Two Chicago Entrepreneurs Turn to ChiBizHub to Grow their Businesses


Entrepreneurial Spotlight on Luxury Cake Company & Pier 31


With the successful launch of ChiBizHub, an initiative of World Business Chicago in late April, we’re spotlighting two local businesses, Luxury Cake Company and their founder, Laura Mitchell and Pier 31 and their founder, Nikki Hayes. As May is Mother’s Day, we’re using the occasion to celebrate two female entrepreneurs and mothers.

Mitchell & Hayes provided some answers to a few questions we had on their challenges and success.

LUXURY CAKE COMPANY

As an entrepreneur, what online resources are you most in need of?

I’m in need of wholesale vendors for ingredients and packaging. I’ve become obsessed with numbers and believe there is always somewhere that you can save money. One of the easiest ways to do so is buy in bulk. The ingredients used in custom cake production are expensive, so buying in bulk reduces the cost and increases profits. I’m also in need of a few changes to my website as the first “touch” for clients is usually through the website for a business. If my website could educate people on the process of ordering, as well as collect information on their product needs, I could save time.

Do you think it’s difficult to find quality tools and resources you need to grow and expand your business?

Finding capital resources can be tough. I depend on business consultants that have experience to guide me. I also rely on companies like the Women’s Business Center to locate information on quality capital resources. In addition, I will ask for my financial advisor to review options that I’m considering before I make any final decisions. 

What tools do you rely on most to make your business successful including marketing, networking, software, finance etc?

For sales and revenue, I rely heavily on online marketing as I market my business primarily through social media. I have a degree in Marketing & Communications and I have professional experience in digital media, so I use my background to grow my brand without having to spend much on advertising.  For product development and execution, I invested in a professional education through the L’Art du Gateau program at Chicago’s own French Pastry School. When I first started my business, I was self-taught.  I watched YouTube videos and paid for online classes, however I learned quickly that attending school would be very beneficial because I could learn more at a faster pace, causing me to excel quickly and develop a skill set that would yield higher revenues. My education was expensive, but it was worth every penny.

What has been your biggest challenge for business thus far?

By far the biggest challenge for me is finding experienced dependable staff members. The culture in the food industry is different than the corporate world and I feel like the talent pool is smaller and more difficult to tap in to, especially since my bakery is new. Established bakeries that have respected reputations in the world of cake design get their pick of talent because people want to add experience at a well-known place to their resume. I’m in the process of developing my name, so I have to convince talent that the future is bright here.

Do you turn to community partners to enhance your business? Why or Why not?

I work with MSBARC which is an economic development non-profit organization that works with local small business owners. By working with them (specifically Phil Beckham) my network has expanded and I’ve had the chance to obtain several opportunities that have helped grow my business.  

What is the best advice you can give to an entrepreneur or new business?

Save as much money as you possibly can before you transition to your business full time. Remember, you will have to cover your life expenses at home as well as the expenses of your business.  Entrepreneurship is incredibly expensive, and I know we hear stories of people living in their cars and making it to their dreams, but in reality, the goal is try to be able to stay living in your own home. Educate yourself, research as much as possible and have patience. Good things take time.

Why is Chicago a good home for your business?

Chicago is my home, I’m born and raised here, so this is where I have a large network of people to tap into for support. Additionally, Chicago has a strong economy and people love food here.

As a female business owner, do you think you face any specific challenges with securing the resources you need to grow your business?

Personally, I have not seen any specific challenges in securing resources that have occurred from being a female business owner. I worked on my credit because I know that your score and credit history means everything when it’s time for ask for a loan. I also used micro lenders in the early stages, because I knew that a large bank would deny me due to being “new”.  Most of the challenges I ran into were due to the my business being newer. The beginning was tough because I had been in business less than 2 years which is viewed as “risky”. Now that I’ve been in business officially almost 3 years, I’ve passed the high risk threshold.  Hopefully, the next time I look to secure resources it’ll be easier.

To learn more about Luxury Cake Company, check out Mitchell’s website http://www.luxurycakecompany.com/.


PIER 31

 In brief, describe your business.

 Pier 31 is an outdoor restaurant and bar with live entertainment 7 days a week.

 As an entrepreneur, what online resources are you most in need of?

 Staying up to date with my website, entertainment schedules, new menu items and specials.

Do you think it’s difficult to find quality tools and resources you need to grow and expand your business?

Yes! Most seem over the top or too general and I cant find anything specific.

What tools do you rely on most to make your business successful including marketing, networking, software, finance etc?

Square, ADP, bookkeeping and Facebook.

What has been your biggest challenge for business thus far?

Finding seasonal help, as Pier 31 is only open in the summer and its hard to find help.

Do you turn to community partners to enhance your business? Why or Why not?

Yes! We support each other tremendously. For example, we can find and purchase supplies on a Sunday when other businesses are closed.

What is the best advice you can give to an entrepreneur or new business?

Get a few mentors that is in the same line of business as it will make the transition smoother.

 Why is Chicago a good home for your business?

 I love Chicago!! My restaurant has the most beautiful view of the magnificent skyline.

 As a female business owner, do you think you face any specific challenges with securing the resources you need to grow your business?

Yes!  Financing/business credit card has been the biggest challenge.

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