<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Inc Well | Small Business Advice for Chicago Entrepreneurs]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/inc-well http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Tue, 23 Sep 2014 05:33:27 -0500 Tue, 23 Sep 2014 05:33:27 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[UPS to Bring 3D Printing Services to Chicago]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:54:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/3d_printers_UP.jpg One of the most compelling new technologies in recent memory will soon be readily accessible in Chicago.

UPS announced Monday that 3D printing services will be available at its UPS Store Northcenter, located at 4044 N Lincoln Ave.

3D printing is the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file by fusing materials such as small bits of glass, metal, plastic or ceramic.

Home 3D printers are already on the market for several hundred to several thousand dollars, but UPS says its store model -- the Stratasys uPrint SE Plus -- is a professional grade product that is much more precise and reliable than the home products.

The Chicago location is among 100 UPS stores across the country that will begin carrying the printers. An exact date for the printer's Chicago debut was not released.

Photo Credit: UPS]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Analysis Ranks Best and Worst Airlines]]> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:24:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/United-Continental-merger.jpg

Apparently, United Airlines travelers are uniting over their disappointment with the airline via Twitter.

According to recent data from text analysis startup Luminoso, the Chicago-based company has received some of the most complaints via social media.

An article on re/code reports Luminoso “used natural language processing technology to analyze more than 157,000 tweets directly mentioning five airplane handles” during the month of August to look at five major airlines, including United, jetBlue, American Airlines, Virgin America and Delta Airlines.

The results showed Virgin Airlines passengers were most pleased with their travels, followed by
jetBlue, Delta and American, while United Airlines customers complained more than others.

United had the lowest overall rating, with last-place rankings in categories like “delays/ cancellations” and “luggage,” but the results don’t necessarily mean United Airlines is the worst carrier.

The analysis is only a reflection of social media users’ sentiments over a short period of time, the study explains, and the results can easily be affected by weather or other news.

While the study may not show customer satisfaction on a large-scale level, it is clear that social media is being used by customers more frequently, and companies should pay attention to the feedback they receive on these sites.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cannabis Food Truck Heads for Chicago]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:24:28 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/medical+marijuana+stock+cannabis.jpg

In a strange turn of events, this new food truck might leave you with the munchies.

A cannabis food truck will be in Chicago Wednesday as part of a two-week “Cannaball Run” tour focused on educating medicinal marijuana patients on cooking with cannabis.

MagicalButter’s Samich Truck will showcase cannabis cooking demonstrations (THC-free), alcohol infusions and decarboxylation for those with medicinal marijuana prescriptions.

The truck will be stationed along the Mag Mile, at 505 N. Michigan Ave., at 5:30 p.m.

The event is part of the ArcView Investor Conference, which will host 200 investors interested in investing in the budding cannabis industry.

Earlier this month, Illinois residents with last names beginning with letters “A” through “L” began applying for medical marijuana.

The application process runs through Oct. 31. Other patients can begin submitting applications on Nov. 1.

Aspiring medical marijuana businesses can submit permit applications from Sept. 8 through Sept. 22.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[3 Tips to Give Your Startup an Early Boost]]> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:45:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/instant+office+new+office.jpg

The city of Chicago goes by many different names – The Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders, City by the Lake, but what about the City of Startups? Though some might not know, Chicago has made a name for itself as an ideal place to start a business.

The city has taken great action, especially in the past three years, to create a supportive ecosystem for startup companies. With the help of organizations like World Business Chicago, public policy is adapting so businesses can flourish and jobs can be created.

If you're looking to join the ever-growing business community in Chicago, here are some tips to help boost your startup in the early days:

  1. Specialize Early. To come out on top in today’s highly competitive marketplace, it is imperative for startups to specialize early. Markets are highly saturated, and without a unique offering or key differentiator, new companies are guaranteed to crash and burn. Finding that niche, however, can be a challenge when faced with today’s ever-evolving consumer behavior. Businesses that know their strengths from the very beginning are the ones who can carve out their place and establish a solid foothold in the market. Focusing on core competencies is the key. By concentrating on what the company does best instead of spreading efforts throughout multiple verticals, the focus can be on perfecting products and services, which provides customers with the most value, therefore cementing the company’s position in the market.
  2. Prepare to Scale. A critical first step on the road to long-term, aggressive growth is cultivating a top-notch team. Without a carefully crafted and well-balanced staff, startups cannot and will not scale to their full potential. A shared vision and supportive, motivational work environment leads to heightened productivity and drive. The customer will always be king, but part of creating the most comprehensive customer experience is ensuring the employee experience is as fulfilling and supportive as possible. Once a business model and team worth betting on has been established, the startup will begin to evolve and gain steady momentum. At a certain point in a startup’s growth trajectory, it is important to bring on a board of advisors. This can propel a hyper-successful startup out of a growth plateau. A board of advisors acts as a sounding board – a group of mentors and the curators of the company’s vision. Lack of expert guidance can be the difference between a startup that amplifies its upward trajectory and one that fades into depths of mediocrity.
  3. Get Involved. It is important to remember that the growth of a startup depends as much on external efforts as it does on internal efforts. Specializing and preparing operations and staff are extremely important, but so is getting involved in local industry and businesses associations. Networking in the community helps in a number of ways for growing startups, including expanding the network of contacts, identifying possible mentors and sourcing potential employees. Perhaps the most important benefit is the simple brand awareness that comes with networking. The more connections startup executives can make and places their company’s name can be seen, the more awareness they build within the community of potential customers.

Scaling a startup in today’s ever-evolving and highly competitive market is an immense challenge. Startups that specialize early, prepare operations and staff and network within their community will have a distinct advantage over the competition.

Robert Nathan (@logisticsnerd) is co-founder and CEO of Load Delivered Logistics LLC, an innovative supply chain and logistics management company based in Chicago. He is a board member of the Supply Chain Innovation Network of Chicago (SINC) and one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ 40 Under 40. A regular on the industry speaking circuit, Nathan shares his passion for logistics and technology at conferences and events around the country.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Airline Celebrates O'Hare Launch With $29 Airfare]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:32:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/tlmd_042914_frontier.jpg

To celebrate the launch of its domestic service from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Frontier Airlines is offering discounted tickets for one day only.

The fares go as low as $29 for one-way tickets from O’Hare to Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.      

The airline's inaugural flight to Washington took off Monday, and Frontier soon will offer non-stop flights to the above seven cities.

Frontier said the special demonstrates the company's commitment to "low fares done right."

Tickets must be purchased by 10:59 p.m. Monday for domestic, nonstop travel on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Sept. 22, 2014, through Jan. 28, 2015. They can be purchased at FlyFrontier.com or by calling Frontier's reservations centers.

Blackout dates apply, and previously purchased tickets cannot be exchanged for special-fare tickets, according to the airline.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Chicago

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Is Giving Away Free Coffee Every Morning for Two Weeks]]> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:14:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds13.jpg

McDonald’s is kicking off its second national Free Coffee Event Sept. 16 and cutting off the free java on International Coffee Day, Sept. 29.

In a statement released last week, McDonald’s announced that participating restaurants across the country will give guests a free small McCafé coffee for a two-week period during regular breakfast hours.

“We know our guests are busy, especially during the morning, and a free cup of coffee goes a long way in helping get their days started," said Greg Watson, the McDonald’s executive who oversees menu innovation.

McDonald’s costumers can also “sip and tell” their embarrassing pre-coffee moments on social media using the hashtag #SipandTell and @McCafe for chances to win custom gifts and other surprises.

Starting in early 2015, McCafé fans can drink their coffee at home, too. The fast-food chain recently announced it would collaborate with Kraft to offer McCafé ground, whole bean and single-cup coffees in grocery stores nationwide, joining retailers like Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks in selling branded packaged coffee.

McDonald’s first-ever Free Coffee Event was launched in March 2014, when the company gave away millions of cups of free coffee across the country.

<![CDATA[Weekend Web: Healthcare Technology]]> Sun, 14 Sep 2014 08:45:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008810346_1200x675_329007171867.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski explores the many abilities of Macpractice, software on a Mac platform designed to help doctors, dentists and other professionals manage their business and client files.]]> <![CDATA[UAW Strike After Failed Contract Negotiations]]> Sat, 13 Sep 2014 10:28:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/uaw+strike+indiana.jpg

Hundreds of workers walked off their jobs at the Lear Corp. seat factory in Hammond, Indiana Saturday morning after negotiations over a new factory contract failed to find a compromise by the 6 a.m. deadline.

The more than 750 members of the United Auto Workers Local 2335 say they’ve been without a contract for more than a month after a contract signed in 2009 expired.

Several workers blame the Michigan-based auto part supplier’s two-tier work system where workers hired in recent years, the second tier, can only make up to $16 per hour, while veteran employees can make almost $20 per hour. Second tier workers also do not get vision insurance.

Last month, union members voted 96 percent to 4 percent to authorize a strike, but continued working in hopes that an agreement would be reached, according to the Northwest Indiana Times.

Union representatives said no workers were in the plant on 165th Street Saturday morning as picketers protested outside.

“We want our two tier to go up to one tier,” said worker Sherry Franciski. “We all want to be equal and continue to work for our families and our children and our husbands and wives.”

On Friday, UAW Local 2335 posted to Facebook that "negotiations took a turn for the worst."

"The Company is pushing and proposing demands on the Union, and not substantiating those demands with the proper information. Your bargaining committee has outstanding information requests to the company that have not been fulfilled yet," the post read. With these outstanding information requests coupled with the company’s outlandish and unrealistic demands, they have put our membership in an unfortunate position...It is not our desire or wish for this to happen, but there comes a time when we need to stand up and take a position; positions that are important to all of us, our families and our futures."

Earlier reports indicated the company has offered workers essentially the same terms as it did in the past, but the union was concerned with rumored layoffs and said the two-tier system allows workers to get paid less for doing the exact same job.

The factory has recently been thriving, producing nearly 70 seats an hour for Ford vehicles and others produced at the nearby Chicago Assembly Plant.

A spokesperson for Lear Corp. could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

<![CDATA[McDonald's Expands "Build-Your-Own-Burger" Test]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 21:18:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/179*120/mcdonalds+burger.jpg

Amid reports that younger generations are favoring fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle, McDonald’s is expanding its fast and casual way of ordering.

The Orange County Register reports that the world’s largest hamburger chain quietly served up the “build your own burger” ordering test to four more California restaurants.

The initial ordering test began in 2013 at locations in California and Illinois.

Earlier this year, Kevin Newell, U.S. brand and strategy officer for McDonald’s, said in an interview that the offering was a “huge driver,” but it remained unclear if the test could translate across the company’s broad network of restaurants.

McDonald’s culinary executive Dan Coudreaut told the Register the Oak Brook-based company is looking to see if customers will accept the new ordering system and that officials are hoping to see if customers are “willing to pay more” and give more time for a premium fast-casual style burger.

The program reportedly allows dine-in customers to choose from 22 different ingredients, including caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, red onions, pepper jack cheese, thick cut apple-wood smoked bacon and sliced jalapenos.

A touch-screen tablet is used as a self-checkout option.

The Register reports a standard build-your-own burger costs 90 cents more than a Big Mac, with extra add-ons increasing the cost. The finished product, which takes approximately six minutes to make, is delivered by a server dressed in a black and white pin-striped apron.

It was not immediately clear if the company plans to expand the burger ordering system nationally.

News of the expansion comes after a report that millennials are choosing to eat at restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Five Guys Holdings LLC, dubbed “fast-casual” eateries.

The report indicates younger diners are seeking out healthier options and customizable menus.

McDonald’s has already attempted to make waves in the younger market, once a prominent audience for the chain, by introducing healthier options and debuting apps and mobile pay options.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Trademarks Term "McBrunch"]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:49:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds8.jpg

Craving a McGriddle at noon? Enter the “McBrunch.”

McDonald’s has filed a federal trademark registration for the term “McBrunch,” indicating a possible new meal program for the world’s largest hamburger chain.

While McDonald’s has not yet announced plans for a “McBrunch,” company spokesperson Terri Hickey said speculation about the concept is “entirely premature.”

“We routinely file intent to use trademark applications as a regular course of business,” Hickey told NBC Chicago. “We can’t share details at this time as to how the trademarks may or may not be used.”

News of the “McBrunch” was first reported by BurgerBusiness, which claims the Oak Brook-based fast food chain filed a trademark registration for the term in July.

This comes after a report that millennials aren’t munching on McDonald’s as much as they used to.

The company has also been working to build its breakfast component, stating that the meal program makes up roughly 20 percent of U.S. sales.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[2 Chicago Writers Join List of World's Top-Earning Authors]]> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:55:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Gone-Girl-Ben-Affleck.011714_copy.jpg

Two Chicago writers have joined the ranks of Forbes' top-earning authors in the world.

Veronica Roth, author of the “Divergent” trilogy, tied with three other top authors (Jeff Kinney, John Grisham and Stephen King) for sixth with a listed earning of $17 million.

Gillian Flynn, whose thriller “Gone Girl” hits the big screen next month, tied with ”The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green for No. 12 with a listed earning of $9 million. Green also made his debut on the list.

"In a ranking long-dominated by stalwarts like crime writer James Patterson and romance author Nora Roberts, these fresh ink spillers, two of whom write young adult fiction, rank thanks to the increasing commercial appeal of teen literature for readers of all ages," Natalie Robehmed writes for Forbes.

The top spots still go to well-known names. James Patterson leads the pack with $90 million, followed by Dan Brown with $28 million, Nora Roberts with $23 million and Danielle Steel with $22 million.

JK Rowling finished No. 8 with $14 million, and George R.R. Martin ranked No. 9 with $12 million.

<![CDATA[DiGiorno Under Fire for #WhyIStayed Tweet]]> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:01:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/pizza-generic-close.jpg

DiGiorno Pizza is under fire for a recent tweet using the hashtag #WhyIStayed, which went viral after video of Ray Rice apparently punching his fiancee sparked new dialogue on domestic violence.

The trending hashtag emerged a day after the video was released. The hashtag, along with #WhyILeft, demonstrates the complicated decisions victims face and was used as women and men wrote about their trauma and fear.

The pizza retailer, owned by former Northbrook-based Nestle, joined the domestic violence discussion by tweeting “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”

The tweet sparked saucy backlash from Twitter users with many calling it “insensitive” and “inappropriate.”

The tweet has since been removed and DiGiorno has offered individual apologies to the many users commenting on their post.

“A million apologies,” one reply read. “Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting. Deleted immediately.”

The company later tweeted an official apology.

“We heard from many of you, and we know we disappointed you,” the tweet read. “We understand, and we apologize to everyone for this mistake.”

Apparently, DiGiorno wasn't the only cheesy company sparking controversy over tweets surrounding Ray Rice and domestic violence.

Chicago's Cheesie's Pub & Grill tweeted Tuesday "TINDER TUESDAY = 20% off tabs! It's a knockout deal... We're calling it the Ray Rice ;)."

The company has also issued an apology and since deleted the tweet.

"We would like to apologize for the previous tweet, referencing Ray Rice. This tweet was posted by a disgruntled ex employee who had Twitter access. In no way, shape or form do condone his behavior. We also apologize to anyone who was directly offended by this tweet."

Cheesie's said social media security precautions are being put in place to prevent similar instances from happening and announced plans for a charitable fundraiser to benefit a center for domestic violence.

<![CDATA[Weekend Web: Samsung Debuts New Phones]]> Sat, 06 Sep 2014 10:41:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008713221_1200x675_325973571982.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski shows us two brand new cell phone models by Samsung. The models are the Samsung Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge.]]> <![CDATA[Motorola Offers Sneak Peek at Wearable Technology]]> Fri, 05 Sep 2014 11:10:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/moto-3601.jpg

Chicago-based smartphone maker Motorola Mobility unveiled what it believes will be the next big wave in wearable technology Thursday.

The company is marketing the Moto 360 -- a timepiece that will work with your Android phone and offer voice-based access to information on your wrist.

"Part of what we are doing is allowing people to go through life with their heads up -- a quick glance to see your heart rate, quick glance to see your directions or something allows you to focus on the people and the world around you," Motorola Mobility senior vice president Jim Wicks said.

The watch was designed at the company’s Merchandise Mart global headquarters.

"One of the things we see as a company is that technology is becoming more personal, and whether it is a smartphone or a wearable like this, I think it's important that devices react and respond to consumers," Wicks said.

Designing new wearables is also about challenging Apple for smartphone supremacy. Next week, Apple is expected to unveil its latest iPhone, and possibly its own smart watch.

"Apple has done and will do what consumers expect at the very least, which is make it faster, lighter, thinner, more powerful, better screens, better resolution and more importantly. better software. And all of that will create what I would consider an exceptional experience for those who are in the Apple camp," said Tim Bajarin, Motorola's president of creative strategies.

Samsung also showed off its latest large-screen smartphones Thursday, the Galaxy Note 4 and the Note Edge, which features a wraparound screen and special mini apps.

It's more options for consumers, something Motorola is counting on.

"Our focus is all about giving consumers the power to choose, and we think with this generation of products we are going to emphasize that more and more," Motorola COO Rick Osterloh said.

Photo Credit: Motorola]]>
<![CDATA[50 Protesters Detained in Minimum Wage Rallies]]> Thu, 04 Sep 2014 16:49:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds_arrests_9-4.jpg

Protests on Chicago's South Side and in Cicero resulted in 50 arrests Thursday.

Nineteen protesters were detained and cited Thursday morning after blocking an intersection at West 87th and South State streets in a continued fight for an increased minimum wage.

The assembly was among about 150 such protests planned around the nation. The fast food industry workers and their supporters want the ability to form a union and a minimum hourly pay of $15 per hour.

"We're definitely on the upward movement because we feel justice is on our side. They keep saying, 'Wait.' We can't wait. ComEd raised their rates three months ago. Food prices are constantly going up, and so we feel that we cannot wait. We're struggling to put food on the tables for our kids," said Douglas Hunter. "We work at a McDonald's at a restaurant where we can't even afford to eat the food that we sell, and we think this is ridiculous in a country as rich as America."

Protesters began gathering early Thursday morning with an official event kicking off at about 8:30 a.m. It started peacefully but some then blocked the roadway and ignored officers' calls to disperse. Some were seen being placed into squad cars.

Around 300 protesters held another rally later in the day in Cicero at 29th and Cicero Avenue.

Cicero Police say 31 people were arrested and charged for disrupting traffic and placing themselves in harm's way. The protesters reportedly sat in the center of the road and blocked traffic.

A city-issued news release said Cicero Town President Larry Dominick and other local leaders support the state's efforts to raise the minimum wage and offered to work with the demonstrators to find a safter place to protest, but organizers refused.

The "Fight for 15" campaign has the support of The Service Employees International Union and several politicians, including Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who planned on join a protest outside a McDonald's restaurant near West 29th Street and South Cicero Avenue after midday.

In a statement, McDonald's corporate spokeswoman Lisa McComb said the company supports paying "fair wages aligned with a competitive marketplace," adding that any increase needs to be considered in a broad context that considers "the impact of the Affordable Care Act and its definition of "full time" employment, as well as the treatment, from a tax perspective, of investments made by businesses owners."

"It's important to know approximately 90 percent of our U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by franchisees who set wages according to job level and local and federal laws," McComb said. "McDonald's does not determine wages set by our more than 3,000 U.S. franchisees."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for city contractors and subcontractors to $13/hour.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports raising the state's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to at least $10 per hour. He vowed to live this week on minimum wage, telling reporters he's eating graham crackers for dinner.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this year to raise the wage for federal contractors.

<![CDATA[Study Ranks States Based on Women's Workforce Equality]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 15:48:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/women+in+workplace+ranks.jpg

Apparently Illinois isn’t the greatest state for women in the workforce.

A new study ranked states based on women’s employment and earnings equity and Illinois, along with much of the Midwest, received a mediocre “grade.”

According to the study, Illinois was ranked 15th with a grade of a B-.

The rankings were based on the Institute for Women’s Policy Research 2014 composite index on employment and earning, which includes four indicators of women’s status in the workforce—including median annual earnings for full-time employed women, the female-to-male wage ratio, percent of women in the labor force and percent of employed women in managerial or professional occupations.

The only Midwestern state to make it into the top 10 was Minnesota, which ranked at no. 8.

Most of the top states for women in the workforce were in the Northeast and most of the worst states for workplace equality were in the South.

See the full results here.

Photo Credit: Institute for Women's Policy Research]]>
<![CDATA[Press Release Etiquette: How to Keep From "Crying Wolf"]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 15:16:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Generic+E-mail.jpg

Most companies understand the power of a press release as a tool in their PR campaign toolbox to deliver news and information to media.

Many, however, don’t understand how to use a press release effectively, especially today.

Clients so often ask PR companies "to send out at least one press release per month" as part of the strategy. That’s great in theory, but is there enough news to really support sending out so often?

This idea of how to use press releases comes from the days when it could actually be an effective method, even if they were just glanced at and put to the side. There was a sense of branding with the media; a way for them to become familiar with your company. However, in today’s world those press releases often end up in the trash or worse the sender is considered a spammer and their email address is blocked.

It’s the classic “Crying Wolf” scenario. You think it’s a good idea to just bombard media non-stop with messages and press releases, hoping to create awareness with them, only to find that when you really have something important and newsworthy, no one is listening.

Today’s press release is a great tool for online distribution and to boost search, but it’s the boots on the ground engaging with media directly and crafting custom stories for each that makes the difference. And that is when there is a real newsworthy story to tell.

It’s important to note that today’s media professionals are busier than ever and, at the same time, there are more public relations professionals targeting them day in and day out. Sometimes they receive thousands of email pitches in a week – some are not relevant to their beat and others don’t have an interesting news story angle. So, it’s easy to see why media may become frustrated.

Sending out a press release for the sake of sending out a press release is never a good tactical part of your overall strategy. Honestly, it’s a waste of your time, energy and money. Less is more, the saying goes, so invest in what is truly newsworthy about your business and deserves a push to media; something that is sure to be meaningful to all of your audiences and grab media attention. Those three to five big story angles per year with a great headline and meaningful information for their readers.

If your goal is to build relationships with the media, this is one of the best ways to do it. Trust me, they remember people who give them not just good, but great, stories and interviews. They will remember you and be more likely to open the next email pitch you send.

Constantly sending out press releases may get you remembered by media, but not in the positive way you might have hoped.

Jennifer Fortney is President of Cascade Communications, a boutique, virtual PR and marketing communications company in Chicago for small business and startups. In her 17- year career she has worked with top Fortune 500 companies and a wide variety of small businesses and startups across the country, generating millions of media impressions. A Journalism major from The University of Kansas, she has written broadcast news, worked in sports and broadcast marketing, is the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago and Founder of @MyStorySource live media pitch feed on Twitter and Facebook. She has been tapped as an expert by media including The SpareFoot startup blog, Wells Fargo Small Business and Chicago Tribune. @SmallBizPRXpert

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Emanuel Signs Minimum Wage Executive Order]]> Wed, 03 Sep 2014 21:52:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/rahm-minimum-wage.jpg

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday signed an executive order requiring city contractors and subcontractors to pay employees a $13-an-hour minimum wage.

Officials said it will apply to city contractors advertised after Oct. 1 and will affect about 1,000 contracted employees. Those would include landscapers, maintenance workers, security officers and custodial workers.

"It creates a floor so you can afford a family and be able to give your children the life that they deserve," Emanuel said at Environmental Design International, at 33 West Monroe Street.

The mayor in July introduced a city ordinance that would gradually increase the minimum wage in Chicago to $13 an hour. The action drew praise from the president of SEIU Local 1, Tom Balanoff.

A panel called the Minimum Wage Working Group said the higher wages would increase earnings for about 410,000 people -- or 31 percent of Chicago workers -- and inject nearly $800 million into the Chicago economy.

Gov. Pat  Quinn supports raising the state's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to at least $10 per hour. He vowed to live this week on minimum wage, telling reporters he's eating graham crackers for dinner.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this year to raise the wage for federal contractors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[Garrett Popcorn Sued Over "Chicago Mix"]]> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:14:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/246*120/garretts+edit.jpg

Chicagoans who are fans of Garrett Popcorn won’t be calling one of the gourmet popcorn shop’s most popular mixes the “Chicago Mix” anymore.

The popcorn icon is among three companies targeted in lawsuits from Candyland Inc., a St. Paul-based company that filed federal trademark infringement lawsuits last month.

The suit alleges the companies have wrongly branded their popcorn confections Chicago Mix, which the company trademarked in 1992.

Also named in the suits are Waukegan-based Cornfields Inc. and O-ke-doke popcorn maker Snyder’s-Lance Inc.

In the suit, Candyland claims it requested the companies stop using the name, but none did.

“It’s the larger companies that don’t want to,” said Candyland Co-Owner Brenda Lamb. “They’re the ones we’re having issues with.”

Garrett Popcorn, owned by CaramelCrisp LLC, says it is currently changing the name of its Chicago Mix to Garrett Mix, a process they say they started before the lawsuit was filed.

“Garrett Popcorn Shops is expanding into new markets and proactively started transitioning away from calling its world famous CheeseCorn and CaramelCrisp flavor ‘Chicago Mix’ to the more ownable ‘Garrett Mix,’” the company said in a statement. “And this transition began prior to any lawsuit due to countless brands now using the Chicago Mix name on what Garrett Popcorn Shops feels is a product vastly inferior to ours. These are mostly pre-packed brands found in supermarkets and drug stores. No matter the name – no one in the world delivers Handcrafted Happiness the way we do.”

The shop’s website now features their trademarked “Garrett Mix” where Chicago Mix once was.

While Garrett’s recipe includes caramel and cheese popcorn, Candyland’s Chicago Mix adds in traditionally seasoned popcorn.

Lamb said it’s not the recipe that’s the problem, it’s the name.

“It’s a matter of they’re taking a name," she said. "They’re using a name that they shouldn’t be because we’re the ones that have it federally trademarked."

As for why the Minnesota company chose to name the signature mix after Chicago, Lamb said it was more of a marketing strategy, calling Chicago the “popcorn capital of the U.S.”

“I didn’t know it was going to be a problem,” she said. “If you called it St. Paul or Minneapolis people out of state might not have paid attention. I thought it would be much more noticed when I put the name on it.”

<![CDATA[Cards Against Humanity Creator Designs New Card Game]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 06:11:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Wild-West.jpg

One of the creators of Cards Against Humanity has come up with a new card game.

Chicagoan Max Temkin and a team of six other designers, have started a Kickstarter fundraising page hoping to fund the release of a new card game called Slap .45.

The Wild West card game intends to capture the feeling of a Western shootout, the game’s creators said.

Players group into teams and use the cards, which act as guns and events,  to “duel."

“Slap .45 is an old Western-themed duel game with a slap mechanic,” Temkin said in a video on the campaign page. “It’s crazy intense fun and it’s one of those games that everyone can learn in like 30 seconds and it escalates so quickly into this really competitive experience.”

The campaign, which still has 20 days left, has already raised nearly triple the original goal of $18,850.

Temkin also runs Chicago design firm Maxistentialism, where fellow Slap .45 creator and Chicagoan Ade Hogue works as a graphic designer.

The game was created by Baltimore-based Gnarwhal Studios, the same studio that created Humans vs. Zombies, dubbed the largest game of tag in the world.

It is available with a $35 pledge to the Kickstarter campaign, which runs through Sept. 17.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hot Doug's to Be Inducted Into Hot Dog Hall of Fame]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:10:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Hot+Doug%27s+Bacon+Chocolate+Dog.jpg

Hot Doug’s will live on in Chicago.

The famous hot dog restaurant nestled in the city’s Avondale neighborhood will be enshrined in the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Vienna Beed announced Tuesday.

The induction into hot dog stardom is set to take place Thursday.

“Vienna Beef, the 121-year-old Chicago sausage maker, thanks [Hot Doug’s owner] Doug Sohn for his loyal, trailblazing establishment,” Jim Bodman, CEO of Vienna Beef, said in a statement. “We hope many more will line up to follow in his footsteps.”

The iconic encased meat eatery announced earlier this year that it will be closing its doors for good in October.

The news came as a shock to many Chicagoans and hot dog enthusiasts as the restaurant is often booming with customers, with lines stretching down the block.

The restaurant was most recently named on the Daily Meal’s list of the “50 Best Casual Restaurants in America and has generated what some have called "cult fandom."

With only 38 days until closing, according to the RIP Hot Doug's countdown clock on their website, the restaurant said it was surprised to hear of their new honor.

“We were stunned when we got the call that we were being inducted to the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame,” Sohn said in a statement. “Mostly because we didn’t know there was a Hot Dog Hall of Fame. That said, we are excited to celebrate our run in Chicago with our partners at Vienna Beef.”

Photo Credit: Kate Bernot/The Feast]]>
<![CDATA[5 Things to Do When You Get A Job Offer]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:37:18 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/handshake_web.jpg

You perfected your resume, aced the interview and secured the job offer. Now what?

It can be tempting to accept an offer right away, especially for those candidates who had a particularly long job search or those who are recent college grads. However, candidates need to consider all the small details before crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on any job offer. If something on the contract is overlooked, employees could find themselves regretting the decision a few months down the road because they were too quick to sign on the dotted line.

So when you get do get the offer, make sure you do your due diligence to ensure your new role is everything you hope it will be.

The following steps can serve as a guide:

Get the offer in writing. Request a written job offer outlining your salary, vacation package, benefits, start date and a meeting place for your first day. Take time to evaluate the offer by weighing the pros and cons. While an employer might not pay top dollar, he might offer a vacation package that seals the deal.

Confirm your benefits and perks. Ensure everything verbally offered to you is reflected in your contract. If there are discrepancies, connect with HR for clarification before your first day. It can be tempting to skim over the nitty gritty details, but it’s better to fully understand the offer from the outset.

Consider negotiating. Prior to signing on the dotted line, don’t forget you have the opportunity not only to negotiate your salary, but also adjust your offer in other ways, too. Think through all
your options, like requesting flexible work hours or the option to work remotely on occasion.

Ask questions. In preparation for your start date, ask about company rules, policies and dress code. The more you know about the environment you’ll be working in, the more comfortable you’ll feel on your first day. Additionally, discuss with your manager what projects or initiatives will be your initial focus during your first 30-60 days. This will give you a scope of immediate responsibilities from day one as well as open up communication with your new manager.

Set goals. Since you’ll be working hard at your new job, you’ll want your job to work hard for you, too. In advance of your first day, make a list of goals you hope to accomplish while in your new role, identifying specific skillsets you want to master. Ultimately, this will help you understand how this job fits with your career path and set you up for success in the new role.

Once you’ve addressed all your concerns and questions with the hiring manager and prepped yourself for your new position, you’ll be set to hit the ground running right from the start.

Beth Stein the Manager of Business Development in the Finance & Accounting division at Addison Group, a nationwide provider of professional staffing and search services. Addison combines a national network and localized service for broad reach with a personal touch. Specialized practices deliver the right candidate at the right time in administration & human resources, finance & accounting, healthcare, and information technology. Addison has received Inavero’s Best of Staffing award for both Client and Candidate service for the past four years. Learn more at www.addisongroup.com.

Photo Credit: NBC Local Media]]>
<![CDATA[Tips to Help Combat the Unsubscribe]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:27:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/email.jpg

A common marketer’s dilemma: How can I send prospects, customers, and clients email newsletters when I get so many I don’t know what to do with, much less read?

If you’ve ever sent an email marketing campaign, you’ve likely thought about how to ensure that they will be delivered, read, clicked, or maybe the best yet...shared.

Email marketing doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon - it may just evolve as new platforms make it easier to design, send, and integrate with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for seamless customer experiences from lead to loyalty.

In fact, 58 percent of marketers plan to increase spending on email marketing this year, according to Convince and Convert and Salesforce ExactTarget’s 2014 State of Marketing report.

Here are some tips and tidbits to help marketers avoid the unsubscribe and grow a list of engaged email recipients:

  1. Teach your audience something new, starting with the subject line. Spark curiosity that encourages the reader to click through to learn more.
  2. Make your audience feel exclusive. Offer them access to something they couldn’t get somewhere else. Give them new information. Provide them with a sneak peek or early access to a work-in-progress. Make your audience feel like they’re part of your inner-circle and they’ll likely reciprocate with loyalty.
  3. Successful email marketers focus on engagement, according to an April report from Tech Cocktail. That engagement includes mobile-friendliness, personalization, and using data based on the reader’s activity with a brand, along with segmentation based on customer purchase frequency, sales cycle stage, and recipient preferences on when and how often to receive email.
  4.  Let your audience choose what and when to read. If you’re able to provide preferences on the type of news you share or options on when to receive information, your audience will feel that you want to be accommodating and helpful, versus sending information on your own schedule, which may be different from theirs.
  5. Be convenient. Make it easy for your audience to subscribe from an easily accessible location on your website, provide simple ways for them to engage with your social media channels, unsubscribe, or share without them having to search within your email layout.
  6. Be proactive and be transparent, even if it’s tough. Email can be a quick and important communication channel for connecting with your audience. Sometimes the message is more urgent than promotional-- like Target’s President and CEO message to customers about the security breach at the end of 2013, or a similar message following a 2012 cyber attack at Zappos.

What tactics do you use to combat the unsubscribe? Tell us in the comments.

Rebecca Otis is a digital marketing strategist, speaker, and blogger that focuses on using simple marketing tactics to make a significant impact for businesses. You can find Rebecca on Twitter and Google+.

<![CDATA["Millennial" Market Not Lovin' McDonald's: Report]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 11:02:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/McDonalds-Blitz-Box.jpg

It looks like millennials aren’t munching on McDonald’s as much as they used to.

According to demographics reported by the Wall Street Journal, customers in their 20s and 30s are choosing to dine elsewhere, particularly at “fast-casual” restaurants like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Five Guys Holdings LLC.

The report indicates younger diners are seeking out healthier options and customizable menus, causing a hurdle for McDonald's as it grapples with one of its worst slumps in the last decade.

According to the data, the percentage of customers age 19 to 21 who visited McDonald’s monthly has fallen by 12.9 percentage points since 2011 and the percentage of customers age 22 to 37 visiting the chain in the same period remained stagnant.

In turn, the percentage of customers in those age groups visiting fast-casual restaurants monthly during that same time period grew by 2.3 and 5.2 percentage points.

It’s a trend that the world’s largest hamburger chain has been trying to overcome after a reported global decline.

The Oak Brook-based chain reported earlier this month that a key sales figure fell 2.5 percent in July, due in part to persistent weakness in the U.S.

While the company attributes a 7.3 drop in an international unit encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa to a recent food safety scandal in China, changing food habits could be the culprit for the 3.2 percent drop in the U.S.

Chains like Chipotle, for instance, are gaining favor by touting more wholesome ingredients and the ability to customize food.

Last month, McDonald’s ranked last for burger taste in a Consumer Reports survey of 32,405 subscribers. Respondents in the survey continuously favored the so-called fast casual restaurants over some of the mega-chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King.

“Fast-casual dining in places like Chipotle and Panda Express lets the consumer guide the staff to prepare their meal just the way they like it,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm that compiled the data for the Wall Street Journal.

McDonald’s is attempting to make waves in the younger market, once a prominent audience for the chain, by introducing healthier options and debuting apps and mobile pay options.

McDonald’s Global Chief Brand Officer Steve Easterbrook told the Wall Street Journal the millennial generation is “promiscuous in their brand loyalty,” making it more difficult to earn their loyalty.
Easterbrook cited a wider range of choices for the shift in preference for younger generations.

The chain has also noted menu issues and cited financial struggles for lower-income customers as reasons for the U.S. drop.

McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said the company complicated its menu and slowed down service by introducing too many items too quickly. He said the company is working on getting the basics rights — such as improving service.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[New Amazon Fire Phone Offers 3D View]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 09:56:11 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008523338_1200x675_321332803837.jpg Art Norman shows us the new Amazon Fire phone, that offers a 3D view and has lots of bells and whistles. It's available at AT&T phone stores and at ATT.com.]]> <![CDATA[Spotlight: Grainger's Paul Miller]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:20:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Paul-Miller-Grainger.jpg Grainger may be an 85-year-old company, but VP of eCommerce, Paul Miller, shows how the company manages to innovate in a digital world.]]> <![CDATA[5 Ways to Avoid "No Vacation Nation" Burnout]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:19:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/sunnyskiessocal.jpg

Entrepreneurs are known for working long hours, so it's no wonder they have a hard time stepping away from their business long enough to take, much less enjoy, a summer vacation.

This is especially true in America, which has developed a reputation as the "No Vacation Nation," as nearly 60 percent of people admit to feeling vacation-deprived.

What many people don't realize is the work that keeps them from escaping the office is the very reason they need -- and deserve -- a vacation in the first place.

Numerous studies have found that time off not only improves a person's mental and physical health, but also fosters creativity and productivity in the workplace. The more time a person spends away from the office, the more noticeable these effects become, according to an internal Ernst & Young study, which found that for every additional 10 hours of vacation, employees' year-end performance ratings improved by 8 percent.

While going out of town may be more difficult if you're running your own company, it's certainly not impossible. Here are some simple steps you can take to get away and avoid experiencing entrepreneurial burnout:

  1. Travel when business isn't busy: If summer is your busiest season, consider a fall, winter or spring getaway. Traveling during off-peak months will not only reduce your stress, but also allow you to avoid the crowds and, if you're lucky, snag some better travel deals. If a week seems too long, start out by treating yourself to a long weekend and working your way up from there.
  2. Create a plan: Before scheduling a trip, talk to your employees and figure out when they will be taking vacations of their own to prevent any overlap. You'll also want to check in with clients and make sure they don't have any major events taking place while you're away. After selecting your dates, identify tasks that need to be completed during that time and delegate accordingly.
  3. Spread the word: Give your clients as much notice as possible -- no less than a month in advance -- and, if possible, provide an alternate contact who can handle any immediate needs. You'll also want to set up out-of-office messages on your phone and email accounts to let people know you'll be unavailable.
  4. Use your resources: If you don't have employees who can look after your business, consider working with a shared office or office services provider whose staff can answer calls and receive packages while you're away. Having a live receptionist field your calls will make your absence less noticeable to customers. The receptionist will also have your emergency contact information if something urgent comes up.
  5. Follow through: One in 10 Americans say they can never relax while on vacation. This is understandably hard to do if your phone is constantly reminding you of missed calls and emails. If you say you're going to be unavailable, make yourself unavailable by leaving your phone in your hotel room or turning it off when you aren't using it. If necessary, set aside time in the morning or evening to check messages, which will also save you from coming back to a full inbox. Be warned, however: Not all vacation destinations have phone and internet service, so make sure clients and employees are prepared for you to go off the map.

Whether your vacation involves sitting on a beach, going on that long-planned ski trip, or simply hitting the road with family or friends, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should enjoy yourself. Think of your time off as an investment in the long-term success of your business that will allow you come back refreshed, reenergized and armed with new solutions to old problems.

Frank Chalupa is president and co-founder of Amata Office Centers, Chicago’s largest privately owned office suites provider. Founded in 2002, Amata offers an array of full- and part-time office solutions to businesses of all sizes. With six locations to choose from in downtown Chicago, including the company’s newest center at 150 S. Wacker Drive, Amata offers flexible terms that allow businesses to change and grow as needed. Learn more at amataoffices.com.

Photo Credit: flickr/Joan Valencia]]>
<![CDATA[What the Workplace Could Look Like in 2022]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 14:20:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/employmentgeneric.jpg

The future of the workplace could look a lot more like 1984.

Consulting firm PwC published its predictions for work in 2022 and some of the outcomes, while jarring, might not be too far-fetched.

Based on interviews with 500 human resource experts and 10,000 people in China, India, Germany, the UK and the U.S., the report details how developments in the workplace will affect the future of people management.

Researchers from PwC and the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation at the Said Business School in Oxford have projected three possible workplace developments which they call “three worlds of work.”

One world, titled the “Blue World,” predicts big company capitalism rules as organization continues to grow bigger and individual preferences trump beliefs about social responsibility.

“The data profiling that drives customer management will increasingly be replicated among employees as screening and monitoring move to a new level,” researchers wrote. “Sensors check their location, performance and health. The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests.”

Among the monitoring of private lives would be frequent health screenings to allow “real-time monitoring of health, with proactive health guidance and treatment to enable staff to perform more efficiently, reduce sick leave and work for more years before needing to retire.”

Researchers suggest that in exchange for handing over such data to employers, employees will have better job security.

This dystopian prediction might not be such a far-fetched idea when considering the monitoring technological advances have allowed and will continue to allow as innovation continues.

The study found that three out of 10 participants, many of them younger in age, would be happy for their employers to have access to their personal data and 44 percent of survey respondents felt the most important thing in a job was job security.

Other “worlds” listed in the study include the “Green World,” which predicts consumers and employees will force change, encouraging companies to develop a “powerful social conscience and green sense of responsibility” and the “Orange World,” where global business fragment and technology empowers a “low impact, high-tech business model.”

“The effectiveness with which your organization plans people management for the long-term will be critical to its long-term viability, ensuring you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right places to realize your evolving goals. Think too much in the short-term and you may find yourself on the back foot, unable to catch up with sudden shifts in your marketplace,” researchers wrote.

While it’s not clear which world, if any, will become the new workplace, researchers suggest that the need to adapt will be key to any company’s survival.

"No exploration of the future of work could ever be definitive," Michael Rendell, head of PwC, wrote in the study. "Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of our age is its ability to surprise and confound. However, while things happen that we cannot predict, we can still be prepared."

<![CDATA[Divvy Announces 2015 Expansion]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:45:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Divvy-bike-rack.jpg

The team behind Divvy, Chicago's bike share program, on Thursday announced plans to expand the reach of the transit system to neighborhoods on the city's far north and south sides.

Neighborhoods will get 175 additional Divvy stations and 1,750 new bikes during the spring of 2015, bringing the total to 475 stations and 4,750 bikes. The plans, announced in a blog post, mean Divvy would reach Touhy Avenue on the north, 75th Street on the south, and as far west as Pulaski Road.

More than 2.3 million Divvy rides have been taken since the program launched in 2013, program officials said. But despite boasting more than 23,000 active annual memberships, the program remains unprofitable. Divvy is managed by Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, with equipment and software supplied by Montreal-based Bixi. Bixi filed for bankruptcy and was bailed out by that city's government in 2011.

City officials said Bixi’s bankruptcy wouldn't affect the operation of the Divvy program in Chicago and in May announced a $12.5 million, five-year sponsorship investment with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

Photo Credit: domoant/Instagram]]>
<![CDATA[Chicago Ranks Second for Fast-Growing Businesses]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:36:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+generic.jpg

Chicagoans mean business.

They mean so much business that city companies snagged 95 spots on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies, second only to New York’s 205.

Chicago beat out top start-up hubs like San Francisco, which was ranked No. 7 with 63 companies. The second-place ranking is a step up for the city after coming in fourth last year.

Rounding out the top five cities on the list were Atlanta, Austin, Texas and San Diego.

California-based Fuhu, maker of an Android tablet for kids, took the number one spot for the second year in a row thanks to a growth rate of 158,957 percent over the last three years, a rare feat for the Inc. 5000.

This year's rankings are considered to be one of the most competitive in the list's history with companies needing to achieve a minimum of 918.59 percent in sales growth in the last three years.

The highest ranking Windy City company was MAX Digital, developer of a cloud-based marketing and retailing software for automotive dealers, which was ranked at No. 51 for a three-year growth rate of 5,483 percent. The company recorded a revenue of $6.6 million in 2013.

"Thanks to a great team we have been able to provide cutting edge technologies that are transforming traditional industry in consumer centric ways," said MAX Digital Founder and CEO Pat Ryan. "We look forward to even greater growth and innovation in the years ahead."

MAX Digital was also the third-fastest growing software company on the list.

"It's a tribute to the great work ethic and opportunities in the city of Chicago that has made them thrive on this very competitive list,"  Inc. Media President and Editor In Chief Eric Schurenberg said in a statement. " What surprises me, even though I know it’s coming, is the sheer variety of the paths our entrepreneurs take to success, thematically reflecting how our economy has evolved."

Eight other city companies ranked among the top 500 on the list, including:

  1. Insureon (No. 107)
  2. Paramount Lodging Advisors (No. 188)
  3. Protein Bar (No. 200)
  4. Restaurantware (No. 366)
  5. AKTA (No. 414)
  6. Response Team 1 (No. 422)
  7. RIPT Apparel (No. 441)
  8. Framework Communications (No. 442)

In addition to the nine Chicago companies, 10 suburban companies were listed among the top 500, with Elgin-based Compass Automation leading the group at no. 55.

Following Compass Automation was:

  1. LaunchPoint (No. 100)
  2. Market6 (No. 143)
  3. Total Technology Solutions Group (No. 148)
  4. Forte International Tax (No. 167)
  5. Blue Star Tec (HNo. 221)
  6. Ameez Technologies (No. 370)
  7. Four Seasons Home Services (No. 393)
  8. Startex Industries (No. 397)
  9. Strategic Mobility Group (No. 496)

Howard Tullman, CEO of Chicago's 1871 tech incubator, said the results confirm Chicago is a "prime place for entrepreneurs."

The Inc results confirm that we're building solid businesses, creating "innovative products and services that are generating steady revenue, adding new jobs, and fostering growth across the economy," he said in a statement.

Illinois ranked sixth for states with the most companies on the list, leading the Midwest with 238. California topped the list with 694 companies, Texas followed with 404, New York with 335, Florida with 202 and Virginia with 284.

“There is great momentum building among Chicago’s small and medium sized businesses," World Business Chicago President & CEO Jeff Malehorn said in a statement. "Companies thrive here due to the city’s diverse economy, easy access to the world, and unmatched talent base."

For the full list of Inc. 5000 companies, click here.

<![CDATA[Hostess Closing Schiller Park Twinkie Plant, Again]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:43:07 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hostess-twinkies-156458828.jpg

Hostess Brands announced Wednesday it has decided to close its Schiller Park bakery, less than two years after the location originally was set to close as Hostess entered bankruptcy.

The Illinois bakery, which produced Twinkies since the 1930s, is expected to close in October. About 400 employees will be affected.

The company said the decision was made to "enhance its production and distribution capabilities and efficiencies."

"Hostess has brought these great brands back to the marketplace," CEO Bill Toler said in a statement. "We have invested heavily in all facilities to improve worker conditions and efficiencies in a very highly competitive environment and marketplace."

The company reopened the Schiller Park last July after Hostess was purchased by Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management LLC.

Since then, Hostess says the competition that emerged during its bankruptcy has continued to be more fierce than expected.

"While the old Hostess company was in bankruptcy," Toler said, "many competitors took over the shelves and are tenaciously defending their business and thus we must be highly efficient and technologically advanced to compete. As a result, we have invested in more efficient production capabilities and need to streamline our manufacturing infrastructure and protect our ability to compete."

The location is one of four remaining bakeries and the last in Illinois.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[United Airlines to Offer Uber Service on Mobile App]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:49:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/451565438.jpg

Looks like United Airlines is hopping aboard the Uber bandwagon.

The Chicago-based airline company announced Wednesday that it has teamed up with the ridesharing service by adding Uber to the United mobile app.

Uber information will appear on the United App, which will show options including available vehicles, estimated wait times and prices. After a customer selects a ride, they will be transferred to the Uber app or website to sign up for an account and complete the transaction.

Customers who sign up for Uber via the United app will receive 1,000 MileagePlus award miles, the company said.

“Our partnership with Uber offers customers new opportunities to simplify their travel experience,” said Praveen Sharma, United’s vice president of loyalty. “Customers can use the app to ensure a more convenient journey, from checking in for an international flight from their home or office to finding instant ground transportation options at their final destination.”

The news comes just one day before TripAdvisor announced a partnership with Uber to add the ridesharing service to its app as well.

It also comes on the same day the taxi-alternative service announced it was hiring former White House adviser David Plouffe to lead its campaign for acceptance in the cities where it operates.

Uber has faced challenges in the Chicago-area this year as the company continues to fight a recently-passed bill that regulates ride-share businesses.

Some officials claim the bill is intended to ensure "basic consumer protections" for Illinoisans, while Uber supporters say the bill protects and encourages a "taxi monopoly."

Earlier this year, uberX was denied access to pick up passengers from O'Hare and Midway airports in Chicago.

The decision came after the Illinois Transportation Association asked the city to look into what it called Uber's "unregulated airport pickups."

Uber's regular taxis and black cars are still allowed to pick up customers at the airport.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Could be Considering Mag Mile Move]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:38:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Apple_ipad-chicago-11-1.jpg

Apple Inc. could be plugging in at a new location on Michigan Avenue in the future.

The California company’s flagship store in Chicago currently sits at 679 N. Michigan Ave., but Crain’s Chicago Business, citing sources familiar with the North Michigan Avenue retail market, reports that the company has hired brokers to find a potential alternative.

Among the scouted locations the firm has reportedly looked at were the Topshop store at 830 N. Michigan Ave. and the former Saks store at 717 N. Michigan Ave.

While the move is merely speculation, it could be prompted by a number of things.

The storefront is 11 years old and could be seen as outdated when compared to other flagship stores like one of the company’s New York locations, which has customers walk in through a glass box.

Crain’s also reports that the location scouting could be a tactic to give Apple leverage during negotiations for a new lease with its landlord, real estate firm Water Tower Realty Co.

Apple would be a valuable tenant for many landlords in the area.

The company’s North Avenue location on the city’s North Side has been hailed for its retail value after moving into the site of a former gas station in the wildly congested North & Clybourn corridor.

Greg Merdinger, a veteran Chicago developer, tells Crain’s the store “made the location,” turning it from good to great.

Apple Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

<![CDATA[Ralph Lauren Knockoff Site Uses the N-Word ]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:44:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Polo_offensive_description1.jpg

Ralph Lauren caught some misguided flak on social media recently because of a colorful product description that appeared to be listed on its web site.

The offending item: A black model is shown wearing the Argentinean polo shirt with the color described as "N-- Brown Red" at Ralph-Lauren.us.com

Only it wasn't. 

The company says its is a fraudulent web site. Ralph Lauren's actual web site is the un-hyphenated RalphLauren.com, and the company claims that Ralph-Lauren.us.com has been causing them problems.  

A Ralph Lauren spokesman told NBC 5 that someone set up the web site under a Chinese domain and sold the goods using the derogatory descriptions.

The spokesman says the company's trademark enforcement team is attempting to have the site closed, and customers reaching out to Ralph Lauren's call center are being told that they are not affiliated with the web site.

Ralph Lauren couldn't determine when they'd be able to get the site taken down. The web site administrator appears to have removed the offensive word from the site, but not before NBC 5 and several people on social media took screen shots.

The web site uses the Ralph Lauren logo, and offers a wide range of men's and women's clothing and accessories at prices considerably lower than what you'd pay for legitimate Ralph Lauren merchandise.

<![CDATA[Mariano's Could Move Into Old Dominick's Site in Lakeview]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:20:38 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Marianos_park-ridge.jpg

A Mariano’s may move into a Dominick’s store that burned down in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood nearly a decade ago.

The store, located on Broadway between Barry and Wellington Avenues, currently serves as a parking lot and has remained vacant since a fire gutted the building in 2005, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The proposal, which includes five stories and 125,000 square feet of retail space, is reportedly scheduled to be heard by the city’s Plan Commission Thursday with support from Ald. Tom Tunney and other business and community groups.

Mariano’s would occupy the first two floors of the building, parking would fill the third and fourth levels and an XSport Fitness health club would top off the building on the fifth floor.

The move would be in addition to the many former Dominick’s stores the grocery chain now occupies. By the end of this year, Mariano’s is projected to have 29 stores in the Chicago area.

If this latest plan is approved by the Plan Commission, it will then be heard by the city council.


<![CDATA[McDonald's to Sell Packaged Coffee in Supermarkets]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 12:22:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/050509+McCafe+Picture+p11.jpg

Fans of McCafe will be lovin’ the latest McDonald’s news.

The fast food chain announced plans to start selling its packaged coffee at supermarkets across the nation by early next year, the Associated Press reported.

The company reportedly made a deal with Kraft Foods to manufacture and distribute bags of ground and whole bean McCafe coffee, joining other retailers like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks in the sale of branded packaged coffee. They will also sell single-cup pods for in-home coffee machines, according to the AP.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain debuted its McCafe product line, which includes coffees and other drinks, in the U.S. in 2009.

The chain has since redesigned the coffee cup to make it more appealing for customers and even released flavored lattes.

Earlier this year, the Oak Brook-based company highlighted the coffee line as a leading contributor in the company’s breakfast market, using it to draw morning customers during a two week-long coffee giveaway program.

McDonald’s Corp. and Kraft Foods reportedly began testing the packaged coffee in select markets last year.

<![CDATA[5 Tips for Maintaining Workplace Happiness]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:31:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Happy+People.jpg

Oftentimes, employers talk about workplace productivity, workplace equality, workplace successes... but one thing they don't always talk about is workplace happiness.

Since most entrepreneurs are following their passion, they can sometimes forget that employees don’t always share the same level of enthusiasm. But a smart ‘trep knows that a happy employee equals a happy customer and this leads to great word-of-mouth marketing.

So if you want to motivate, inspire and get the most from your employees, here are five ways to do it.

1. Host an employee appreciation week. The best way to do this is by surprising employees with small and large gestures. For example, you could cater a meal, bring in a masseuse, give a cash bonus, or add an extra day to their vacation time.

2. Offer free training. Consider paying for classes that employees can use in their current job and in future jobs. For example, if most of your employees are part time while they’re in school, you could bring in an expert to teach them about accounting, how to handle difficult customers, or social media.

3. Create and promote your rewards system. Go beyond the basic “Employee of the Month” award with several awards to recognize employees. While you don’t want to dilute the value of the awards by having too many categories, you do want to broaden the scope. This can include awards for highest customer satisfaction ratings and longevity or you could even offer profit sharing.

4. Share your passion. When employees really understand your business, they are more likely to develop a passion for it, or a least a stronger interest in it. For example, if you’re running an ice cream stand, share fun facts about how the milk from the cows ends up in a banana split.

5. Engage employees. You don’t have to shower employees with gifts and awards to earn their trust and loyalty. If you regularly meet with them to let them know what’s new with the business, ask for their feedback, and learn about their interests, you’ll see lower turnover and absences along with higher customer satisfaction.

If you invest in your employees’ satisfaction, you’ll all be singing a happy tune.

Steve Robinson is Constant Contact’s educational marketing expert in the Midwestern United States (IL, IN, KY, OH, & MI). He has over 30 years experience supporting small business, with a background in small business marketing, management & development. He has helped thousands of small businesses, associations, and nonprofits develop and implement effective email marketing, social media, online survey and engagement marketing strategies. Steve has twice been named to Crain’s Chicago Business’ Who’s Who in Non-Profit Management and currently writes a guest blog for nbcchicago.com’s Inc.well Blog. Steve draws from this experience to be a valuable resource to Midwestern small businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Steve has educated more than 40,000 small businesses on behalf of Constant Contact since joining the team in 2007 and has presented at @Midwest, Techweek Chicago, & for the City of Chicago Treasurer’s Office Online Marketing Contest to name just a few.

<![CDATA[Women Entrepreneurs Offer Advice]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 00:04:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Mompreneurs.jpg Within four years, women will own more than half of the country's 10 million small businesses. We profile three inspirational successful businesses created by females, Little Viper, EZLeaps and Luxe Bloom. ]]> <![CDATA[Jewel-Osco Computers Hit by Hackers]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 22:46:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP985800088575.jpg

Hackers tried to snag credit card data from Jewel-Osco computers but there was no evidence as of Friday morning that any customer information was obtained, company officials said.

According to Jewel's parent company, AB Acquisition LLC, the unauthorized access appears to have started June 22 and ended on July 17 of this year.

The breach affected all Jewel-Osco stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Data may also have been obtained from cards used at stores carrying the following brands: Albertson's, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Shop 'n Save,  Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, ACME Markets, Shaw's, and Star Markets.

Information technology services are provided to the stores by Supervalu.

"We understand the inconvenience and concern an incident like this can cause, and we deeply regret that our customers’ data was targeted," said Mark Bates, the company's chief information officer, in a statement posted to JewelOsco.com.

Although it hadn't yet been determined whether any cardholder data was in fact stolen, and there was no evidence to date of any misuse of such data, the company offered customers whose payment cards may have been affected 12 months of complimentary consumer identity protection services through AllClear ID. Beginning at 3 p.m. CT Friday, concerned customers can call AllClear ID at 1-855-865-4449.

Updated information will be posted to JewelOsco.com, the company said.

The intrusion is just the latest in a string of data breaches at major retailers.

Earlier this month, Target said that expenses tied to a breach leading up to last year's holiday shopping season could reach as high as $148 million. The incident led to a major shakeup and CEO Gregg Steinhafel resigned.

Restaurant operator P.F. Chang's confirmed in June that data from credit and debit cards used at its restaurants was stolen.

There have been smaller breaches at Neiman Marcus and Michaels Stores Inc., and even at Goodwill.

There are currently efforts underway to change the technology used in credit and debit cards to make consumer information more secure.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Yelp Opens Office in Merchandise Mart ]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:29:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Yelp+Generic+Screengrab.jpg

A San Francisco-based business review site is bringing jobs Chicago.

Yelp announced the opening of its new 50,000-square foot headquarters in Merchandise Mart.
Within the next 12 to 18 months, the company is looking to hire up to 300 people, mostly for sales positions.

"Yelp is an exciting company that has become globally recognized for supporting local business, the backbone of Chicago's economy, and we welcome them to the city," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

The company will move into its new downtown office in January 2015.

Yelp chose Merchandise Mart because its location  -- given the proximity near the CTA train and the Chicago River -- may be good for commuters, local businesses and restaurants.

The company currently has offices in New York; London; Hamburg, Germany; Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Dublin, Ireland. Merchandise Mart also houses other tech companies like 1871 and Razorfish.

"Chicago’s history as a leader in innovation and supporter of small business and tech industry growth fits seamlessly with Yelp’s initiatives, and we are excited to build a home here with Yelp’s seventh office,” said Jeremy Stoppelman, Yelp's co-founder and CEO.

The company had a monthly average of 138 million unique visitors in the 2014 second quarter.


<![CDATA[Chicago Tops 2014 List of U.S. Meeting Destinations]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:16:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*160/104992627722171095108361814961537n.jpg

The Second City took the top spot on a event management firm's 2014 list of top U.S. destinations for meeting and events, but the city's investments in infrastructure and hotel may not be the top driver.

Rather, a spokesman for Cvent, which published the rankings on Wednesday, said the primary factor appears to be location, location, location.

"Across several metrics, we have seen more booking and interest in Midwestern and other centrally located cities during the past 12 months," said Bharet Malhotra.

In a release, Cvent said it evaluated more than 5,000 U.S. cities featured on the Cvent Supplier Network to compile the third annual list. Activity was tracked from July 2013 to June 2014 and the ranking was then determined by a set of qualifying criteria consisting of:

  • Unique Request For Proposals Received
  • Total Room Nights
  • Awarded Request For Proposals
  • Awarded Room Nights
  • Percentage of Qualified Meeting Venues
  • Number of Profile Views

“I am pleased that Cvent has confirmed what we in Chicago have always said to be true - that when you invest in transportation and infrastructure, and provide access to world-class restaurants, hotels and entertainment, business will follow," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "When it comes to meetings and events especially, our city provides unparalleled access to the airports and transportation hubs that allow people from across the country to visit this most American of American cities and this ranking is a reflection of that. Making sure that Chicago is a premier destination for events is critical to our plan for growing Chicago’s economy and creating jobs for today and into the future.”

Chicago came in at the No. 1 spot, up from second place last year and fifth place in 2012. Central cities New Orleans and Nashville climbed into the top 10 ranking this year, both moving up several spots from last year.

The full list is posted on Cvent.com.

Photo Credit: chicagoaintcool/Instagram]]>