Innovation DuPage Launches Construction Industry Owner-to-CEO Program

This press release was originally published by the College of DuPage in August 2020.

Construction Industry Program supporting Hispanic, female, Black and veteran business owners. In partnership with the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association (HACIA), Innovation DuPage (ID) launched the Construction Industry Owner-to-CEO Business Accelerator, a program designed to support Hispanic, Black, female and veteran-owned businesses.

ID’s 12-week program guides participants as they scale their businesses, capitalizing on the knowledge of industry experts serving as instructors. The course modules are tailored for the construction industry covering insurance and bonding, the contract bid process, human resources, emerging technology and marketing strategies. The project management units, construction finance module and legal considerations units are led by industry leaders Power Construction and Mortenson, Glen Ellyn Bank & Trust, a division of Wintrust Bank, and Robins Platt and ICE Miller, respectively.

Launched two years ago, the Owner-to-CEO program was structured to accelerate the success of small business owners seeking to fine-tune and scale their operations. With 45 program graduates, the accelerator program caught the attention of community leaders including those at HACIA.

Because of our shared commitment to serving underrepresented business owners, we worked with HACIA’s leadership to optimize outcomes for minority

-And women-owned business enterprises and disadvantaged business enterprises,” said Sam Guerrero, ID Community Engagement Manager.

HACIA Executive Director Jorge Perez said the partnership with ID allows the association to support the building of small construction-related businesses in and around the western suburbs.

“For more than 40 years, HACIA has been an advocate for the equitable participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in the construction industry,” Perez said. “Creating a customized curriculum led by industry experts is a high-value way to extend HACIA’s mission and to help grow the pool of qualified minority- and women-owned firms who will shape the future of the construction industry.”

Lilly Aguilar, program participant and construction cleaning business owner, said she applied for the program to learn how to expand revenues.

I don’t know of anywhere else in this region that could replicate the kind of experience found at Innovation DuPage.

She said. “The accelerator program provides me with key skills that will further strengthen the foundation of my business, allowing me to grow financially. I want to be able to use and apply the resources and techniques offered by this program to improve my skills as a woman and minority business owner.”

Travis Linderman, ID Managing Director, said that business owner could gain access to the broader network of vetted mentors and investors.

“The program’s format provides a competitive advantage for underestimated entrepreneurs seeking to strengthen their access to financial and legal expertise,” he said. “The network that is developed between participants serves as a stabilizing support system that lasts long after the accelerator’s conclusion. Graduates have the potential to transform the long-term health of their companies by working together on projects to secure new clients and contracts.”

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.

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.

    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.

    COVID-19 Recovery Analytics: Using the Power of Data Recap

    Every organization and person around the globe has been impacted by the Coronavirus. Companies are looking for new ways to use data and information to plan in their recovery and move their businesses forward successfully in the new environment. Join our virtual lunch ‘n’ learn and hear from leading data experts on key techniques and ways to utilize data to drive your recovery planning to optimize your business.

    Watch Chief Analytics Officer Larry Blackburn and Data Analytics Industry Consultant Rob Wellen of Datatelligent.

    View video highlights from this webinar below!

    Combatting Threats with Advanced Analytics

    Rob Wellen


    Companies are looking to get a better understanding of their business during this difficult time. Critical questions to ask yourself:

    Understand:

    What are the threats and opportunities relating to my business and the local market?

    Optimize:

    How can I optimize my business and better serve my customers?

    How can I reduce risk?

    Act:

    What are the trends for “What if” scenario planning?


    Business Recovery Tracking

    Rob Wellen


    These tools provide business owners with insight on how to make sense of COVID-19 data in relation to their business.

    Localized Impact Map

    This enables companies to integrate COVID-19 case data with their own business data in order to view their business impact and where their customers are located.

    Business Recovery Tracking

    Utilizing this model allows for “What if” scenario planning and trends a business against COVID-19 case trends. Track and make decisions against impact on local markets.


    Data Visualization: Snowflake+ Power BI+ Tableau

    Sam Guererro and Rob Wellen


    Now is a great time for organizations to invest in Cloud and data analytics tools. Rob Wellen, addresses tools that businesses can use for data tracking. What platforms are the most beneficial and commonly for entrepreneurs and small business owners?

    To find out more about the tools discussed in the video:

    Tableau: Data-driven technology allows for improved business intelligence through embedded analytics. An interactive and visual analysis of your company.

    Power BI: Data made visual, view insights at scale and take strategic, actionable steps. Make decisions with confidence with one of the largest and fastest growing intelligence clouds.

    Snowflake: This software supports a multi-cloud strategy, including a cross-cloud approach. Features available through Snowflake include: data exchange, insights and analytics, data engineering, data warehouse modernization and enabling developers.


    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.

    Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour

    Join us in our virtual happy hour to meet and network with other founders, business owners and Innovation DuPage staff. We will be using breakout rooms to accommodate a more intimate conversation setting. Join us for an opportunity to win a gift card from, local Glen Ellyn restaurant, A Toda Madre.

    Tuesday, May 5th at 4:00 pm

    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.

    Business Idea Competition: Final Round

    Concordia University Chicago will livestream the finals of their CougarTank business idea competition to students, alumni and the startup community. CougarTank encourages young creators to apply their entrepreneurial prowess to bring their innovative ideas to life. Through this competition, students go head-to-head presenting their business models to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and alumni. After conquering multiple rounds of scrutiny, the final five teams have been selected.

    The CougarTank Final Round
    April 17, 2020 – 5:30 to 7:30pm

    Groups will present in the following order:

    Amazing Feet 5:30-5:55pm, Doc In a Box 5:55-6:20pm, Ru, The Toy Guru 6:20-6:45pm, Stylo Closet App 6:45-7:10pm, Sync.Lync 7:10-7:35pm.

    Here is a profile of each emerging company and the founders who are building them:

    Amazing Feet – Nivedita Kadambi & John LeMieux


    Amazing Feet is planning on making big waves in the podiatric industry. The concept is simple – using a 3D scanning device, a podiatrist would scan a patient’s feet and then deliver the resulting images/orthotic corrections through the Amazing Feet app. This technology could give patients the flexibility of purchasing custom shoes on demand.

    Doc in a Box – Brian Harris & Kristen Landon

    Maintain good health while in college with Doc in the Box. Doc in the Box is looking to help full-time, undergraduate students gain easy access to healthcare. This service would utilize technology to suggest self-administered care for non-urgent situations and reduce the stress of finding coverage. The cost would be affordable due to the plan being included in the student’s tuition and fees.

    Ru, The Toy Guru – Emily Hynan & Jason Slusher

    Do you fret about shredded dog toys all over your home? Ru, The Toy Guru has the solution for you. This dog toy company’s concept involves soft, industrial-strength Velcro. Unlike other products on the market, this toy provides a unique, money-saving twist. It is meant to be ripped apart and put back together. Built to endure a profound amount of puppy pulling, owners can simply push the pieces back together each time it “rips”. Let your furry friend play and be rough, without worrying about your wallet.

    Stylo Closet App – Kanwal Irfan

    The Stylo Closet App aims to solve a common dilemma that many face when standing in front of their closet. What do I wear? The app accesses thousands of looks curated specifically for you. How it works: Stylo Closet takes pieces from your wardrobe (uploaded by the user) and generates options based on the clothes you already own. This app differs from its competitors by suggesting trendy hair and makeup ideas. It also connects users to fashion influencers that can inspire personal styling decisions.

    Sync.Lync – Anna Krenz & Antea Pela

    Are you tired of your phone battery dying when you’re on the go? Generate energy with Sync.Lync. This fitness band converts human movement into power for your smartphone. This device pairs to a fitness app with an assortment of workouts and encourages community activity. It also includes a safety feature for emergency situations.

    Stay Connected

    Learn more about Concordia University Chicago’s CougarTank program here.

    Explore the other various programs they have to offer by visiting their website.

    Connect with CUC on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.

    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.