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20 Highlights of the Southland SBDC Conference



The sound of clicking heels and eager chatter filled the air as people entered Prairie State College to attend a conference that highlighted small businesses.

Friday, Nov. 9, marked the first Southland Small Business Development Center conference. Designed specifically with small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in mind, the event gave special attention to the tips and tricks needed to establish a successful business.

The conference featured highly successful entrepreneurs, which included: Dr. Kenneth Lewis, Sr., owner of Kenny’s Ribs & Chicken, Dusties Buffets, and KLS Accelerator, Michele Hoskins owner of Michele Foods, Shon Harris of LiveWire Construction, and WDB Marketing’s very own, Keeana Barber and James Wheeler. Other notable business professionals, financial aides, government affiliates and media professionals served also served as panelists.

Each session highlighted different aspects of business entrepreneurship, from conquering your fears to getting your business in order, or how to expand your business to understanding business loans, and of course branding, marketing, and using social media.

The panelists and moderators shared an immense amount of knowledge with the conference attendees, so of course, What’s Da Bizniz wanted to be able to share some of the takeaways with our readers.

Conquering Your Fears
One thing many budding entrepreneurs have in common is fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing money, fear of rejection, and the list goes on, but for the first session of the day, the esteemed panelists shared tips on how to conquer those fears.

Embrace the “no’s”
No one wants to be rejected, especially when it comes to their business. Rejection can often lead to discouragement, but instead of seeing the negatives in those ‘no’s you can learn to embrace them. By embracing the ‘no’s’ you are keeping your self stable and getting ready for the next step. A rejection should not deter you from doing what you have set out to do, it should simply make you want to keep going and get better, despite the opinions of others.

Believe in yourself
You hear it all the time, “believe in yourself.” You might hear it so much that it can often sound like a cliche, but believing in yourself is the most important thing you can do to have a successful business. By believing in yourself, you are creating a strong foundation for your business. When things get tough, you will have faith and confidence in yourself that will keep you from being discouraged.

Many businesses have become successful because of their collaboration with different businesses. By collaborating with other businesses, you not only help yourself, but you also help others. WDB Marketing’s own Keeana Barber noted, “When you empower others, our greatest gifts come back,” Barber said. When helping others, you will learn about yourself and your business in more ways than you can think of.

Getting Your Business In Order
Now that you have created your business, it is time to get your business in order. The second panel of the SBDC conference shared valuable information on what getting your business in order entails

When you start a business, you have to be aware of the liabilities you are now responsible for and how to insure them. For a business, there are multiple types of insurance to consider from property insurance to worker’s compensation insurance to professional liability insurance, and the list goes on and on. Your job as a business owner is to discover all the different insurance types you will need because without it, you could potentially risk negatively affecting your company.

Create a business plan
A business plan is a document that outlines what you want to accomplish with your business and how you plan to do it. It is important to create a business plan because it helps you become prepared. Initially, it will serve as a template for your business, but it has the potential to become the recipe for your success.

Devote time for yourself
Although it is important to work hard, it is equally important to take time out for yourself. Many people forget this step when it comes to their business, but by setting time aside to recharge, you can avoid burnout and the stress that comes with constantly running a business.

Where’s The Money?
So you’ve conquered your fears, got your business in order, but wait where’s the money? The question of, “Where’s the money” follows aspiring entrepreneurs daily. Without financial capital, there is a very slim chance for a business to prosper. It was the mission of the fourth panel to discuss with small business owners in the audience that money for their business is available and there are ways to find it.

Develop a relationship with a small business banker
By fostering a relationship with a small business banker, you are creating a powerful dynamic where the bank will want to give you loans. As the moderator, Christyn Freemon of Project Forward, pointed out, there are certain questions you need to ask yourself about the bank you are hoping to obtain a loan from, “Is the bank going to be there to grow with your business? Does the bank care about your business and do you have access to someone who can answer your questions.” These questions will help you identify if you are with the right banking institution that will do its best to serve you and your business.

Take advantage of the coaching resources from lenders.
Many lenders offer financial coaching resources at their facilities. By taking advantage of these resources, you are taking that next step in learning how to secure money for your business. The coaches will educate you on the types of loans you should get and how to make it all useful for your business.

Talk to financial counselors
If you are a person who wants to start a business, then financial counselors should become your best friends. Taking advantage of their services is a great way to ensure that you know what you are getting yourself into when it comes to borrowing money.

Be passionate
During the panel discussion, Isaiah Spears of Accion Chicago, a nonprofit community lender, explained that lenders look at your business history before applying for a loan. They want to know that they are giving money to someone passionate and consistent with what they want to do, businesswise. “If you come to us with an idea, we want to know that you have the drive behind that idea,” Spears said.

Enter with a plan for your business loan
“The worst thing you can do is just wander into a bank and ask for a loan,” Erica Dombey, President & Executive Director of Regional Development Company, said. When you enter a bank, a plan for what you are going to use the loan for is typically preferred. It helps the lender know the goals for your business, the amount of money you will need, and how you will pay off the loan.

How To Expand Your Business
So, you want to expand your business. Maybe you want to go from local to statewide or nationally to internationally. Whatever the case may be, the third panel for the SBDC conference was able to hash out useful advice that has the potential to lead companies in the right direction when it comes to expanding one’s company.

Branding, Marketing and Using Social Media
For whatever business you may have, you will have to brand it, market it, and in the current age of technology, you will have to use social media as a means of advertising. Media professionals, including WDB Marketing’s Keeana Barber and James Wheeler, served as panelists, where they discussed in-depth on the ways of branding and marketing.

Branding is your logo, the colors you use, the type of service you give, and the treatment of your customers. It is essentially what your potential customers know you for.

Be consistent
When advertising your business, consistency is key. By constantly promoting your business you are not giving potential consumers the opportunity to forget about your business. Constant promotion allows consumers to be aware of your business when it counts.

The importance of a marketing plan
A marketing plan serves as a way to measure how you will advertise and market your business. It is important to focus on the marketing plan because it will keep you and your business on track and keep a record of the change within your business.

Pay attention to the metrics
A way to discover if your marketing is working is to measure your metrics. Measuring your metrics is important because it shows how people discovered your company. A good way to measure this is by simply asking your consumers how they found out about your products. It gives you a clear understanding of the type of marketing that is working and what is not working.

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Black Bread company launching in Chicago!

Meet the founders of @theblackbreadco the first ever black owned sliced bread company. Launching February 2021!



Meet the founders of @theblackbreadco the first ever black owned sliced bread company. Launching February 2021!

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New Black owned joint venture in Orland Park!

New Black owned joint venture in Orland Park! We love to hear about powerful Black brands collaborating. Check out the newest restaurant addition to Orland Park, Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat and Phlavz. Whether you are looking for soulful vegan food or amazing caribbean, this spot has it for you. We LOVE the energy of the young entrepreneurs who started this. Make sure you support!



Just in time for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s area-wide ease of COVID-19 dine-in restrictions on restaurants, a trio of Black entrepreneurs are teaming up to bring a new vegan/jerk food concept to Orland Park.

Phil Simpson and Andrew Bonsu, co-owners of University Village-based restaurant Phlavz Bar & Grille (717 W. Maxwell St.), and Laricia Chandler Baker, the owner of Hyde Park vegan/vegetarian eatery Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat (1368 1/2 E. 53rd St.) plan to open a hybrid location (24 Orland Sq. Drive) at noon Saturday.

Separately, Bonsu and Simpson — who met while working various gigs in the music industry —and Baker were unknowingly searching for business locations in Orland Park before deciding to collaborate.

Andrew Bonsu (left) and Phil Simpson are co-owners of University Village-based restaurant Phlavz Bar & Grille.
 Foto Mack-Media

The trio says their businesses have “thrived” during the pandemic, inspiring the ideas of expansion.

“I think we always wanted to do things together,” said Bonsu, who’s eatery specializes in jerk food and drink options such as their signature drinks “Blacker the Berry” and “Phlavz Punch.”

“Growing up together [with Baker] we always wanted to do business but the timing of this showed itself; we said let’s do it together.”

And Baker, a self-taught chef who’s nicknamed “Chef Fab,” says the eatery will have separate kitchens to prepare food, while customers can utilize a shared dining space.

“We won’t be cross contaminating; we have one big building and Phil and Andrew will have their kitchen and I have mine, too,” said Baker, who went to Northern Illinois University with Bonsu. “The vegans can feel comfortable knowing that it’s one room, but two kitchens.”

Instead of bashing Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot for implementing restrictions tough on gig economy eateries, the trio decided to focus on the things they can control. And while so many businesses in the Chicago area have either downsized — or shuttered for good — the trio counts their blessings.

“We’re looking forward to expanding even more,” said Simpson. “It’s truly a blessing because we know that we survived. If we can survive this pandemic, we can survive anything.”

Laricia Chandler Baker, owner of Hyde Park vegan/vegetarian eatery Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat.
 Shaun Michael Photo

This article has been reposted from The Chicago Sun Times

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All Coffee Drinkers Are Not Created Equally



As a business owner, one of the most important things that you can do for your business is to get to know your customer. This process should begin before the doors of the business open. When I say get to know your customer I mean really get to know them. You should be able to paint a descriptive picture of your ideal client.

As a coach and consultant for new and young businesses, a part of my process is to ask my clients “Who is your customer?”. How the client answers this question lets me know where we need to begin our work. The majority of the time new business owners will tell me things like “My customer is all women”. “My customer is anyone over 21 years old”. “My customer is everyone who has been heartbroken.” Each time I hear this I know that there is work to be done.

I like to start off with the coffee scenario. I am a coffee drinker. I like hazelnut coffee, with cream and sugar. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, let me break down for you why this is not as simple as it sounds.

When thinking of places that you can grab your morning coffee a few quick places come to my mind:

Dunkin Donuts

I can get hazelnut coffee with cream and sugar from each of these places, however just because I can does not mean that I will. Let’s dissect what I mean.

Starbucks is a more expensive cup of coffee. I usually go there for the experience. I want someone to make my coffee for me, put it in a cup with a sleeve and a stirrer, allow me to pay with my mobile app, and call my name when it is ready. My order at Starbucks is $5.43.

Starbucks Coffee

McDonald’s is a quick fix. I can go through the drive-thru, order a medium coffee with two pumps of hazelnut syrup, 2 creams, and 2 sugars. They will whip that up for me right quick. No frills. My order at McDonald’s is $1.35.

 7-11 is more of a grab and go. Here you make your own coffee, it’s set up buffet style. 7-11 offers a variety of coffee types and additives. Here you get it your way because you make it yourself. My order at 7-11 is about $1.09.

Dunkin Donuts is midrange. When I am in a neighborhood that has a drive-thru Dunkin Donuts I will go there. They have my hazelnut coffee beans, not syrup, and they add in something called a swirl which is cream and sugar premixed. My order at Dunkin’ is $2.49.

As you can see each of these places sells the coffee that I like and I can shop at either of them if need be. However, depending on what my preference is at the time I may choose to not visit one or more of them. There are some people who believe that it is absurd to buy a cup of coffee for $5.43 when you can get one for $1.09. Then there are others that would never drink coffee that is served buffet style with all those people breathing over the coffee.

 This is why you must know who specifically your target customer is. When you know who your customer is, you know what appeals to them, how to get their attention, and how to speak to them. Spending time learning your customer will save you lots of time and money. Starbucks knows not to market to the frugal customer. That is not their customer and they are okay with that. You have to be okay with knowing that everyone isn’t your customer.

A word of advice is, you want to market yourself properly and position yourself so that the customer you want seeks you out and not the other way around. Take the time early on and figure out exactly who your target customer is

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