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Mount Prospect Entrepreneurs Initiative

Prospective businesspeople and restaurateurs who would like to start their own business and be their own boss couldn’t live in a more nurturing community than Mount Prospect.

For the past four years the Chamber, the Village and the Mount Prospect Public Library have been working together to provide a comprehensive set of programs and services to help these aspiring business owners realize their dreams – hopefully, within Mount Prospect.

This all-out effort to encourage and support new business owners, launched in January, 2012 as Entrepreneurs’ Café, has grown and expanded over the years because, not only has it drawn large and enthusiastic groups of people to its programs, but because everyone involved understands the importance of small, locally owned and operated businesses to a community’s economic well-being.

“The original intent with Entrepreneurs’ Café was very broad. We just wanted to help people who wanted to start their own business and didn’t know how or were hesitant about navigating through the Village processes; or those who wanted to transition to the next step like moving their business out of their home and didn’t have the time, energy or money to enroll in a class,” recalled Dawn Fletcher Collins, executive director of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce.

“Our main goal was to connect future entrepreneurs to current, successful entrepreneurs so that they could help with things like writing a business plan, realistic marketing, balancing the books, etc. We also established a website where we post interactive webinars produced by organizations like the Small Business Association (SBA) and keep a calendar of Entrepreneurs’ Café events,” explained Nellie Beckner, senior planner with the Village’s Community Development Department.

“We knew that we wanted to watch our community grow in a positive way from people who are already here, not just by attracting more national chains,” Collins stated.

“Now, four years later, the effort has so much traction that a name change made sense. ‘The Mount Prospect Entrepreneurs Initiative’ is an umbrella over the Café, the e-newsletter and website that the Village generates, the Spotlight on Success film series at the library, the personalized business reference services offered by the library, the mentors and support from the Chamber and the Downtown Merchants and anything else that comes up,” she continued.

“These are all just different facets of the same effort. We are trying to connect to the business community from many different perspectives,” explained Joe Collier, business reference librarian, who was introduced at the October EDC breakfast. “For instance, we see the Spotlight on Success film series as inspirational and the Café as educational. The Chamber, Village and Library representatives work together as a team to come up with ideas for new and innovative programming. Often, the library is able to offer both the space to meet and contact information for prospective presenters. We are also able to search for inspiring, business-related films. It is a natural fit.”

“Entrepreneurs’ Café will continue meeting periodically to provide the educational component. In fact, we hope to offer a bi-lingual meeting on the south side of town, at the Community Connections Center, to further close the information gap for business owners who don’t speak English,” Beckner said.

“We have even held a networking event specifically for those interested in opening restaurants. A significant number of entrepreneurs choose to open restaurants rather than another type of business, so this is an important subgroup for us,” she explained.

The team is also planning to initiate a series of podcasts in 2016 in which local businesspeople are able to share their stories of success, as well as their cautionary tales of defeat. Both are enlightening and valuable, according to Collier.

The library is also using its partnership in the MPEI to promote its Reference By Appointment (RBA) service, he said. This service allows anyone to schedule an hour of one-on-one time with a librarian. He or she can help with everything from the best ways to use a particular database to find potential customers or vendors, to how to construct a resume or fill out an online job application.

“We are trying to remove barriers individuals might encounter like having no computer access or computer knowledge. It is so much better to engage someone from the business community one-on-one in a private appointment than to try to answer questions in a group after a program ends,” Collier stated.

“Our Mount Prospect Entrepreneurs’ Initiative is driven by the needs of our residents as prospective entrepreneurs and the business community and that will continue,” explained Collins. “We plan the events and programs to be fruitful and engaging. We are casting our net far and wide and if we can’t specifically meet a need ourselves, we will find someone who can. It is a win for the Mount Prospect Community.”

The “umbrella” of the MPEI includes the following:

Entrepreneurs Café

The Entrepreneurs Café offering under the MPEI umbrella remains the same as when launched

in 2012. Programs and information events are intended for prospective, new and/or existing business owners with topics driven by requests/needs of the attendees. We expect to offer several Entrepreneurs Café presentations again in 2016; in addition to the ongoing

Jump Start Your Business program, offered quarterly through the partnership of the Village of Mount Prospect, Mount Prospect Public Library and Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce.

Spotlight on Success FILM SERIES

The Spotlight on Success FILM SERIES includes films with an entrepreneurial focus that educate and inspire.

Our schedule includes 4 films per year. To date, the Steve Jobs interviews/documentaries have been the most enjoyed. Open to the general public with the intention of enlightening discussion between prospective, new and/or established business owners; audience members/attendees have included business owners, community leaders, residents and library patrons of all ages.

Local Resources & Support

Village of Mount Prospect
Nellie Beckner, Senior Planner

Mount Prospect Public Library
Joe Collier, Business Reference Librarian

Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce
Dawn Fletcher Collins, Executive Director

Further Connections

Mount Prospect Downtown Merchants Association
Small Business Development Center at Harper College
Small Business Administration
SCORE mentors

The commitment to business growth by the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce was also evident by participation for three years in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program.

Two Mount Prospect businesses partnered with the program all three years:

Robert Bosch Tool Corporation – Community Corporate Partner
American Chartered Bank – Banking Partner

As Champions for students and entrepreneurship, their funding and support permitted the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce to host weekly business classes for three school years. Held as an after school enrichment ‘class’; the students were recruited from Prospect High School, Lincoln Middle School and River Trails Middle School. Students were encouraged to think out of the box, and led by Katie Dolan Dix, owner/operator of Capannari Ice Cream – as instructor for the YEA! program – came up with ‘ideas’ for their own businesses. During the school weekly meetings, with direction and support from Dix and Chamber staff, the students were given the tools and opportunity to begin the program as students and end the year as CEOs of their company. With instructor, program manager and mentors, students wrote business plans, prepared budgets and projections, created product templates, worked with graphic designers, did research and data compilations, learned marketing and branding and got out into the real world to make the business a reality. Experiences including ‘pitching’ to investors with a power point presentation at an Investor Panel Event for dollar awards to launch their businesses; Trade Show opportunities at Costco Wholesale, Woodfield Mall and a local Farmer’s Market. The success of the program was attributed to the list of sponsors, volunteers, advocates, mentors, guest speakers, field trip hosts – all representing the Mount Prospect business community.

THANK YOU Katie Dolan Dix, Meghan Brickley, Ken Dix, Susan Dozier, Tom Zander, Mike Janonis, Richard Sassan, Clare O’Shea, Chuck Martin, Kurt Laakso, Mark Watychowicz, Rick Bowman, Maura El Metennani, Michelle Harford, Fran Guziel, Karen Enzenbacher, Howard Mack, Jim Peterson, Kate Gilholly, Kaitlin Skye Collins, Jay Collins, Mayor Arlene Juracek, Nellie Beckner, Marianthi Thanopoulos, Laura Haas, Jeanine Molinelli, Cindy Brown, Alisha Sumpter, Becca Raven Uminowicz;

AND OF COURSE: Capannari Ice Cream, Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, American Chartered Bank,

Picket Fence Realty, B & E Accounting & Tax CPA P.C. , Mount Prospect Lions Club, Culver’s, MECO Consulting, Nicholas & Associates, FGM Marketing, Law Office of Mark J. Watychowicz, Amethyst Skye Salon, Aback & Associates, Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Mount Prospect, Mr. Beef & Pizza, Mt. Prospect Child Care Center, Nothing Bundt Cakes Mt. Prospect, Emerson’s Ale House, Peterson Roofing, Daily Herald, Northwest Suburban United Way, Village of Mount Prospect, Prospect High School, Costco Wholesale and the many residents, parents and business owners who supported our efforts to provide this valuable experience for the students and community.

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