Entrepreneurs Initiative

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Every community wants to attract new and exciting businesses to their borders. Not all of them are successful.

In Mount Prospect, a consortium made up of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Mount Prospect and Mount Prospect Public Library is actively reaching out to residents who have dreamed of starting their own businesses and is giving them the information and resources they need to make their dreams come true – hopefully, within Mount Prospect borders.

Their effort – known as the Mount Prospect Entrepreneurs Initiative (MPEI) – is in its sixth year and
their track record is impressive. Mia’s Cantina in downtown Mount Prospect is a very successful restaurant launched as a result of an eager resident and the very first programming in 2012. Many new and existing businesses have benefited in the years since. Newest business opening for an MPEI participant is a boutique/artists’ cooperative with business name “the collective,” located downtown across from
the train station.

“When people call the Chamber and say that they are interested in starting their own business, we can immediately direct them to our MPEI website, put them on an email list for extensive programming and refer them to Joe at the library for reference assistance. I can also sit down with them one on one and they can call any of us for information and direction. We often coordinate our schedules to meet with them as a team and we enjoy doing it,” said Dawn Fletcher Collins, executive director of the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce. “We can point to other new businesses, tell them that it CAN be done and we want you to do it in Mount Prospect!”

Nellie Beckner, assistant to the village manager, is the village’s representative to MPEI. This year she designed a website with a whole different look and feel than in the past. Connected to the village website, it offers a calendar of upcoming business education events in the northwest suburban area, quick links to programming, interviews
with local businesspeople who offer advice on getting a local business started and a running feed of recent local social media posts from Twitter and Facebook.

Beckner, like Collier and Collins, is active in planning and manning MPEI programming that includes local speakers, helpful films, workshops and networking events. She also produces the group’s newsletter, which has approximately 250 subscribers.

Long-term, Beckner said, the group would also like to establish a reduced rate incubator office space within the village where new businesses could share office equipment and collaborate with one another. Ideally, the Chamber would also establish an office there.

Joe Collier, business reference librarian at the Mount Prospect Public Library, is the third person in the MPEI partnership.

“We have recently added new databases to help young businesses,” he said, “and MPEI works with the local SCORE office. Representatives come to the Mount Prospect Public Library for three hours on first and third Wednesdays to mentor aspiring businesspeople. Those interested may sign up by logging onto www.SCOREChicago.org/mentoring.”

“We also have at least eight solid local businesspeople we can call upon for mentoring,” Collier added.

“Our reach is expanding every year as we increase the numbers of first time business owners and help some corporate employees leave their downtown offices to open their own businesses in their hometown to be contributing members of their community. We are growing stronger as a business community every year.” Collins said.