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! haga clic aquí 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.