temperature protocol does not signal a problem and that masks are secured properly. Conversations with ID Team Members require that ID Members stay behind this blue line, unless agreed upon separately.

    When You Arrive Each Day

    Movement throughout the space is dictated by one-way directional signage. Please follow the signs to prevent congestion or pinch points where physical distancing could be compromised. Blue tape has been placed throughout the space to help build guardrails for social distancing and protect any member that is sitting down from all directions.

    Doors

    All interior doors, including conference rooms, are propped open to limit touch points and improve air circulation. Unless absolutely necessary, please do not close these doors. If you must close the door for privacy, limit your time in the room and wipe down the surfaces and door handles upon exiting

    Kitchen Access

    The refrigerator, microwave, cutlery and dishware are not available for use in this phase to minimize touch points. Go support a local Glen Ellyn restaurant.

    Supplies

    We have hand-sanitizer and antibacterial wipes throughout the space for your use. Additionally, ID Team Members frequently cleaning shared surfaces throughout the day and GE Village staff clean and wipe down all surfaces each evening.

    Events

    All events will be virtual until further notice. Webinars will run more frequently in later Fall.

    Per ID guidelines, no gatherings larger than 10 are allowed. We are utilizing the event space for additional company seating. Unfortunately, this means no events, large team meetings, happy hours, shared meals, or social gatherings are permitted on Innovation DuPage premises. During July and August we will not have Stand-ups, Workshops or any other in-person events.

    Parking

    The Parking Deck Construction has begun – therefore all parking behind the GE Civic Center has been eliminated and the rear entrances have been shut off for the remainder of 2020. We will keep you informed on the timeline of construction as we learn more. New parking passes will be distributed for the summer and available parking lots will be highlighted through a separate document.

    Shared and Reserved Space

    Restrictions will require us to designate specific rooms and/or desks to each company. Conference room usage needs to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance directly with staff. Therefore, for those of you who are comfortable in returning, we need to know how many members to expect and how frequently you would intend to use IDHQ.

    Once capacity is reached, we will send an alert on our Slack channel (#announcements). Please monitor this channel, if you arrive after capacity is reached, you will not be allowed entry to the space. Email iduramk@innovationdupage.org if you need help joining ID’s slack workspace.

    Visitors

    To exercise caution, our space is only open to Innovation DuPage keycard holders and our team at this time. ID Members are responsible to inform the ID Team when Clients will be visiting the building – in order to conduct the same health screening that all members go through each day. We will continually monitor this guideline and will notify you when we are able to relax this safety measure.

    Seating and Conference Rooms

    Seating and conference rooms have been reconfigured to a very limited capacity and spaced (at least 6-feet apart) for physical distancing. Whenever possible, doors are required to be kept open to provide proper ventilation. Additionally, the facility is set-up for maximum social distancing. Some rooms have been taken offline completely. Conference rooms are available for booking meetings of a limited number of people depending on the capacity that each room allows. Members cannot move chairs or tables without consent from ID staff.

    PROTOCOLS:

    We require the following safety measures to be taken by everyone in the space:

    Do not come into the space if you are sick, you WILL be turned away.

    This is a good CDC reference for self-checking symptoms. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. For the sake of other visitors to Village facilities, IDHQ and our staff, we ask that you please stay home if you or a member of your family are currently ill or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 including but not limited to:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Bluish lips of face
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Temperature Check and Health Screen

    Upon arrival, an ID Team Member will take your temperature and you will be responsible for answering a series of short health questions. This includes your good-faith certification that you are not presenting any of the commonly known symptoms of COVID-19. This enables us to promote a safe environment for everyone in the space. Be aware that health monitoring including temperature checks will be a feature until deemed unnecessary by ID staff.

    Hygiene

    Please practice good hygiene to protect yourself and others — there is signage as a reminder of best practices.

    Face Coverings

    Face protection/face coverings that cover both the mouth AND nose are required all times in the facility. If you need a resource for ordering face protection, please contact us at ID@InnovationDuPage.org beforehand. We do have masks on reserve in case of an emergency. Please bring your own mask. Also, if you have a favorite sanitizer – bring it.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    ID Giveaway

    It’s giveaway time! Our ID members are coming together to provide their products and services to one lucky winner. This prize package is a $375 value! Take a look at how to enter and what each business is contributing to the giveaway below.

    3 Ways to Enter

    1. Follow Innovation DuPage ( Instagram, Facebook) and our members:

  • Gray Matters Games Instagram, Facebook
  • Food for Comfort Instagram, Facebook
  • Abilio Learning Instagram, Facebook
  • Fuzzy Logic Escape Room Instagram, Facebook.

  • That’s up to 10 entries!

    2. Share any of our giveaway posts on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #winwithID

    3. Leave a comment on any of our giveaway posts, let us know why you think you should win or tag a friend who deserves the prize

    The giveaway ends 11:59pm on June 30th. The winner will be randomly selected on July 1st. Good luck!

    Gray Matters Games

    2 board games: The Game of Wolf and You Bet-cha

    The brainchild of local entrepreneurs Joe and Lauren Barron, Gray Matters Games designs and publishes lively and cognitively challenging experiences for people with active minds. Through its games, Gray Matters promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research.

    Spend quality time together away from screens with two of Gray Matters Games best sellers: The Game of Wolf and You Bet-Cha!

    A finalist for the 2019 Mensa Mind Games Award for games that are original, challenging and well designed, The Game of Wolf is a unique game that is equal parts collaborative and competitive. Pick your Pack based on the player’s knowledge of the subject or go Lone Wolf for a chance at double the points!

    GMG’s first game, You Bet-Cha! combines poker & trivia into one fun game night. Can you outsmart or bluff your way to build the biggest chip stack? The perfect game for tabletop lovers, trivia enthusiasts and high rollers, You Bet-cha’s lively categories will have players competing to name everything from Hotels on the Las Vegas Strip to Actors that have played Batman.

    Food for Comfort

    1 meal for a family of 4

    Founded by local Glen Ellyn mom, Andrea Burke, Food for Comfort makes it easy to send a gift of a hot Family Style Meal in the event of a new baby, illness or loss in the family. If you are looking for a gift of support at this time, Food for Comfort offers:

  • Family Style Meals – The whole family shares a meal together. Most meals include salad and/or dessert
  • Supports Local Restaurants – Meals are prepared and delivered by local restaurants in our network
  • Recipient’s Choice – Recipients can select the meal of their choice from our menu and schedule delivery at their convenience
  • Gift Message – You can include a gift message
  • Delivery & Tip Included – Includes delivery and tip, Recipient pays for nothing
  • Abilio Learning

    Lumino visual countdown timer, custom lanyard, 3D design virtual camp, mask ear savers

    Born from experiences in the classroom, Abilio Learning creates resources to help kids of all ages and abilities access learning. Through 3D printing, Abilio hopes to build meaningful learning experiences that make content more tangible and fun than ever before. Anyone can be a Maker! Learn the basics of 3D printing and create an object of your own from scratch in a beginner-oriented, child-friendly online course.

  • Introduce your child to industries such as animation, digital design, and manufacturing through a 3D design workshop that is engaging for the whole family! Participants will learn the basics of design, and then have their creation brought to life and delivered to their door!
  • The Lumino Visual Countdown Timer is designed to help students with disabilities understand time requirements and anticipate changes. Special educators know how effective visuals are for communicating effectively with students, so Abilio built the Lumino as a way to communicate time expectations, even for students with limited understanding of timers or clocks.
  • Save your ears from the constant irritation of masks and show off your personal style at the same time with custom 3D printed Mask Ear Savers.
  • Express your personality or interests while maintaining absolute professionalism with customizable lanyards. You provide your design ideas, and they’ll do the rest
  • Fuzzy Logic Escape Room

    1 virtual escape adventure

    You and your team join forces virtually from wherever you are – whether it’s friends in separate households, family members in different states, or co-workers collaborating from countries across the globe! Solve a series of puzzles using clues, hints, and tools you will unlock along your journey – but can you achieve your goal before time runs out? You might have to use some Fuzzy Logic to look at things in a different light!

    Your Fuzzy Logic game master will be your eyes, ears, hands and feet in the actual escape room. You’ll share instructions vocally as the game master explores the game space, discovering puzzles and items, and unlocking the locks that you find codes for.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Transformation: Driving Personal and Professional Growth

    Key Takeaways

  • Stop talking about taking the first step and actually do it. Get going
  • Highlight key strategies to improve your personal and/or professional life
  • Transformation has a remarkably high level of transferability across various areas of our lives

  • Data, analytics and business strategy are just a few of the topics covered in the new, highly acclaimed podcast: Transformation Nation. Jason Krantz founder of Strategy Titan and Jordan Morrow of Qlik share stories, lessons learned, and breaks down strategies and tactics to maximize your personal and professional potential.

    Their podcast is featured in Medium’s article “Empower People to Create a Bingeable Podcast”. Read on for more from our Q & A with ID member Jason on how the podcast came to be and hear about their journey inspiring others.

    Q: What made you both decide to create the podcast?

    A:This is an idea Jordan and I had been discussing for quite a while. During our conversations, we frequently discussed how growth in one area can help drive growth in other areas of our life. Additionally, we saw that many professionals across all experience levels were looking for guidance on how to bring their visions to fruition. Having been through the transformational process numerous times in our personal and professional lives, we thought we could help others by sharing our perspective, experiences, and processes around transformation. Finally, while we both are knowledgeable on the topics of data, analytics, business, and strategy, we felt we had value to offer people that went beyond the bounds of our professional focus. One day I said to Jordan “Why don’t we stop talking about doing this podcast and actually do it. Let’s just get going.” A few days later we had published our first podcast.

    Q: How did you find your cohost Jordan Morrow?

    A:Two years ago I had written an article on the topic of data literacy. Somebody had sent it along to Jordan and he reached out to me. Over time we got to know each other pretty well. I am a passionate believer in the power of data literacy, so we hit it off right away and have been friends ever since.

    Q: Who would you like to connect with through this podcast?

    A:Anybody looking to improve their personal and/or professional life. The process of transformation has a remarkably high level of transferability across the different areas of our lives. Unfortunately, it isn’t something many of us are trained on, so we may struggle with starting the process.

    The process of transformation has a remarkably high level of transferability across the different areas of our lives
    Q: What were the steps leading up to launching look like and challenges you may have faced along the way?

    A:The steps leading up to the creation of the podcast were actually pretty simple. Jordan and I discussed what the central theme of the show was going to be and outlined what the show progression might look like. I took the perspective that we needed to avoid the trap of everything being perfect before we started. We just needed to get started. We would learn along the way. This meant using the tools and resources we had. We record our podcasts using extremely basic equipment that is available to everyone: our phones, headphones, and the Anchor app for easy episode recording. Our cost to get started was $0. As we grow we will evolve our equipment, but what we use works for getting started quickly.

    Q: What helped in finding your voice in the saturated market?

    A:Jordan and I have both carved out pretty distinct voices in our areas of the thought leader arena. Jordan is a thought leader in the strategy and data literacy space. I bring a very unique combination of data, analytics, strategy, and business focus. With us two together, 1 + 1 = 20.

    Q: What does the future hold, what topics can listeners expect?

    A: We will continue to dig into topics that Jordan and I have expertise in, including business strategy, data, and analytics. We will also start interviewing other masters of transformation to hear their thoughts on the processes they embrace to facilitate personal and professional transformation.

    Thank you to Jason and Jordan for sharing their latest venture with us. Listen to Transformation Nation wherever you listen to podcasts on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

    Connect with Jason Krantz & Jordan Morrow

    Connect with Jason on LinkedIn or through Strategy Titan.

    Connect with Jordan on LinkedIn or through Qlik.

    View the Medium article highlighting Transformation Nation here.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    The Power of We

    Key Takeaways

  • Economic development agencies are continuing to take actionable steps to help local businesses by providing resources and assistance
  • ID and our partners strive to support diverse communities and their businesses with employment and financial opportunities for POC
  • All entities are committed to serving the entrepreneurial community and coming together, boundless by the Power of We
  • Connect to entrepreneurial support services starting with a 1-on-1 consultation.

    The success or failure of a small business often depends on the individual at the helm of the venture. However, a natural problem arises when these entrepreneurs are exposed to new business responsibilities outside of their experience portfolio. Strategic planning, managing finances, utilizing digital marketing channels and establishing proper sales processes are only a few of the obstacles that business owners face. All these disparate areas challenge the entrepreneur’s individual ability to succeed. These difficulties are only amplified by the public health crisis that we are currently facing.

    Fortunately, operating your own business does not have to mean going it alone. There are regional organizations that collaborate to provide you and your business with the support services you need. This critical network of Business First Responders was recently highlighted in the Business Ledger’s article, “Working Together to Keep Business as Usual”.

    Pre-Downturn Collaboration

    It didn’t take COVID-19 to usher in the level of collaboration that we are experiencing during this downturn- the seeds for these channels were planted well before that. Innovation DuPage was created to act as the connective tissue of our region’s entrepreneurial support services. In its first year in business, ID focused on connecting founders to regional resources. This gives entrepreneurs the ability to scale at a faster pace without the steep price tag.

    Gray Matters Games (GMG), a board game company and inaugural ID member, is the perfect example of what these partnerships are able to accomplish. They worked with students in a marketing and strategy class at Elmhurst College on a launch plan for their game “Office Decathlon.” Through this relationship, GMG also hired a marketing intern from the College. At the College of DuPage (COD), GMG collaborated with a team of students from the graphic design program and brought their latest game “Alphabet Race” from concept to testing stage. Once again, this connection led the company to a new hire – a brilliant design contractor that’s been helping them on a number of projects. But that’s not all. Through ID, GMG linked up with the Executive MBA program at Northern Illinois University to create an international marketing plan. This will give GMG an opportunity to diversify their offerings and expand their retail footprint.

    When the world seemed to turn upside down, the interlocked relationships have helped to keep companies afloat. Regional economic development organizations came together to offer business owners a ‘breath of fresh air’ while the concept of a ‘new normal’ became inescapable.

    Operating in a Time of Dramatic Change

    “Collaboration between regional workforce boards like workNet DuPage, economic development agencies like Choose DuPage and College of DuPage’s Business Development Center (BDC) is critical. These entities are working with regional chambers of commerce, the business incubator Innovation DuPage (ID) and a number of colleges and universities to continue the necessary support of the small businesses that are impacted most during these uncertain times.”

    As the COVID-19 crisis enveloped the country, the COD Business Development Center was the first on the front lines to assist businesses in our community. The rush for financial relief was focused on “[helping] companies apply for payroll protection, business loans and develop contingency plans”. Since mid-March, they have assisted hundreds of clients and have run 29 webinars. They are a lifeline of support at a time when assistance is needed more than ever before.

    Choose DuPage similarly took up the call to action. When the federal government’s dollars allocated toward the Payment Protection Program (PPP) and the Emergency Disaster Injury Loans (EDIL) dried up, small business owners had few places to turn to. Choose DuPage and DuPage County’s response was to launch the Small Business Relief Program. County businesses were given an opportunity to apply for grants that assisted with employee retention payroll, utilities and rent. Meant for businesses with less than 15 employees, the $1.5 million dollars allocated toward the program gave small business owners yet another opportunity to stay afloat.

    The County’s workforce development agency, workNet DuPage, was at the forefront as well. They provided employers with training assistance to retrain their internal talent pool, assisted with recruitment support efforts and offered a number of resources to assist business owners. They performed all of these functions all whilst helping job seekers connect with funding for job training and aiding laid-off workers in applying for unemployment insurance.

    The list of support services goes on and on. What is most important is not the individual work that these organizations have carried out, it is the collective effort behind them. Though none of these organizations can fully mitigate the impact of this global pandemic, together they are able to minimize the long-term repercussions.

    Inclusion of Diverse Communities

    Our responsibility to support small business owners from minority communities is critical. They are suffering from this public health and economic crisis disproportionately. Resources and programs to help bolster their businesses will help to increase employment and financial opportunities for POC communities.

    The COD Continuing Education department, BDC and ID are collaborating on English Learning Acquisition Integrated Career and Academic Preparation System (ELA ICAPS) business classes. Program participants are first-generation immigrants who either have established businesses or are aspiring entrepreneurs. The course covers vital business topics including leadership, strategic planning, finance and sales. Simultaneously, participants are receiving incubation services from Innovation DuPage that includes 24/7 access to our coworking space (under ‘normal’ circumstances), mentorship and webinars/workshops. Though this program was originally slated to take place in-person, the necessary adjustments were made to continue delivery of high-quality instruction online.

    The Construction Industry Owner-to-CEO program is a collaborative effort put forth by the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA) and ID. This offering is geared towards assisting POC, female and veteran-owned construction businesses. Subject areas include: contract bid process, project management, insurance & bonding and finance. Like so many others during this pandemic, the construction industry has been hit hard. Paving a path toward recovery will not be easy for any of these businesses. It will require an increased understanding of their industry, connections to new opportunities and support from peers and mentors. These are the very tenets of the Owner-to-CEO program.

    An Eye Toward the Future

    Though social distancing keeps us physically further apart, regional economic development agencies and partners are coming closer together than ever before. Together, we are dedicated to serving the entrepreneurial community. We will continue our work to bring you the high-quality programs you need. No matter what new challenges arise, we will be here to help guide you through.

    The small business community is made up of our neighbors, friends and family members. When the community comes together with a resolve to adapt and innovate, the Power of We is boundless.

    Connect with Us

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Stabilize Your Business Foundation in the Downturn Recap

    Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or have recently launched an idea, the implications of COVID-19 are forcing business owners to focus on the basics. Learn how to fundamentally structure your processes in order to gain a greater understanding of how to make critical business decisions during the downturn.

    Hear from Kim Grotto of Grotto Marketing, Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc., Kim and Art Angel from E2A Partners.

    They discuss how to create a stable business foundation by utilizing a combination of strategy, financial best practices, customer personas, pricing, key data collection and marketing strategy.

    Stay tuned for more video highlights from this webinar!

    Focus on What You Control

    Kim Grotto of Grotto Marketing

  • Do not make decisions out of fear, shift your focus to what you can control
  • Having a responsive versus reactive mindset allows for wiser decision making
  • Be mindful of where you invest your time and energy


  • Let Financials Work For You

    Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc.
  • Financial analysis encourages strategic operational planning and decision making
  • Establish a system that encourages financial best practices and recording
  • Let your finances work for you by taking advantage of information they provide
  • Your strategic plans and your financial expectations go hand-in-hand


  • Customer Success vs Business Development

    ID Managing Director Travis Linderman and E2A Partners Kim Angel

  • Ensure that your customers are utilizing your services optimally
  • Direct your focus to current customers which will lead to long-term loyalty and retention
  • Don’t neglect those who already trust you and your product


  • Trending Numbers and What to Do

    Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc.

  • Take a closer look at an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow comparison with Lauren Barron
  • Ask yourself three important questions: Why are my numbers trending the way they are? How did it happen? What am I going to do about it?
  • Utilize these resources to gain a better view of the trends in your business


  • Intimate Knowledge of Your Customer Profile

    Lauren Barron from Fiercely You, Inc.

  • When determining pricing, analyze who you are serving and what their needs are
  • Pricing decisions are influenced by many internal and external factors
  • Cost of goods sold and cost of services may require obtaining various quotes


  • Building Your Strengths & Consistency

    Kim and Art Angel from E2A Partners.

  • Recognize what you are good at and what is working for your business
  • This is not a time to start from scratch, learn to pivot by identifying adjacent services/products
  • Do not assume customers behaviors based on past experiences
  • Realize who you are to the core and how viewers see you


  • Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Making Business Decisions As you Navigate the Downturn Recap

    Missed our last webinar? View: Making Business Decisions as you Navigate the Downturn with Kim Grotto, Lauren Barron, Kim and Art Angel. They are ID members and small business owners discussing topics ranging from marketing to financial planning. Check out the videos below!

    Don’t Miss Our Next Webinar!

    Create a structure upon which to understand and make fundamental business decisions in a time of re-evaluation. Learn how to create a stable business foundation by utilizing a combination of strategy, financial best practices, customer personas, pricing, key data collection, and marketing strategy. Run time: Approximately 60 minutes.

    Part 1: Cash is King

    Kim Grotto and Lauren Barron, Fiercely You

    • “Cash talks and everything else mumbles”
    • Businesses should utilize a 13-week cash flow forecast. This high-level tool can give a cumulative figure of your cash flow or cash burn. In simpler terms, it is reconsolidating your checkbook for your business.
    • Consider your customer demand. If there is a continued need for your product or service but people are not able to access the way they normally would think about other ways you can provide.

    Part2: Marketing

    Kim Grotto, Grotto Marketing

    • “The opportunities are there it is all about how you take advantage of them”.
    • Marketing is far more strategic and methodical than many come to believe. Articulate and communicate their brand, mission, values and products in order to expand their reach, earn revenue, increase loyalty and market share.
    • Know your audience. Prioritize current customers and the needs you can fulfill for them. Stay connected to key partners and employees.
    • Learn about the Four C’s: Cohesiveness, Connection, Communications, and Create and how to apply them to your business.

    Part 3: Hunting for Data!

    Kim Angel and Art Angel, E2A Partners

    • Hunt for data and learn to interpret it. Look for information that you can apply to your business model. It is time to assess the ways in which to drive your business forward. Don’t make assumptions based on past behaviors.
    • The “come to us” mentality for retailers and services is a thing of the past. Your business needs to tune into the “we are there for you” mindset.

    Part 4: Communicating Values through Emails

    Lauren Barron, Kim Grotto, Kim Angel and Art Angel

    • Q: What is the relevance of newsletters and today’s COVID-19 saturated emails? How many emails are too many?
    • A: If the information is relevant and serves value, say it! Take a look and analyze your audience’s pain points, how they are feeling or the message they need to hear?
    • Resend your emails about three days later. Not only that, but you should really put thought into your subject and preview line as well. Grab the readers’ attention and give them a reason to stop and engage.

      Consider your call to action. What response are you looking to get? Drive your content around that goal and then you will know if the email was successful.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Kim Grotto

    Kim Grotto: Effective Marketing Strategies in Times of Crisis

    Kim Grotto is the Founder and Owner of Grotto Marketing. Grotto Marketing quickly gets to the heart of what’s important, crafts a strategy and builds a system to deliver business growth.

    Below, she provides advice and actionable strategies on how to approach your business marketing in the midst of these tough times.

    Times-and People-Have Changed

    Our current state will last longer than a few weeks. I think it will be at least into the fall, and we should expect about 18 months transition from “before” to “after”. After does not mean back to business as usual. The world is forever changed. Here are a few of my observations:

    We are seeing innovation and adoption at a record pace (examples include food delivery,eLearning and performances). This will only continue as businesses are forced to pivot and adapt or close their doors.

    The longer the uncertainty remains, the more people will face a reckoning of their values, behaviors and habits. Social chatter reveals a renewed focus on hyper-local community, mental well-being, exercising, supporting small business, education, and the arts… with a willingness to pay for it.

    Building an Online Presence

    It is more important than ever to have an online presence. This is the way people will discover you and is an efficient way to communicate in times like these. In some instances, your digital delivery will also be your only revenue stream.

    Focus on the fundamentals. Are you satisfied with your website? Can it deliver your products and services, today? What eCommerce options do you have and how quickly can you build it? Have you claimed your Google and Bing business listing? Do you own all of your social media handles and is your information up to date? How regularly are you communicating? When was the last time you sent an email to your audience?

    A DISRUPTION OF THIS MAGNITUDE OPENS UP MANY OPPORTUNITIES

    With so much of us stuck behind closed doors, computers and phones are the gateway to the outside world. If you’re not interacting online, you’re at risk of being forgotten.

    The Power of Communication

    If your tactic is to outshout everyone else, stop it. There’s always someone willing to yell louder. And if you’re using social media as a billboard, you’ll go unnoticed. With 24/7 news cycle captivating our feeds, you must take a hard look at your communications strategy and adjust it according to today’s conditions:

    Focus on communicating and connecting over your values, not your product. Now more than ever, people are seeking a genuine connection, and they’ll pay attention to those who create it.

    Do not assume people know anything. Do not expect them to connect the dots.

    Deliver digestible chunks of information. In the reactive state we are in, the average person- more than ever- doesn’t have the attention span or capacity to process a long-winded message with multiple takeaway points. Bullet points and 2-3 sentence paragraphs are your friend.

    Concentrate on frequency and repetition. In this environment, it may take 3-5 exposures to your message for someone to take notice and for it to sink-in.

    I will note that audiences seeking thought leadership and evergreen content will have a higher tolerance for well-thought, more in-depth pieces.

    Create a Marketing Strategy

    There’s a reason marketers have one strategy for prospects (acquisition) and one strategy for customers (retention, cross-sell, upsells, referrals). Zero in on your audiences and strategize for them individually.

    Remember: a disruption of this magnitude opens up many opportunities.

    Covid-19 is a pretty big interruption to the usual thought patterns and routines. People’s everyday lives are completely different. Their habits and routines have been turned upside down. They’re searching for answers and sharing information like crazy. And their values and character are being pressure tested.

    Collectively, this opens the door to discovering new solutions and exploring new ways of doing things. There’s an opportunity for awareness and, if the meaning, value, and relevance are there, there’s a willingness to try it out. Think about your prospects and customers as individuals and meet them where they are.

    Lean into Marketing

    Do not cut your marketing budget to zero! I know it’s the go-to expense to pull back on but there are much wider implications to this than simply advertising dollars. Effective marketing encompasses both strategic and tactical execution to drive awareness, consideration, and conversion. If you eliminate it, you’ll not only lower expenses, you’ll simultaneously reduce the opportunity for revenue, growth, and innovation. Now is the time to lean into your marketing. Just make sure you invest in it wisely.

    The following are just a few of the many strategies you can implement into your business to continue to advantage and grow your business. Thank you to Kim Grotto for sharing her insights.

    Stay Up to Date

    Learn more about Grotto Marketing and the ways in which they can help grow your company by visiting their website!

    Connect with Grotto Marketing on Instagram and LinkedIn. Find Kim on LinkedIn.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    Lauren Barron: Helping Entrepreneurs Navigate a New Normal

    Lauren Barron received an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management; she is also the founder and co-owner of Gray Matters Games (GMG). GMG is a company that creates lively and cognitively challenging board game experiences for people with active minds. Through its games, Gray Matters promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research. She shares her advice on how to tackle the challenging times ahead.

    Planning Ahead

    COVID-19 and the economic impact it has will fundamentally change the small business landscape. If you are not already, you need to think about this as more than a 2-4 week issue. There will be supply chain shocks that have not yet manifested, consumer confidence may be shaky and people will just operate their day-to-day lives differently. Plan now as if this will impact your business at least through the end of 2020. The good news here is that – if you tackle this head-on, make the tough choices now and consider how COVID-19 can help you adapt your business model, you can absolutely come out of this with a stronger business.

    Do Not be Complacent

    I worked with struggling business owners for 5 years during the last recession, and the ONLY commonality among the businesses who did not make it were that they were complacent – either in their business model, in how they managed their financials or both. I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

    So – the big question on every small business owner’s mind is: Now What?

    I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

    Understanding Customer Demand

    I have put together a list of high-level questions to help you start to take inventory of your situation:

    Is there still demand for my product or service? All of these questions will help you assess flexibility in your revenue line, which is comprised of two main drivers – demand/volume and pricing.

    If the answer is no, consider this: What will customers want when demand returns? OR What does my business offer that’s of value that can drive demand?

    Travel-related businesses are a great example of this – demand is low right now; however, domestic travel is likely to recover quicker than international travel in the coming months. What can you do now to address this forthcoming need? Are there domestic travel packages you can devise that will help people with vacations in late summer or fall this year? If yes, start working on them now.

    If the answer is yes, but people can’t access your business the way they normally do, what can you do to adapt? Move to virtual services, move selling on to your website, offer delivery, curb-side, etc.?

    If the answer is yes, but pricing is a barrier, what can you reasonably charge customers that helps them fit a budget and still covers your costs (at the very least – ideally, still making a profit)?

    I am a huge proponent of charging your worth; however, right now, people need help. Let’s all remember that we are humans doing the best we can and try to be in service to each others’ businesses and success.

    Reassess Your Business

    What is happening in my cost structure? The time is now to reassess every single expense you have on your most recent P&L. What is a variable cost that can be eliminated or reduced now without negatively impacting your ability to operate? What is a fixed cost that can continue in the short term?

    What is a fixed cost that would need to be eliminated if there is a protracted COVID-19 impact or resulting recession? Assess your resources – what can technology do to help you eliminate manual processes or help lower payroll? Where are there opportunities to create other efficiencies in your operations?

    What is the bare minimum you need to operate? Write a list of everything you would have to spend money on to service a baseline of demand. You should know this now, not later.

    Can you seek relief related to utilities, rent or debt payments now? Don’t wait until you really need it – be proactive. Do you have subscription services or other regular expenses that are not necessary right now? Where else can you pivot and adapt on the cost side? What balance sheet risk am I willing to take?

    There is a temptation right now to offer suppliers or customers extended terms. I urge you to think about this VERY carefully before agreeing. Unlike in other recessions, the impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, and unless you have intimate knowledge of a supplier’s financial situation, liquidity and ability to weather this storm, I would encourage you to protect your business as best you can. You have no idea if that supplier will go out of business and won’t be able to pay you in 60 or 90 days. You can always consider Cash on Order or Cash on Delivery as an alternative if you really need supply.

    Show Your Value

    Last point. If you have historically been a “push marketer,” you need to change your message now. The best thing you can do is: (i) show your value to clients and potential clients in their time of need, and (ii) BE IN SERVICE TO THEM – really and truly. Think every day about what’s in it for them and how you can help.

    This list of questions is just the tip of the iceberg on how to navigate an unprecedented time to be a small business owner, but in a situation that can feel paralyzing, I hope it helps give you a start.

    While these times are difficult, emotionally draining and, at times, scary for us all – please know this: there are people like me in your corner ready to assist. You do not have to do this alone – in fact, you shouldn’t. The small business community is a powerhouse of people who care a lot, and we stand ready to serve you. We are one.

    Stay Up to Date

    Learn more about Gray Matters Games and the fun board games they create by visiting their website!

    Connect with Lauren on Instagram and LinkedIn.

    For additional resources, visit our Small Business Resources to Overcome COVID-19 blog post.

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

    How Marvelous Minds Is Breaking Down Barriers

    Kym Larson was a college student with a passionate interest in learning what makes people tick, when she earned extra money as an ABA therapist for autistic children. She noticed the incredible amount of time the children’s parents spent taking the child from one appointment to another. These children needed help with speech pathology, counseling, testing, tutoring, physical and occupational therapy and more. The parents were desperate to help their children but had little down time to just be with them, enjoying and nurturing their natural personalities. Larson, knew there had to be a better way.

    An Idea Still Percolating

    While working towards her doctorate in neuropsychology and practicing for a number of years, Dr. Larson time and again saw parents struggle to navigate a complex system of services required to help their children achieve success. She realized how the “system” was tedious and complex for parents and children.

    And, Larson thought, what if that place were comfy and cozy: A fun place to be instead of a sterile, bland clinic?

    That idea she had in undergrad was still percolating. Wouldn’t it be great for the families of struggling children if they could get all their services in one place? And, Larson thought, what if that place were comfy and cozy: A fun place to be instead of a sterile, bland clinic?

    What if the service providers—the therapists, neuropsychologists, tutors, OT’s and speech pathologists—just wore regular clothes, like the children’s parents and teachers, instead of lab coats and suits that made them look like intimidating scientists or menacing professionals? After all, Larson reasoned, children need to feel comfortable and safe in order to learn and grow, and the clinical uniforms didn’t really serve any purpose other than making the office look more, well, clinical, and maybe intimidating.

    How Marvelous Minds Came to Be

    Larson, who hails from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, returned to her home town to raise her own family after completing her education and gaining valuable work experience as a neuropsychologist. In 2017 her idea became a reality and she opened her dream clinic and named it Marvelous Minds: the place where children and families could access a plethora of services all under one roof in an environment that was warm, inviting, entertaining and pleasant. That’s what she envisioned all those years ago as a young college student and everything seemed to be in place for success. Except there was a problem.

    Growth as a Barrier

    When the doors opened and Marvelous Minds became a reality, the problem wasn’t lack of customers or resources, it was growth. Fast growth. “The speed with which our practice has grown took me by surprise,” said Larson. “I thought I would have time to learn about running a business while my practice grew, but it happened so fast, I could barely keep up. They don’t teach you how to run a business in grad school, the focus is purely clinical.”

    Fortunately, Larson found the Innovation DuPage Owner-to-CEO accelerator program which was the perfect resource to meet Larson’s need to learn what she needed to know to continue on her road to success. The program allows business owners of all kinds to come together, learn from experts in a variety of topics like finance, human resources, marketing, distribution and more, as well as from one another. The group forms a cohort that shares what works and what doesn’t in a non-competitive, friendly and collegial environment at Innovation DuPage twice weekly for twelve weeks.

    Larson said, “The program was like a mini-MBA. It came at the perfect time for me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about running a business until I enrolled in the program. But one of the best things about it was getting to know the other business owners and taking advantage of the other programs Innovation DuPage offers.”

    Indeed, Larson’s employees are also taking advantage of the classes and workshops offered by Innovation DuPage, so they too can learn what they need to know—from digital marketing to website analytics—to help Marvelous Minds continue on their trajectory toward success.

    Marvelous Minds Is Hiring, Welcoming New Customers, Growing and Helping Children

    Dr. Larson’s Marvelous Minds is not only growing, it’s thriving. Parents who are concerned about the development of their children—whether struggling in school, suffering from anxious, forgetful or impulsive behavior or myriad other diagnoses from ADHD to cognitive and motor disorders, even substance abuse—can find help under one roof at Marvelous Minds. Under the watchful eye of a range of high-level professionals from occupational therapists to speech pathologists to tutors and parent coaches to neuropsychologists (including Dr. Larson), the whole child is treated to improve behaviors and outcomes.

    Larson said, “The biggest surprise in running a business, in addition to meeting my five-year plan in one year, was finding out how much I’m enjoying building a business. I knew there’d be a huge learning curve, but I didn’t know how fast I would need to learn it, and how many mistakes I could have made along the way. I’m still learning, but it’s fantastic to know Innovation DuPage is here to help when I get stuck.”

    Marvelous Minds Working Marvelous Miracles

    What she already knows is how much Marvelous Minds is helping her patients and their families. Larson said, “Bringing one-multi-disciplinary team to handle everything a struggling child might need and having all the services together under one roof—speech, OT, behavioral, parent coaching, psych—is so rewarding. I love to say, ‘Let’s go across the hall and talk to that person,” when it becomes clear through our work that another service is needed. As far as I know, an organization like this didn’t exist before Marvelous Minds. I love that we can treat kids and their parents, see them thrive and watch as they become all they can be with our help. That is why we are here.”

    It is that joy and optimism, not to mention smarts, that is attracting new patients to Marvelous Minds in Glen Ellyn. As the practice continues to add new therapists and services, and continues to grow, it is enjoying a reputation for innovation in its field. That and the gratitude of parents who’ve finally found the help they need to watch the little marvelous minds in their households reach their full potential.

    Larson added, “If you (or anyone you know) is looking for a marvelous career to change lives and empower families, contact me today. We are currently looking for pediatric and family therapists, an occupational therapist, a neuropsychologist, and special education tutors and advocates. Come join our ‘marvelous’ family!”

    Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.