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.