UP CLOSE | Small Business Spotlight – Meet Aida Flores and Eduardo Duarte of Total Nutrition Belmont LLC

UP CLOSE | Small Business Spotlight 

Meet Aida Flores and Eduardo Duarte of Total Nutrition Belmont LLC

 

5550 W. Belmont Ave. Chicago, IL 60641

(773) 757-4420

 

How long have you been in business?

I started in 2008 learning about wellness and maintaining healthy habits, being proactive and changing my eating habits and doing this as a family. I first helped others in my small circle of influence. As I continued preparing myself with more specialized classes, I learned that there was a big need and desire for more information, and I wanted to help more people. So, 5 years ago, we opened our store where people could come and exercise, and we could coach them. We then also obtained our license to start offering healthy food and beverage items.  

 

What products or services does your business offer?

We offer comprehensive programs for well-being and maintaining healthy habits for the whole family. We create nutritional programs, and we offer coaching and support for healthy weight loss, increased muscle mass, exercise plans, etc. In our retail store, we also offer protein shakes and soy-based healthy food, such as waffles, crepes, protein bowls, natural fruit, and energy beverages. We have support chats and communities where transformation challenges are carried out, where people feel motivated and encouraged to meet their personalized goals.  

 

How did COVID-19 impact your business?

This was a difficult time for everyone. Our business was highly impacted because we could not meet in person to exercise as a team. A big part of a person’s motivation is this time that you spend with others with similar goals; we support each other, and this is important. In addition, we also offer healthy food items, and our daily sales and traffic were lower. But we were able to adapt our business format so that people could also take these items to go. We continue to connect with our clients on a personal basis.  

 

How did it feel to have to confront the challenges you faced?

We felt challenged to find other ways to reach our clients every day and connect with them in the right format so that we could continue to offer the services they needed.  While this time has been and continues to be challenging, it still made us create new strategies to continue with our daily mission, which is to build healthier and stronger communities.  

 

How did you become connected to IHCC?

Through the Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors (NIJFON) organization, they came to our place looking for a way to support the community, especially during this pandemic that has impacted so many businesses. We were connected with the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program, which then introduced us to IHCC, where we received technical assistance.

 

How has working with IHCC helped you and your company?

It has helped us a lot. Sometimes, as small businesses, there is information that we do not know, and IHCC gives us business tools to continue advancing in a confident and calm way, knowing that we are on the right track. We feel very supported, because anytime that we have questions and doubts, they are there; their answers are very quick and helpful to be able to make important decisions. I am grateful that these organizations exist with such friendly people who have the knowledge and contacts that give us confidence and guidance. I believe all the small businesses that we start should leverage this important resource. Just reach out to them.

 

What have you enjoyed the most about working with IHCC?

That I have a clear guide and they quickly resolve my doubts. They are really very kind people, with a gift of service, who love helping others. I trust reaching them for business support.

 

What do you hope for your community and business moving forward?

Growth, as a business and for our clients. We are in the process of doing some remodeling work so we can have a better space to continue helping others with their journey to attain and maintain healthy habits. Our future goal is to help others open more centers like ours. We want to continue helping many members of my community and neighboring communities sharing our know-how to achieve wellness and health for the family. We want to create extra income and business opportunities for others, as it has worked for us. We hope to continue having the support of these great organizations.

ON THE FRONTLINES | ​Meet the Business Support Organization — Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

ON THE FRONTLINES  

​Meet the Business Support Organization — Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

 

How many businesses have you been able to assist since joining the Cook County Small Business Assistance Program?

About 4,500 clients were helped through the Cook County program over the past year. As an organization, we have programs all across the state, and we’ve helped about 10,000 clients total over the past year.

 

What are some of the most common questions that small business owners need help navigating?

For one, always the financials — how to read a P&L (profit and loss statement), get access to capital, be able to prepare for taxes. A lot of grants and loans require businesses to have their taxes done for the prior year. We educate people on getting their taxes done ASAP and that it’s alright to ask a bank for a line of credit or loan.

We also get questions about marketing, especially as everything is becoming virtual. Businesses had to reinvent themselves on the web, and with social media and branding. 

 

How is the assistance you’re providing changing or shifting now that we’re in a different stage of the pandemic?

It depends on who you ask. Some industries are flourishing, and some are struggling.

 

What is your advice to business owners who are struggling or feeling doubt?

It is important for them to not give up. A lot of business owners are not aware of the resources out there, like the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program, the Chamber, or the Small Business Development Center, or they find out too late that funds have been exhausted. We talk to clients every day who say they wish they knew about us sooner and the resources and benefits out there for business owners.

 

Why should small business owners seek assistance from IHCC?

We are celebrating our 30-year anniversary and have a lot of experience and knowledge we’ve accumulated throughout the years. We have all these programs in our organization at no cost to business owners. We make an effort to do outreach, create relationships and do follow-ups. A lot of business owners don’t read emails and would rather see someone in person. We go out there in person to provide help and resources, and that gives them a boost of confidence and faith that we’re here to help.

 

What is one of IHCC’s biggest achievements being able to assist Cook County businesses?

The biggest achievement we have is when we were able to review all the applications being submitted late last year to receive $10,000 Cook County Recovery Grants through the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program. At the beginning, only 7 percent of Hispanic-owned businesses were eligible to apply, but through the efforts of our team that went through and reviewed applications, we were able to raise that 7 percent to 11 percent. It’s a small percentage, but every percentage counts. Some business owners didn’t have the time to review the application themselves or missed one report or one checkmark in a box. Our team went through each grant and made sure each business had everything needed to apply, if possible. 

 

What events or initiatives does IHCC have coming up?

We have regular outreach events. We canvas areas two to three times a week. We encourage business owners to check our social media to see where we’ll be. Right now, we are helping businesses apply for the Back 2 Business Grants. Our biggest event coming up is our 30+1 Gala on Sept. 30 at Hyatt McCormick Place. It’s a celebration of our 30 years and how we’re still fighting for small businesses, and we will continue to fight for them.

 

Is there anything else you’d like people to know?

Thanks to the Cook County Small Business Assistance Program, we were able to expand our team and really go out there and help businesses we’d not helped before. Before the pandemic, we were a team of seven, and at the moment, we’re a team of 16. When the pandemic hit, we wanted to be on the front lines, and we really went out of our way to let businesses know we are here to help in Spanish and English. We are trying to help all businesses affected by the pandemic, educating them on the resources out there so they can get financial help by any means.

The Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program is still taking on clients for technical assistance! Click here to sign up for help today, and be connected with one of our Business Support Organizations that can provide you with the support you need, like IHCC.

Update to EIDL

Major enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program  have been announced!

 EIDLE is a federal disaster relief loan designed to better serve and support our small business communities still reeling from the pandemic, especially hard-hit sectors such as restaurants, gyms, and hotels.

Program Updates

  • Increasing the Lending Cap: The SBA will lift the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period: The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic without having to worry about making ends meet.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window: The SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds: COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements: The SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

About the COVID EIDL Program

In response to COVID-19, small business owners, including agricultural businesses, and nonprofit organizations in all U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and territories can apply for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). The purpose of EIDL is for small businesses to meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

How to apply

Eligible small businesses, nonprofits, and agricultural businesses in all U.S. states and territories can apply. Visit www.sba.gov/eidl to learn more about eligibility and application requirements. The last day that applications may be received is December 31, 2021. All applicants should file their applications as soon as possible.

 

If you need assistance applying call us at 872.304.2785.

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