The 2023 Source Grant Launch

The launch of The 2023 Source Grant brought together many of our community partners and small businesses. The press event on July 19 featured President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, grant administrators Women’s Business Development Center and Allies for Community Businesses, the Bureau of Economic Development and the Office of Veteran Affairs and small business owners.

Cook County small business owner Dr. Ronald Sam, owner of Home Health Medical, LLC spoke to the value of The Cook County Small Business Source and said:

“I was one of the recipients of the 2020 grant where we used the funds to provide a COVID clinic for Veterans in Milwaukee. We needed the capital to get that project off the ground”.

Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, advocated for funding of the Cook County Small Business Source, which provides small businesses with no-cost business advice, resources and access to events. 

“Restaurants and bars have been hit particularly hard over the past few years,” Toia said. “Most restaurants are facing two years of debt, higher food costs, supply issues and staffing challenges. Throughout all this, the Cook County Small Business Source has been a vital source of guidance, support and stability to thousands of small businesses.”

Click here to read the press release.

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The Source Honored with a National Association of Counties Award

Did you know that The Source’s work in assisting 10,000 businesses has led to its recognition as a national model for small business assistance? Since its inception, The Source has assisted small businesses by providing no cost business advising, a library of resources, events, training and access to capital opportunities. Congratulations to The Source for being a National Association of Counties 2023 Achievement Award Winner! 

Click here to read more about the other 36 awards Cook County received this year.

Become a Referral Partner for The Source

The Cook County Small Business Source is seeking non-profit organizations to join its partner network as a Referral Partner. 

We seek organizations that:

  • Have a footprint or presence in Suburban Cook County
  • Serve historically excluded populations 
  • Have the staffing and resources to conduct marketing and outreach on behalf of the Cook County Small Business Source and its upcoming small business grant program

Since 2020, the Cook County Small Business Source has provided no-cost business advising, resources, events/webinars, and grants to over 10,000 small businesses throughout Cook County.  69% of business owners served by the program represent historically excluded communities and 96% are microbusinesses with ten or less employees. Because of partners like you, we are able to expand our reach through Cook County to serve small businesses who need assistance and resources to grow and thrive. 

If you are interested, please use this application to submit information about your organization’s ability to serve as a Referral Partner for the Source no later than Friday, June 30 at 5pm CT.

The Source e-Newsletter: June Edition

A new edition of The Source e-Newsletter just dropped! June’s newsletter highlights tools available on The Source’s new Resources page, an inspiring small business impact story, free upcoming events and financing opportunities.

Click here to view the June e-Newsletter.

Don’t receive our newsletter yet? Subscribe here on our website today.

Partner with The Source: Become a Business Support Organization

The Women’s Business Development Center on behalf of the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development seeks 2-4 non-profit Business Support Organizations (BSOs) to provide business advising services for The Cook County Small Business Source.

We seek organizations that:

  • Have demonstrated experience and expertise in delivering small business programming, events and business advising.
  • Possess the existing infrastructure, staff, and capacity to serve significant numbers of businesses clients and meet monitoring and compliance standards associated with federal funding allocations (prior experience with federal funding is preferred).
  • Have a footprint or presence in Suburban Cook County.
  • Examples of the types of organizations we seek include but are not limited to SBDCs and PTACs (State), NBDCs (City), or BSOs with existing business incubator programs. 

Since 2020, the Cook County Small Business Source has provided no-cost business advising, resources, events/webinars, and grants to over 10,000 small businesses throughout Cook County.  If you are interested, please use this application to submit information about your organization’s ability to serve as a BSO for the Source no later than Tuesday, May 2nd at 5:00pm.  

Applications Now Closed: DCEO Back To Business (B2B) Grants for Creative Arts, Hotels & Restaurants

As of 12am, May 11th, the application window for the DCEO Back To Business (B2B) Grants is closed.

The State of Illinois has launched a new round of the Back to Business (B2B) program. Eligible restaurants, hotels and creative arts businesses are eligible to apply for $175 million in available grant funding as part of the State of Illinois’ efforts to support ongoing recovery in hard-hit industries. All applicants will receive a grant as long as they meet eligibility requirements, submit proper documentation and attestations required by the program.

As part of the State’s Community Navigator program, the Cook County Small Business Source engages and coordinates 10 partner organizations, known as “Spokes”, to offer workshops and events as well as  provide direct support to small businesses interested in applying to the B2B program.

For B2B application assistance, sign up here.

For information related to application assistance events check out our Events page.

B2B Grant Informational Flyers

B2B Grant Frequently Asked Questions

B2B Grant Eligibility

Check Your Certificate of Good Standing Status Today!

As the year ends, we want to remind you that having a Certificate of Good Standing is important for Small Businesses. Your business may need to get a copy of your certificate to:

  • Open a business bank account
  • Apply for a business loan
  • Seek investments from investors 
  • Purchase small business insurance 
  • Register to do business in another state 

To check the status of your business, go to the Illinois Secretary of State website here.

Make your final preparations for Small Business Saturday!

Saturday, November 26 is Small Business Saturday, is a day designed to promote the importance of small businesses for the local economy on one of the biggest shopping days of the year! Take action now to prepare yourself and your business to serve your customers, hit your sales goals, promote your offers on social media, and celebrate the magic of shopping local this winter! 

This guide contains tips and resources to make your holiday shopping season a success, from preparing your staff and website to priming your customers and community. Make sure every touchpoint with your business is up to your standards using these helpful tips, brought to you by The Cook County Small Business Source. Start implementing them now and you won’t miss a beat on Small Business Saturday. And remember, The Source is here to support you all year long. 

We can’t wait to celebrate Small Business Saturday with you on November 26! 

Set a goal

What is your goal for Small Business Saturday? What is your goal for this holiday season? It might be to sell a certain amount of inventory, add 40 subscribers to your email list, or build and execute a promotional campaign from start to finish. Whatever your goals are, make sure they connect to the broader strategy you have for your business—then make a plan to reach them. Before you dive into our other tips, make sure you have defined what success looks like for you. Having a defined goal(s) in mind will help you streamline your actions and make informed decisions on how to spend your limited time and resources. 

Be prepared

Make sure your shelves are stocked, your team is ready to provide exceptional customer service, and your website can handle an influx of traffic on November 26.

  • Check on your inventory

Don’t get caught with items out of stock! Use previous peaks in sales to understand what your customers want—then make sure your online and in-store inventory is ready to handle these needs! Prominently feature your most popular items and determine a fulfillment plan if customers want items that aren’t in stock. 

  • Make sure you’re appropriately staffed

Your staff is the face of your business, and the best way to serve your customers and your community on Small Business Saturday is with amazing customer service. Get ready to answer questions, respond to inquiries quickly on social media, and greet customers with a smile. Spend the time now training your team to provide professional, exceptional service to every single person who shops with you. 

  • Optimize your website

Thoroughly test your customer journeys, check that your security software is current, and ensure the website will work smoothly, even when traffic is higher than normal. Run tests and make sure you have a plan if you experience downtime or crashes.

The shopping and checkout process on your website should be an excellent user experience, whether they’re visiting from their phone, computer, or tablet. 

Now is also the time to make sure your website is search engine optimized so that online shoppers can find you, your products, and your services when they search throughout the holiday season. Make sure you publish content relevant to your brand and interesting to your customers—and plan regular content updates so customers have a reason to return to your site. Finally, spend some time finding and implementing keywords that will help improve your search rankings and help potential customers find your website. 

Promote, promote, promote

Your community is excited to shop small on Small Business Saturday, so leverage the buzz to promote special events! Use promotions, special campaigns, and collaborations with other local businesses to spread the word and attract even more customers. 

  • Share the love 

Small Business Saturday is a great day to celebrate and collaborate with other local businesses! Consider cross-promoting your offers, partnering on an event, or simply recognizing other incredible businesses on your social media. Use the power of community to increase awareness and make shoppers feel that they’re part of something bigger—because they are! 

  • Offer a special promotion

Small Business Saturday is the perfect time to offer your customers a special promotion or incentive! Whether it’s a discount, a contest, or a unique product, make a splash on November 26 with something that will get your community excited. A discountlike 15% off or a one-of-a-kind gift with purchase can be just the push they need to shop small on November 26. 

  • Build the buzz 

Once you identify your offer, start building buzz about it on social media and through your communication channels. This is another opportunity to collaborate with local businesses to get the word out to a broader audience. Consider a dedicated email campaign, social ads, or even a print flyer. Think about where your customers are and bring your message to them! 

  • Leverage your home team

Don’t forget about your loyal customers during this time. They’re part of your community and want to support you! Encourage them to be a part of the day by offering a special “friends and family” deal or reaching out with a targeted campaign. You could even ask them to share your messaging via their own social media channels. 

  • Make it an event

If you want to take it a step further, plan an event to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Think of an event as a curated brand experience and specifically invite community members to attend and bring a friend! Take plenty of photos during the event and be sure to post them during and after on your social media channels.This tactic can help get even more people in the door and increase the reach of your company.  

Think local

Your personality is your superpower as a small business! It gives you a unique opportunity to connect with your community in a targeted and meaningful way. This Small Business Saturday, do what the big guys can’t leverage your local area. What does your neighborhood love? How can you build relationships with your customers? How can you respond to your unique (and amazing!) community?

Think about how to capitalize on foot traffic, connect with other businesses in the area, or promote to local community groups.

Perfect your customer service

The best way to serve your customers and your community on Small Business Saturday and beyond is with amazing customer service. Be sure that everyone on your team is ready to step up with a friendly smile, a helpful demeanor, and the knowledge they need to problem-solve on the fly. Have an easy way for customers to find answers to their questions—either in person or with a comprehensive FAQ page. Make sure that your team knows just how appreciated they are! When your team is feeling the love, they’ll show that same attention and care to your customers! 

Keep the momentum going

On Small Business Saturday, collect new customers’ information and add them to your e-list or encourage them to follow you on social media—then share information tailored specifically for them! Now is a great time to refresh your welcome email for new subscribers or your incentives for first-time purchasers. Get new clients excited to stay involved and keep the community love rolling. 

And don’t forget that Small Business Saturday is just the beginning of your holiday campaign. Continue communicating regularly with your audience and show them why they need your product or service. Can you make their lives easier during the busy winter months? Will your product make an amazing gift for their aunt or sibling or best friend? Now is the time to tell them! Don’t assume they’ll figure it out on their own. Communicate clearly and consistently to keep customers engaged and coming back! 

Use these tips to help you have your biggest Small Business Saturday ever on November 26—and make sure this special celebration is just the beginning of a successful holiday shopping season! 

The Cook County Small Business Source is here to support you on Small Business Saturday—and all year long! Make sure you’re visiting our website regularly to receive free resources, to connect with our team on questions, or to join us at an upcoming event. We’re here for you—and we can’t wait to celebrate amazing small businesses in Cook County this Small Business Saturday! 

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