Guest Post: Why Entrepreneurs Should Start Their Business in Chicago

Guest Post: Why Entrepreneurs Should Start Their Business in Chicago

Author’s Bio: Camila Restrepo is a passionate story builder and journalist. As OfficeList‘s Communications Manager, she’s building an online community for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs who are in the process of opening their startups face countless doubts. Is this the right time to venture into a new project? Will it be ready for its launch for next year? However, is the key question when or where? For an Olympic athlete, it may be when, for an entrepreneur, the essential question is where. Well depending on the place a new project is built, the target, facilities, and cost will vary. However, even after deciding “where”, the next step is full of unknowns. This guide will help those entrepreneurs to determine why Chicago should be their next one-way stop.

Working in a busy city like Chicago permits to naturally meet and network with other entrepreneurs. People can find numerous important connections right at their fingertips, which permit them to access great opportunities. Additionally, there is always an event happening to strengthen professional skills that will help even the most qualified to exploit their talent.

 

As Lorell Marin, founder of LEEP Forward says, “Chicago has a small-town feel with the benefits of a big city.  There’re many opportunities to find support, gather and get to know people, whether as a mom in business, a therapist or as an entrepreneur”.

Chicago is also home to top universities, accelerators, and incubators that permit companies to work with and retain the best industry talent. On top of that, as talent evolves, they can also partner with the city’s innovation labs and incubators, like 1871. This ends up to be a great benefit because although starting a business is full of uncertainties, starting it in a city built on innovation can lessen the risk of failure. In fact, this allows startups to find investors who are truly interested in the business.

Although in many industries, Chicago is known for bureaucracy, some of the city’s small-business success is a result of pro-business reforms that began in 2011. These changes include the reduction of business license types from 117 to 49, as well as more learning programs, grants, and other resources to help entrepreneurs launch new businesses.

 

Another great benefit is that the city is big enough to serve as a major one but small enough to navigate.  In fact, Chicago has geographic access to New York, Florida, Texas and the Upper Midwest in less than three hours. International destinations are not left behind because they are only a nonstop flight away. Therefore, reaching clients is accessible, no matter where on the globe.

On top of that, when it comes to office space available, there are impressive buildings that include different types of offices, remarkable lobbies, and top amenities to make the best out of every company.

 

So, where’s the next stop going to be?

 

Think Change

Think Change

Company Name: Think Change
Industry: Coaching / Consulting / Training
Year Founded: 2011
Location: Novel Coworking River North, Chicago

Tell the story of how your business was founded.

A few years ago, I found myself on the floor of my apartment with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, feeling miserable. In fact, I had felt that way for a while. My four-year relationship had collapsed, work was losing its meaning, and I felt deeply misunderstood, unloved, and lonely. Money was tight; I was overweight, lethargic, and confused; and my future seemed blurry.

Then, it happened. Something changed.

I decided to shift my perspective and see what my life would be like if I stopped beating myself up over “not being good enough, successful enough, rich enough, sexy enough” and, instead, accepted who I was.

I made a decision that I am good and committed to testing this theory out. And it worked!

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of other people experience a similar type of transformation, reaching peak performance and thriving in all areas of their lives. My models and unique approach further expanded to helping entire organizations and executives “cut the crap,” “face up,” and “own it” for the benefit of their quadruple bottom line: people, planet, profit—and soul. 

Eventually, all of this led to the birth of Think Change.”

Have you done business with any of the other companies at Novel Coworking’s River North office space?

“Not yet, but hope to! We’re all a part of an eco-system, and I hope we can help each other out. Did you know that Novel Coworking members and staff get 15% off at Think Change? ;-)”

What has been the biggest challenge in starting a business?

“Staying focused. This is probably true of many founders. Life is full of opportunities to contribute and create, so staying focused has required some extra inner work on my part.”

What has been the greatest reward in starting a business?

“I am big on purpose, and mine is helping others reach their greatest potential. Having an avenue to do that, daily, and also pay my bills, is extraordinary. I get high on seeing people and companies change for the purpose of advancing themselves and their goals.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business?

“Don’t do it because it seems cool, an easy way to make money, or because you want to fulfill some fleeting fantasy of yours. And definitely don’t do it because you want to call yourself a “CEO” or an “entrepreneur”! Do it because you want to create something that doesn’t yet exist, or create more of something that does, and do it better. It has to come from within. Entrepreneurs are meant to be risk-takers, innovators, creators who have the vision to fill a void that currently exists, and seize on opportunities. What’s your vision? What truly drives you?”

Responsive Advisors

Responsive Advisors

Company Name: Responsive Advisors
Industry: Financial Management
Year Founded: 2007
Location: Novel Coworking West Loop, Chicago

Tell the story of how your business was founded.

I worked for a consulting company doing similar work. In the beginning it was great, we had a great team, good leadership and it was always fun to work there. Over time things changed for the worst. The CEO’s behavior got worse, the attitude of the team changed, and I no longer felt the company lived the same values it taught to its clients. I had made pitch to join the executive team and change that, but leadership at that time didn’t understand my approach and the idea was rejected.

Not long after that I found a client that could sustain me as an independent and so I dove head first into being an independent consultant with an eye on rebuilding a consulting firm from the ground up. I worked harder than I ever have those first 6 months and saved as much money as I could to afford hiring one more. once I did, Responsive Advisors was officially a small company in my mind. After another year our team has grown to 4 people.”

When did you first feel successful?

“Success is relative and can come in small batches. I know that it doesn’t take much for a successful business to quickly go out of business. I suppose I felt successful after my first year when things were still looking up. I felt successful after the second year when a lot more was accomplished with a larger group and still looking up. I feel successful every day I have a company that’s profitable and a happy team working with me.”

What has been the biggest challenge in starting a business?

“Few things ever go smoothly. A surprising amount of my time is spent tracking down the cause of problems and fixing them. Chasing unpaid invoices, dealing with broken accounting systems, payroll companies that forget to submit withheld taxes to the IRS, the list goes on and on. Fortunately some of this work now can be spread across the team which helps greatly in keeping up with it. I feel like I have a dozen plates spinning at any time.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business?

“Learn everything you can, stay learning, read lots of books on business related topics like managing people, marketing, strategy, etc… If you don’t already have an MBA you can get a lot of it through good books. Also, cash is king. Its not easy to get a loan to start a new business especially if you don’t have a financial track record of someone who could wisely spend the money. 10 years ago I knew I wanted to one day start a business, so I practiced financial management on my personal and household budget. It helped quite a bit!”

What has been the key to your company’s success?

“I can’t say there is one key, but there are several. I have a great team who think of ideas I didn’t think of, have skills I don’t have, and in general make working more fun because I genuinely like these individuals. Being strategic about our offerings and about business development has also been helpful.”

Track Technologies

Track Technologies

Company Name: Track Technologies, Inc
Industry: Financial Services
Year Founded: 2015
Location: Novel Coworking Gaslamp, San Diego

Tell the story of how your business was founded.

My cofounders and I were freelancing together on a client project and we realized our client’s employees didn’t have to worry about tax withholding or benefits because they had an HR department to handle the everyday administrative busywork for them. From that point on, we were on a mission to make working for yourself as easy, stable and rewarding as working for someone else.”

How is your business innovating and providing something new?

“We make it easy for freelancers, business owners and independent professionals to automatically withhold enough for self-employment taxes every time they get paid, so they never spend what they owe to the IRS. Just imagine having someone else handle your tax busywork for you, for free.”

What does the future look like for your company?

“Now that we’ve made tax withholding easy and automatic, we’re working on helping people get their tax refund each week (instead of waiting until April) when they use Track to deduct their business expenses. Our members also want access to the benefits most employee take for granted like insurance, retirement plans and a steady stream of new work when you need it.”

What do you like most about working for your company?

“Track has a true culture of service. All of us have freelanced before so we’re just delivering the services we wish we had the way we would want to be treated. Our team is that rare combination of ambitious and driven yet humble and empathetic. Nothing makes me happier than surprising and delighting our members who just want to get back to the real work that pays. Getting to know amazing professionals, from wedding planners to designers to writers, still leaves me in awe everyday.”

How does your team manage working remotely?

“We consider ourselves a remote-first company with cool spaces like Novel Coworking’s San Diego office space as an anytime option to meet and collaborate. Our team is split between San Francisco and San Diego. We hold quick morning team stand-up video calls using Appear.in, and have a weekly retrospective call on Friday. What went well that we want to recognize and celebrate — what do we need to identify as further improvement? We worked independently on different projects until we stumbled onto a productivity breakthrough when we agreed to work on fewer, but more important things together — often and ideally just one task all together virtually at a time. Slack (for team chat), Appear.in (for video), Github (for coordinating code) and Asana (for task and project management). We use Google Gsuite apps like Gmail and Uber Conference for external conversations.”

Oryzon Credit

Oryzon Credit

Company Name: Oryzon Credit, LLC
Industry: Financial Consulting/Debt Management
Year Founded: 2015
Location: Novel Coworking Gaslamp, San Diego

Tell the story of how your business was founded.

“My story with Oryzon is one that I believe was truly divine. Not something that I felt I just had a genius idea about a new product or service, but something that I believe was meant to happen. Through a series of timeline events and work experiences, I believe my company was written for me to have, even before the thought came into fruition. Prior to the launch of my company, I worked as a Revenue Accountant at the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) in Del Mar, CA, for nearly 5 years. There, I recorded monthly revenue (approx. $300M a month) from all of our clients who purchased our Fraud products for their businesses. Companies like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, etc.

While at FICO, I felt my role in the company was becoming very stagnant and plateauing. Not because of my own personal work ethics, but simply because there wasn’t much room for growth, as no new positions ever opened up. Around my 4th year at FICO, I realized I wanted something more. I wanted a better job. I wanted to work from home. I wanted to spend more time with my family. And I expressed this to my wife, and that is when she introduced me to “The Secret”, a book written by Rhonda Byrne. This book transformed my life, almost instantly. With every second of my day, I focused on manifesting what I wanted most in life, and during my hour and a half drive to and from work every day, I just listened to positive affirmations about success, wealth and health.

And before I knew it, I started received random requests from friends and family to help them improve their credit situations, because they all knew I worked at FICO. Well I informed them that, although I work for FICO, we are a supplier of financial products, and it is the bureaus that actually are the ones who maintain/correct credit reports. But I started receiving an overwhelming number of requests every single day to help with credit, so that’s when I realized there was a need for this service, and I become certified as a FICO Expert, as well as became a member of the Credit Consulting Association, and then launched my company. And since that day, it has truly been a blessing to have my own company.”

How is your business innovating and providing something new?

“In my industry, many of the companies still operating rely heavily on the old adage of, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it”. So many of their current strategies and business practices are those of 20+ years old. Technology has changed so much to deliver much better results, better communication, and an overall, better experience for our clients. The folks here at Oryzon are passionate about Credit Repair and pushing it to the limit to obtain the optimum credit for all of our consumers. While we like to be on the cutting edge, we strongly believe that innovation, accompanied by past methodologies, is the key to providing our clients with the quickest and most effective approach.

We’ve designed our programs with the intentions of ensuring our customers obtain the highest level of credit performance, with the least amount of effort needed. Although Oryzon is fairly new, we do not let that hinder the levels of success that we are able to provide to our customers. Through innovation and award-winning customer service, we are determined to provide all of our customers with the essential tools needed to achieve their ideal credit.”

What does the future look like for your company?

“At this moment, we are focused purely on growth! We have been in a position in which our problems of late are GOOD problems to have. That being, we have TOO much business. Given the 5-star Yelp reviews, the 2015, 2016, and 2017 San Diego Small Business awards, we have always received a great number of clients purely off word of mouth. Now, we want to scale the company and reach clients that are outside of our locality, with that being said, marketing is our next big focus. We are building a team of reps that we believe should help us reach this goal, in which I hope we can acquire 75-100 new clients a month within the next 6 months. We currently are doing 35-50 new clients a month, and that’s with zero marketing. So, by starting new marketing campaigns, we should be able to increase those numbers, and I expect to double our numbers every 6-12 months.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business?

“Perseverance. Never give up. Never quit. Cry. Cry very hard! But never stop, because in the end, every tear will be worth it. Fail! Fail daily! I say this in the sense of education, and not wishing bad luck. When you fail, it is because you are trying something new. You are trying to progress and improve your company, but with all things new, you must learn how to master them. So, you will fail initially. But you can’t let failure consume you and allow you to give up on your dreams. If you stay the course, learn from your mistakes, seek advice from mentors and advisors, within time, you will succeed.

My very first month with my company, I made 1 sale for $99. An entire month, in which I worked 60-80 hours each week, I made a grand total of $99. I cried. I was scared. My wife and I just had our first child who was about 4-5 months at that time, and my wife asked me, “Are you sure this is really the right decision?” And I didn’t know. But I told her it will all pay off and I will get better every day. And I did! And now, we have a lifestyle that many could only dream of!”

Why did you choose to move into Novel Coworking’s San Diego office space?

“Without a doubt, the greatest co-working experience I have ever had! I’ve been here for nearly two months and I currently have a private office (1-2 person), and it’s absolutely perfect! Definitely more than enough space for just me; and I was able to decorate the office to my own desire. Every one of my clients who has stopped by has expressed how much they love the ambiance of the spaces here and can’t believe how affordable it is. You most certainly get more than what the price asks for. On top of the office just being a great place to work at, Novel Coworking has employed one of the greatest managers that one could ask for!

Rachel has gone above and beyond for this place, as well as for all of the clients here. Her personality is amazing and her heart is kind, as she finds joy in making everyone’s experience here worthwhile. Prior to leasing a space at Novel Coworking, I was extremely close to signing up at WeWork, and I am grateful that I didn’t. I contacted Novel Coworking the same day I was planning on signing up at WeWork and Rachel made it a priority to see me that day (without knowing I was considering WeWork), and just by her professionalism, I signed an agreement the same day at Novel Coworking. If you are considering a new place to work at, whether you are a big or small company, this is the place to be. All of the tenants here are welcoming and friendly, and you’d be surprised how quiet it is! Zero distractions whatsoever!”

Kennetic Productions

Kennetic Productions

Company Name: Kennetic Productions, Inc.
Industry: Video Production
Year Founded: 2003
Location: Novel Coworking Groover-Stewart Building, Jacksonville

Tell the story of how your business was founded.

Chris Kennelly, Founder and Current CEO, started Kennetic in his parent’s spare bedroom right after graduating from the University of Florida. We landed Ocean Spray as our second client ever after an intro from his Dad and a meeting with a portable DVD player and college demo reel. Then it was off to the races.”

How is your business innovating and providing something new?

“360 video. This is the newest initiative we have embarked upon. EverBank, our largest client, wanted to do a behind the scenes 360 experience featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars. So they made us learn how to do it, and it premiered at the first home game. It is fun, and new, and cool, and the possibilities are endless.”

What has been the greatest reward in starting a business?

“When you walk on set, and there are 15 specialists, thriving, and making something creative. Something they can be proud of. As a founder, watching that in action is the best.”

What advice would you give to startups?

“Keep your overhead low. Great way to do that??? An office at Level!!!”

What is your favorite part of working out of Novel Coworking’s Jacksonville office space?

“Everything is taken care of, so we can just focus on making videos that communicate passion. Seriously, that’s all we have to do. We don’t have to stock the toilet paper, or make sure the coffee works or anything!”