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Small business workshop educates and motivates aspiring entrepreneurs

Noelia Ruiz presents during a small business workshop at Rochelle City Hall, Jan. 2024.

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There’s a lot that goes into opening up a small business. In Rochelle, a business workshop aims to educate and spur aspiring entrepreneurs to take the first step towards owning their own venture.

The presentation held last week follows a bilingual program held several months ago that included brief remarks from city officials that showcased their services with an emphasis on how they serve small businesses in town.

The second segment focused more closely on how to start a business. The series idea came from Rochelle City Council member Rosie Arteaga. She wants to ensure that Latinos, particularly Spanish speakers, have the same access to information regarding city services and resources available for launching a small business in town.

“I'm willing to help someone realize their dreams,” Arteaga said, “and go from a waiter to a restaurant owner.”

Arteaga is a full-time elementary school teacher, but she could have taken a different career path. When she was a teenager, she began working at a pizza restaurant in Mendota.

“And it came a time after five/six years,” she said, “I knew how to make the pizzas, how to be a chef, a waiter – I knew how to run a restaurant.”

Given her experience, her boss encouraged her to purchase her own pizza restaurant.

She asked her father to help her qualify for a bank loan, since she didn’t have much of a credit line. But he wasn’t too keen on the idea.

She said it didn’t help that her father had previously worked in a kitchen.

“When he came to the United States, he first worked at a restaurant cleaning pots larger than him,” she said, “and he said ‘No, thanks.’”

Arteaga didn’t move forward with the business, but she wants to ensure that others have the necessary information to start their own.

In attendance was Celia.

She wants to open up a Mexican restaurant featuring dishes from Guadalajara.

“I think it’s my time,” she said. “I think I’m ready, I feel very confident that it will go well.”

Celia said she’s garnered enough experience over the years working as a cook at an American restaurant. But she said there’s still plenty she wants to learn, especially around how to secure funding to launch her business.

Noelia Ruiz was the event’s presenter. She’s a coordinator at the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee College. She coaches and supports budding entrepreneurs as they navigate all the elements necessary for launching a successful business.

“Sometimes folks may feel discouraged by all the steps it takes to launch a business,” Ruiz said. “But they are motivated that if entrepreneurs before them met the challenge, they too can navigate the process.”

She said an important step is developing a business plan.

“It’s a map,” she said, “that helps you see clearly, where you are and the path forward to where you want to go.”

Ruiz discussed the type of ways a business can be registered, such as a partnership, corporation or LLC.

She also offered tips on marketing and on managing business expenses.

This advice was really helpful for Alberto who owns several rental properties.

“I think it’s time I put my things in order,” he said. “What she said about separating my business expenses from my personal expenses, that’s really important for me.”

Another attendee was Rosa, who plans to open a restaurant. This will be an additional business to the food truck she runs with her family.

She said the workshop was encouraging at a time when they’ve delayed opening the restaurant to make repairs in the kitchen.

“I’m motivated,” she said, “because if I came to this country, it's to have better opportunities for me and my family, my children.”

TheIllinois Small Business Development Center offers their services for free including online workshops available both in English and Spanish.

An English version of this workshop was postponed due to illness. But organizers are working on rescheduling it.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.