Chicago’s Neighborhood Small Businesses Hope for Happy Holiday Shopping Season | Latino Voices | Chicago News

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas in Chicago shopping districts. But between supply chain problems, inflation and the shadow of a pandemic, the outlook for small retail and food businesses continues to be uncertain this holiday season.

Still, as we approach the end of a third year of the COVID pandemic, there are reasons to be optimistic for Chicago’s small business landscape, says Isabel Velez-Diez, director of economic recovery at the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

“We’ve seen 4,700 new businesses get new licenses since the start of … the pandemic,” Velez-Diez said. “We have also seen the renewal of the license remain at the same percentage as it was before the pandemic. So we are very hopeful, optimistic that things are looking up and things are slowly but surely getting back to normal.

With this in mind, the city’s business-facing entities shift from addressing short-term needs to longer-term planning and activation.

“Now that things are starting to reopen, we have a more thoughtful and impactful thought process through the money we distribute and how we distribute the aid,” Velez-Diez said. “We have a storefront activation program to bring businesses that have never had a storefront before into vacant storefronts, while at the same time revitalizing commercial corridors… We recommend visiting all these spaces because it’s really great for the small businesses and the Churches they” are in.”

Philsen Chamber of Commerce Secretary Jackson Flores said the bumpy economic path of the past few years now culminating in across-the-board inflation has made it a tough environment for small businesses.

“I think one of the things we’re seeing now is the cost of rent, utilities, payroll, it’s going to continue to rise and we’re looking at different types of businesses that are creating different business models that have adapted since the pandemic,” Flores said. .

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Small Village businesses must also weigh the effect of rising costs, says Mike Moreno Jr. of the Small Village Chamber of Commerce.

“As you see the rising cost of products going up, many people are concerned about what is a necessity these days. So you see a lot of consumers who keep their money a little more, maybe buying down,” said Moreno. “For us small businesses, the concern is how much higher inflation is going to go. We’ve already seen a massive increase in the last year and a half.”

Moreno says many businesses have to quickly get up to speed on payment tech and social media marketing.

“A lot of small businesses don’t have the resources or sometimes don’t have the understanding of technology, but when it comes to understanding how to use social media as a form of marketing, especially helped a lot of the small businesses. Who are there ,” Moreno said. “We’re trying to incentivize consumers coming in whether they have deals or … trying to showcase something unique that other locations might not have … even working on websites and starting online businesses has been huge for small businesses out there.”

Carolina Juarez, business district manager at the Rogers Park Business Alliance, said that while getting access to capital is a hurdle for any business, Latino-owned businesses often have a learning curve in understanding American banking systems as well.

“I think what is the most difficult for businesses even realize what kind of help they need. A lot of times the Latino businesses that we work with just have money,” Juarez said. “And so through our entrepreneurial training program, Grow / Progresando, we can support the businesses and help them along the way, starting from maybe even a bank account, and maybe a line of credit and maybe trying to learn more. About their credit score. “

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The RPBA Grow/Progresando Entrepreneurial Training Center offers instruction in English and Spanish.

“It’s free to all Chicagoans. It’s a weekly session or a boot camp where businesses or people interested in opening a business can come and learn all about what it’s like, what it means to start a business and what it means to Maintain your business, and maybe even expand. Things like access to capital, things like marketing, things like space,” Juarez explained.

Flores said these sorts of programs and outreach through the Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations act as vital conduits of information and education between business owners and the city.

“If you log into the city’s website, is it easy for anyone to decipher that type of jargon? I would say absolutely not,” Flores said. “And I think that’s where grassroots organizations and a lot of the nonprofits come into play because they break down a lot of the red tape, they make the information accessible. And I think, when it comes down to it, the city needs to Partner with organizations like these so they can continue to have their ear to the ground.

Community organizations can also help address language gaps with the business owners in their areas, Moreno says.

“There are a lot of people who live in Little Village approximately 76,000 people. It is the most densely populated neighborhood in the city of Chicago, but not everyone there speaks English,” said Moreno. “So it’s very important that we get the resources out there, that we actually go out into the community and reach out to small businesses that maybe aren’t familiar with the resources that are available to them.”

Velez-Diez says a common mistake made by young businesses is not checking the zoning regulations before signing a lease for a new store.

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“Sometimes business owners get really excited about starting a business and they might want to start a place where there was a coffee shop, but the coffee shop may not have followed all the rules to have a coffee shop in that space,” Velez-Diez Caution. “So make sure to go to our website and check all the licensing zoning regulations to make sure that whatever they want to do, they can do.”

Alderpeople and their staff are often the first city officials aspiring business owners meet when they start their enterprises. Juarez says it’s also critical for aldermen to show ongoing support for small businesses in their wards by attending ribbon cuttings, visits and promotions on social media.

“Rogers Park was very fortunate to have the administration we had. I think it’s important that older people stay engaged,” Juarez said. “It’s about staying present and making yourself known and helping the entrepreneur.”

Ultimately, though, it’s the community members themselves who can most help small businesses by making the conscious decision to support them with their sponsorship, Flores says.

“You move into a neighborhood because the rent is cheap, but then you take business to big box stores outside of the neighborhood and you forget that the dollar goes so much further. [in the neighborhood]”, Flores said. “It’s not just goods and services, it’s circulating in the local economy, it’s taxes that go back into the community and it’s forming a community identity. If you’re going to move into a neighborhood Where you can afford the rent, you get a cheap taco, that’s fantastic…but at the same time it’s the fabric of the neighborhood. You need to take care of the neighborhood. It’s an ecosystem.”


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