UP CLOSE | Small Business Spotlight

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

Tell me about the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and your participation in the Small Business Source

We were one of the first organizations to happily join this program because it aligns very closely with our primary focus.  As a Chamber, we help business owners grow their businesses and meet their goals by providing answers or creative solutions to varied questions or challenges that they face every day and that were heightened during the pandemic.  We work diligently to assist the Hispanic business community. We share knowledge, build connections and collaboration through networks like the Cook County Small Business Source and other business resources.  I believe that by helping these businesses they, in turn, can have a positive impact in the community.   

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

These are a few of the questions that we get and that we can guide businesses on how to solve:

“How do I bring traffic into my business”

“What are some recommendations to increase sales”

“Where do I market my business”

“How do I start or improve my social media so that it really helps my business”

Or financial questions — “How to read a P&L (profit and loss statement)”, “How can I get a line of credit or loan”, “grant availability”, etc.

Very often, Hispanic business owners have questions or business concerns, but do not know if they should ask, what to ask or where to start.  It sounds cliché but the only bad question is the one we do not ask. 

Other times, business owners have a specific query, for example “how do I make better posts on social media”, but once we work together, we realize the actual challenge to solve (i.e., increase positive reviews, increase sales on my online website, etc.).  Setting a strategy, tasks become clearer.  

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

Historically, in a time of crisis, there will always be businesses that do well because they are able to adapt, have or quickly identify needed resources or opportunities.  Nonetheless, we still have a lot of businesses that are struggling.  Many businesses must pivot, adapt to new realities (different consumers, lack of employees, inflation, etc.).  We are helping them navigate through these changing times and prioritize strategies.    

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

It is important to not give up. Leverage resources like this Cook County Small Business Source Program, the Hispanic Chamber, or the Small Business Development Center that know about grants or flexible loans.  It is always good to stay connected.  By registering on programs like this, you get news first-hand about various opportunities.  Do not hesitate to reach for help, we know that owning a business is a journey and we would like to support you, through the good or the challenging times.      

Why should small business owners seek assistance from IHCC?

We have a lot of experience and knowledge that we’ve accumulated throughout the years. We have a dedicated team of bilingual and bicultural business savvy advisors that are there for a long-term relationship with small business owners and we do not charge for our services.

We also have other beneficial programs like the Small Business Development Center that provides advice and resources to start a business.  The Latin X Incubator is a partnership with 1871, the largest technology or digital start-up incubator. And 3 other programs, the Illinois Tollway, the Procurement Technical Assistance Center, and the Small Business Transportation Resource Center all geared to help business owners gain access to public and private government contracting through capacity-building, certification, and coaching.

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

One of the biggest achievements in collaboration with the Cook County was to be able to help small business owners apply for the $10,000 Cook County Recovery Grant. At the beginning, only 7 percent of Hispanic-owned businesses were eligible to apply, but our team helped communicate and personally assist applicants to raise that 7 percent to 11 percent.  This was a crucial time for a lot of businesses and having a personal contact that could help them navigate the grant process, especially when a lot of government offices had shorter business hours, was key to help more businesses that otherwise would not have had access to this resource.   

What events or initiatives does IHCC have coming up?

We always have something happening such as networking breakfasts, our Mariachi Golf Outing and later in the year a Business Expo.  We encourage business owners to check our webpage (Upcoming events – IHCC) or follow us on social media to register and meet us at these events. For the Cook County Program, we are planning different webinars and knowledge sharing sessions in the community (i.e., Google my business and Marketing with social media).  Stay tuned for more details.    

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

Thanks to the Cook County Small Business Source Program, we were also able to expand our team and really go out there and help businesses we had not helped before. We know that recovery from the pandemic is a long-term process, and we like people to know that we are here to help in Spanish, English or Spanglish.  You choose, we listen and are here to help.
 

The Cook County Small Business Source 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.

Small Business Profile: Oak Lawn-based Juicy Luzy Sangria

The thought of the uncertainty and fear the COVID-19 pandemic introduced to Luz Cavazos’ life and livelihood still brings tears to her eyes.

The owner of Juicy Luzy Sangria poured her savings, heart and soul into her business when she opened its doors four years ago, and the pandemic threatened to take everything away.

Through creative solutions to setbacks, and with the help of Allies for Community Business as well as Cook County’s COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program, Cavazos weathered the storm.

When she had to cease wine tastings at her Oak Lawn-based business, could not sell her wine at canceled festivals and saw a drop in sales from restaurants that carried her sangria because of closed indoor dining, the impacts began to add up.

Then, when Cavazos heard about the Small Business Assistance Program and saw a link to apply for a grant through the program in an email from Allies for Community Business, she decided to apply.

“Getting that email was a blessing,” she said. “I’m grateful for the grant we got, because if we wouldn’t have gotten it… it was literally just making it, not knowing how long you had.”

Cavazos used the grant money to catch up on bills and purchase supplies for her business. She switched her focus to online sales, shipping her various flavors of sangria and offering curbside pickup. She even offered sangria in tasting packages that people could take home.

“It’s been a very hard, difficult time, but I thank God we were able to get that grant,” Cavazos said. “Hopefully, with the next few months, things will get better, and we can get back to some type of normalcy.”

To prepare small businesses for future grant opportunities and to provide financial and educational resources, the Cook County COVID-19 Recovery Small Business Assistance Program invites small businesses to sign up for the Cook County – Chicago Business Advising Program, also known as technical assistance. This program provides individualized assistance to business owners to help them address needs; acquire new capital and customers; understand finances, as well as change and risk management; adjust business models; and operate under changing safety regulations. This assistance is provided by program partners like Allies for Community Business, as well as Chicago Urban League, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Business Development Center, Berwyn Development Corporation, Chicago TREND, Cook County Black Chamber Corporation and Southland Development Authority.

Cavazos said working with Allies for Community Business over the years has been very helpful and informative, and she recommends them to anyone who has a small business or is interested in starting one.

“If they don’t know the answers, they will help you get the answers,” she said.

Cavazos recommended that small business owners search for and take advantage of free resources and information available to them.

“There are a lot of resources out there, but you have to put in the time and effort,” she said, adding that she is proud of herself for doing her homework over the years to learn about how to run her business, accomplish sales and place her sangria in stores.

“I make our sangria from the heart,” Cavazos said. “It’s the same recipe I’ve made at home for my family. It’s made with a lot of love. We don’t use a lot of sugar. You’re going to get the balance of the wine with a hint of the fruit juices but not something that’s too overpowering.

For more information about Juicy Luzy Sangria and to browse its sangria varieties, visit www.juicyluzysangria.com.