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.

Optimize the Benefits of Your Social Media

Tips on keeping your post organic
• Aim to use 3-5 hashtags per post
• Consider the time and day you post

Tips for growing your followers
• Find people who share your companies values/interests
• Comment, like, and share their posts
• Follow them or add them as friends

Tips on communication
• Address questions or concerns in comments or direct messages in the same day 

Social media can be an incredibly helpful marketing tool to advertise your business. The constant cycle of information online allows your business to be seen by those who otherwise may never have come across it. While social media can be an easy way to increase exposure, there are some ways to optimize its benefits. Here are a few tips to make sure your social media marketing strategy is the best it can be. 

  1. Keep your posts genuine
    In an environment where you communicate through captions, it can be hard to make a social media post sound sincere, especially with the prominent use of hashtags. Hashtags can increase your exposure so you want to use them, but too many hashtags are a lot for a consumer to process. You want to find a balance and use about 3-5 hashtags per post to keep it simple.
  1. Schedule the creation and publishing of posts
    You should have a schedule of what you want to post and when. This schedule will give you more time to interact with consumers and other companies online rather than spending a lot of time creating posts. Also, consider what day and time you post because the timing of a post can impact how many people see it. You want to take advantage of online traffic patterns.
  1. Grow your following 
    The more followers you have, the more exposure you get. You want to create an online network of people and companies that have similar values and interests. Those hashtags mentioned before are what allow you to find the right people to engage with. Once you find those people, interact with their posts to get their attention. Like, comment, and share their posts to show your interest in them and they may reciprocate. Follow or add them as friends to establish a line of communication.
  2. Take advantage of every feature a platform has to offer
    Most social media sites nowadays give you more than one way to post content, like how Instagram has posts and stories. You want to use those other features as much as you can because a profile of diverse content can bring in a larger audience. It also keeps the audience you already have engaged in your content. 
  3. Communication with consumers is key
    Consumers interested in your business will reach out with questions or concerns in a variety of ways. Either through a Direct Message or the comment section of a post, you want to respond to their comments within the same day. A good response time will show that you are involved in the online community you have created and want the best for your consumers.