“I’m often asked, ‘Why do I continue to open businesses in such crazy times?’ When starting a business, you must have a purpose – a ‘why.’ Running a business can be stressful at times, but I do it because I absolutely love offering job opportunities.”
“It’s been bittersweet. Since the pandemic, I have aggressively expanded my businesses.”
“At the same time, the supply chain issues delayed my Kilwins-Hyde Park reopening and that has been stressful. But thankfully we were able to reopen July 22.”
“My Hyde Park store suffered damage from a nearby shooting in November of 2021. That triggered flashbacks of the civil unrest in 2020 when my Kilwins Michigan Avenue store was looted. It was a very stressful period for me. So, I knew it was time for me to hit the ‘reset’ button, take time to heal and engage in some self-care. I knew I would return, we just needed time to step back and focus on the well-being of our team members.”
“I renegotiated my lease with plans to reopen in spring of 2022 right before high season. I was ready and excited, yet my new countertops returned damaged three times, so we reopened three months behind schedule.”
“In the meantime, I am still responsible for everything from rent, insurance, lights, gas, phone cable, as if I had revenue coming in every day. My business is a seasonal business. So being open now is important, so I can save money for the winter season when I don’t have as much foot traffic.”
“Initially I was stressing out because I just didn’t know what to do. But because I have faith, I know everything is going to work out in its time. I’m so thankful, and I’m so excited to be open. We opened our doors Friday, July 22, 2022.”
“The store is nice, new and beautiful. The community has loved it. They are so deserving and have been so supportive. We might not have all our chairs and tables, but we will get them later. What’s most important is that our doors are reopened and getting the word out to customers.”
“We have a large patio space at the back of our Hyde Park location that I am working to transform into a chocolate garden, a community safe space. You’re much less likely to be an innocent bystander of a nearby shooting in the back. I look forward to improving the community with this addition.”
“There have been a lot of great opportunities that I feel will make a positive impact on the city of Chicago. I am a native of Chicago, and I have so much pride in my city. It’s extremely beautiful. And it has so much to offer.”
“Yet, it’s also a tough time to be a business owner. Wages, cost of goods, construction costs, gas and transportation have all increased significantly since the pandemic and have really affected my bottom line.”
“I know the taxes for small businesses are also becoming very challenging. I think that is extremely important to press on, especially with all the crime and other business closures because it’s a difficult environment. I decided, despite all the madness, this would be the perfect opportunity to expand and continue the legacy I have started.”
“During the pandemic, I learned about the NOF grant – the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and the Chicago Recovery Grant. And I immediately applied for the NOF grant to restore an old, vacant bank in Chatham. It sat there for 10 years. Between the grant and my personal investment, I am realizing my childhood dream of bringing a popular, fast-casual restaurant “Fatburger & Buffalo Express” to the area. I am very grateful to the city for these grants and opportunities for small businesses.”
“The process wasn’t easy but through my persistence and the grace of God, I will create jobs, opportunity and serve enjoyment. Despite the increase in property taxes, wages, supply chain issues and the cost of goods, I’m not giving up. I will be opening my fifth Kilwins in Andersonville in fall 2023, and I have signed a lease negotiation in One Chicago to open a sixth Kilwins location in River North.”
“I am hopeful to get some assistance from the city of Chicago to supplement some of the costs of the River North and Andersonville Kilwins expansions because the cost of construction, labor and goods have increased tremendously. But if not, I will still push forward and make it happen because it’s in my heart. It will also be good for the community, and I want to do something positive to impact the community.”
“As a matter of fact, my exit plan is to identify, train and develop some of my staff to be my partners. So, when I retire, I can pass the torch to some deserving hardworking staff. I have one daughter, and she can’t do it by herself.”
“Providing career opportunities and teaching my team members entrepreneurial skills is priceless.”
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