<![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 Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:54:49 -0600 Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:54:49 -0600 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Will.i.am on Music, Philanthropy and New Tech Venture]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:36:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000010220379_1200x675_375313475720.jpg NBC5's Charlie Wojciechowski talks to Black Eyed Peas rapper, producer and entrepreneur will.i.am in Chicago about what inspired him to create his new I.Am PULS smartband.]]> <![CDATA[Stores Offer Non-Stop Hours for Late Xmas Shoppers]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:48:49 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/454128685.jpg

With just six shopping days left until Christmas, stores are offering extended hours and good deals for last-minute holiday shoppers.

“I definitely put it off a little longer than I should have,” shopper John Hoevel told NBC Chicago.

As the days wind down, procrastinators are feeling the heat.

“[I need] a last minute Christmas present for my wife – who has everything!” said another shopper, Greg Krebes.

Experts estimate about 50 percent of consumers will shop at some point this weekend, meaning “super Saturday,” could prove to be a bigger day for retailers than Black Friday.

Kohl's opened at 6 a.m. Friday and will remain open around the clock until Christmas Eve.

“I think it's great,” Jessica Dimas said. “People are still working today and have busy schedules so to have a little extra time is good.”

In the packed parking lot of Toys "R" Us, which begins non-stop shopping hours Tuesday at 6 a.m., shopper Leslie Albrecht said any extra time is appreciated.

“I’d say I’m about half way through, definitely not finished,” Albrecht said. “I wish!”

Others are relieved to not have to scramble at the last minute.

“I’m finished, everything’s good,” said Sharon Haines. “Now it’s just time for happy!”

<![CDATA[Analysis: Eateries With Most Failed Inspections]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:07:19 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Trinity-Bar-chicago-1.jpg

More than 50 licensed Chicago restaurants failed inspections at least three times each this year, a review of city data shows.

Six of the eateries -- Trinity Bar, Taj Mahal, Hana Restaurant, Fischman's Wagyu Wagon, Nueovo Leon Restaurant, and Lawndale Food Market -- each failed four separate health inspections.

While the information is readily searchable on the City of Chicago Data Portal, it was Brandon Harris, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, who analyzed the information to come up with the easy-to-read comparison.

The number of fails doesn't necessarily mean a restaurant will be forced to close. Harris said his analysis revealed "a lot of missing and duplicated values." Additionally, a restaurant can fail an inspection for not being open when an inspector pays a visit.

Still, the data can give potential diners an idea of how well an eatery operates.

For example, Trinity Bar, on the 2700 block of North Halsted Street, failed an initial annual inspection on March 6, the data shows. The problems at that time included "excessive food debris" in the cooler and food that was stored at potentially unsafe temperatures.

That failed inspection triggered follow-up visits on March 13, March 14, and March 20. Those visits also resulted in failed results. Trinity Bar finally received a passing grade during a March 21 visit.

A man at Trinity Bar said "no comment" when asked about the inspection information on Friday morning.

Harris' analysis also easily determined which restaurants were the most frequently inspected and which had two or more failures within one mile of the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center.

Photo Credit: Regina Waldroup
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<![CDATA[Pac-Man Inspired Restaurant Coming to Woodfield Mall]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:27:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/163*120/162918242.jpg

Gamers don’t often get to step inside their favorite virtual worlds and experience them in real life, but come Spring 2015, Schaumburg’s Woodfield Mall will give fans of Pac-Man that chance.

More than three decades after Namco Entertainment released the classic ‘80s insta-hit Pac-Man, the game developer is creating a new kind of “entertainment destination,” in the form of a restaurant inspired by their most famed character.

“Level 257 seeks to explore Pac-Man’s impact upon our society and pop culture,” the restaurant’s Tumblr page states. “Reminding us all of the importance of play in our lives, while facilitating our desire to relive those times when beating the next level was the most important thing in our world.”

And play is exactly what you’ll want to do there. Picking up where the game left off from Pac-Man’s final 256th level, the previously impossible to reach Level 257 will offer 16 boutique bowling lanes with smart technology, table tennis, pinball, ungettable original arcades and custom built-in game tables.

But don’t let the games fool you, this place isn’t meant for kids.

“The facility is built for adults," David Bishop, Namco’s executive vice president of strategic project development, told the Daily Herald. “With no disrespect to other entertainment concepts like Dave & Buster's or Gameworks, Level 257 is expected to be seen as a restaurant first.”

The venue promises to be “at its heart a high-end, 180-seat restaurant presenting fresh, chef-prepared dishes,” adorned with giant red leather booths, fire pits and a separate sports bar to complement their sommelier-curated cocktails, craft beers and a specialty wine list.

Level 257 will open early 2015 in Woodfield Mall’s 40,000 square-foot space adjacent to Sears.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dave and Buster's to Come to State Street Mall]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:55:23 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/dave+and+busters.jpg

The once defunct Block 37 is gaining another tenant soon. The restaurant and arcade bar Dave and Buster's is reportedly next in line to fill a spot in the State Street mall.

The Dallas-based restaurant chain will occupy a 30,000-foot space on the fourth floor of Block 37 next to a movie theater that is also coming to the mall, according to an article in Crain's Chicago Business.

Block 37 has been undergoing a bit of a revival in the past few years after a rough start when it opened in 2009. Two years later, the mall on State and Randolph Streets was sold to Bank of America for $100 million after it went up for sale at a sheriff's auction to satisfy liens against it.

The mall now houses several retail and food shops, including Anthropologie, Magnolia Bakery, Zara and the Disney Store.

Dave and Buster's will add another entertainment element to the mall along with the movie theater that is also set to open. The restaurant and arcade bar already has one location in Chicago at 1030 N. Clark St., but this location may close when the new one at Block 37 opens, according to Crain's.

Dave and Buster's also has locations in Addison, Orland Park and Vernons Hills. The restaurant has 70 locations in 27 state and Canada, according to their website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is Your Office Making a Bad Flu Season Worse?]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:18:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sick-Flu_generic.jpg

'Tis the season for holiday cheer, gifts and celebration, but for office workers across the country,  it is also the season of something else: the flu.

As much as 20 percent of the U.S. population battles the flu each year, with workplaces serving as a common breeding ground for the virus. Each season, more than 11 million workdays are lost due to the flu, which translates to $7 billion in sick time and lost productivity, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website.

While employees may claim they’re “not that sick,” a recent Staples Advantage study found that 60 percent of workers who are infected with the virus still feel obligated to show up for work, contaminating everything from doorknobs and faucets to coffee pot handles. It’s a problem for any office but especially challenging for companies with open floor plans, which have been linked to higher levels of workplace illness.

In fact, a recent study published in Ergonomics found that employees who share an office with multiple coworkers are more likely to take short-term sick leave than individuals with their own private space. This shows how problematic the flu can be in open-office environments, which accounted for nearly 70 percent of workplaces in a 2010 survey conducted by the International Management Facility Association.

Fortunately, there are several steps businesses can take to prevent the virus from spreading in their office. These include:

1. Encouraging employees to take the day off or work from home: The Staples survey found that 40 percent of employees feel there is too much going on at work to stay home, while 31 percent said they show up sick because they think their boss appreciates it. Yet more than a third of workers surveyed acknowledged their personal productivity is less than half their usual level when they come to work with the flu – in other words, it’s not worth it. Employers therefore should have the technology in place (e.g., cloud-based file storage, VoIP phone systems, and so on) to enable employees to work from home if they feel it’s necessary. This will help discourage employees from coming into the office and exposing others to the virus.

2. Remembering the basics: It may seem obvious, but basic sanitation – even if it’s something as simple as hand sanitizer – can go a long way in preventing the spread of workplace illnesses. While larger companies often hire cleaning crews to assist with this, smaller businesses may think they’re unable to afford daily cleaning services. What some employers don’t realize is that the cost of these services – especially if they’re only used during flu season – can be offset by increased productivity that would otherwise be lost to employee sick leave. Another affordable alternative to traditional office space is a shared office, where the landlord is responsible for all cleaning duties.

3. Reevaluating your floor plan: Approximately 88 percent of employers in the Staples survey said they encourage sick employees to stay home, but even if they’re able to work remotely, some will inevitably show up at the office no matter how bad they feel. While open floor plans have been lauded for facilitating teamwork and collaboration, they’ve also given rise to new challenges that go beyond illness. People who work in open offices have reported higher levels of stress than those who work in standard offices and frequently say they’re less productive than they would be if they had a space of their own. If a company’s office layout is creating more problems than it solves, it may be time for a move or remodel.

By implementing one or more of these practices, businesses of all sizes can take a proactive approach to flu prevention, maximizing productivity and boosting employee morale.

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.

<![CDATA[Chicagoan Creates Lesbian Dating App Scissr]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:40:41 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/iPhone8.jpg

There’s Tinder, there’s Grindr and now there’s Scissr.

The new app, which was “designed by lesbians for lesbians,” aims to “create something together that’s mind blowing for lesbians,” according to its website.

Scissr, described as a new “lesbian dating app where woman can connect, share and chat about their local cultural interests and relationship needs,” was sparked by co-creator and Chicago resident Allison Ullrich.

Ulrich, the general manager of Brooklyn Boulders Chicago, told DNAInfo.com the idea was sparked by “life, reality and conversations,” which proved to her that she wasn’t the only woman who struggled with meeting other lesbian women.

She said the app, which she designed with her longtime friend Adam Beck, is intended to be like Grindr, an all-male location-based social networking app, “but classier.”

Similar to Grindr, the app uses GPS to allow users to message nearby users and indicate whether they have a “crush” on them or add them to a private “wish list.”

Users can also indicate the type of relationship they’re interested in, such as love, networking, hookup or friendship.

The app is expected to launch worldwide “soon” for iOS users.

<![CDATA[Cards Against Humanity Sells 30,000 Boxes of Poop for Black Friday]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:29:59 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/51RD-Lha01L._SL1023_.jpg

Instead of coal in their stockings, thousands of Cards Against Humanity customers will be getting a box of poop—bull poop.

The creators of the popular card game protested Black Friday by removing their products from their website, instead only offering one item—a box of “Bulls*@t” for $6.

The box, which quickly sold out to more 30,000 purchasers, contained actual feces, to this dismay of many fans hoping the move was a prank. Last year, the party game was sold on Black Friday for $5 more than its actual price.

The product was described on the company’s website as “literal feces, from an actual bull,” which could be used to “fertilize your garden, adorn a festive tree, or surprise a loved one with a gift of poop.”

Writing on the package claimed the box was made in China, but the poop was made in America.

Despite the description, and a Frequently Asked Questions section that specified the contents even more, some customers raised a stink.

According to the Cards Against Humanity blog, one viewer wrote in “I used my mom’s credit card to buy this she’s going to be livid when I tell her that it was literal cow poop please cancel my order.”

Another said the “ad was misleading” and one said they thought the box “was a new expansion all about poop.”

Chicagoan and game co-creator Max Temkin tweeted about the box, saying “if you buy the poop expecting it to be something else that’s not poop, you’re actually buying a valuable life lesson for $6.”

The game’s official Twitter page also replied to several tweeters clarifying they did in fact purchase poop.

While some called on the company for a refund over the smelly stunt, others are taking advantage of their newly acquired feces, selling the box on eBay for much more than the purchase price.

Card’s Against Humanity’s Twitter feed claims the boxes cost $5.80 to make and mail, and they donated their $6,000 in profits to Heifer International.

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<![CDATA[Local Brewery To Release "6-Pack Comic Book"]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:11:30 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Festus+Rotgut.jpg

The founders of a local Chicago brewery are bringing together their love for comics with their love for craft beer. The result? A rather unique-looking comic book.

Arcade Brewery will release its first volume of "6-Pack Stories" on Wednesday with the debut of "Festus Rotgut: Zombie Cowboy." The comic is written and illustrated on the beer labels for their new brew, a black wheat ale, and is described by its creators as a western zombie comic.

Arcade co-founder Lance Curran said the team wrote the story first and then brewed the beer to match. Co-founder Chris Tourre, who brewed the beer, said the dark wheat ale was a perfect fit for the story of its protagonist Festus Rotgut.

"Since there are zombies, I immediately thought something dark," Tourre said. "Driving a herd of cattle across the dusty landscape also made me immediately go to a dry wheat beer."

The beer features marshmallow and caramel flavors and has a spicy finish, according to Tourre.

Arcade Brewery employed some big players in the comic book world to write and illustrate "Festus Rotgut: Zombie Cowboy." Comic book writer Jason Aaron, who worked on Thor, wrote the story, and artist Tony Moore, who worked on The Walking Dead comic books, illustrated it. 

Festus Rotgut will only be available for a limited time in Chicago-area bottle shops. It can also be purchased online at West Lakeview Liquors, The Beer Temple and Binny's Beverage Depot.

Arcade Brewery will host tastings of Festus Rotgut on Wednesday at Kimbark Beverage Shoppe (1214 E. 53rd St.) from 7 to 9 p.m., Binny's Beverage Depot in Lincoln Park (1720 N. Marcey St.) from 6 to 8 p.m., West Lakeview Liquors (2156 W. Addison St.) from 7 to 9 p.m. and Bottles and Cans (4109 N. Lincoln Ave.) from 7 to 9 p.m.

<![CDATA[Low-Wage Workers Continue Push for $15/Hour Minimum Wage]]> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 11:41:37 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chi-min-wage-protest-1.jpg

An employee at a downtown BP gas station closed the store and walked off the job early Thursday to join a group of fast food workers demanding an increase to the minimum wage.

"It was time to fight. It was time to get something done. We need to make a movement to go ahead and get that $15 living wage," said Daryel Eatmonds.

The Chicago City Council earlier this week voted to hike the minimum wage within city limits to $13 an hour by 2019, but the protesters maintained that increase isn't big enough and takes too long to be phased in.

"[The protest] was necessary. It was something we need right now," Eatmonds said.

The low-wage workers and their supports began protesting at the McDonald's restaurant at 600 North Clark Street in the city's River North neighborhood early in the morning as part of a national day of protest.

"At this point what we're looking at is just making sure workers here in Chicago can not only survive but thrive," Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said after joining the protest at about 7:30 a.m.

The City Council's vote could ultimately by trumped by action by state lawmakers. Some legislators are pushing for a law that would prohibit cities from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level.

Illinois senators on Wednesday approved a proposal to increase the state's minimum wage to $11 for workers 18 and older by 2019. That bill wouldn't impact Chicago's ordinance.

Illinois voters last month approved a non-binding ballot question asking whether the station should raise its minimum wage to $10 from $8.25 by 2015.

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<![CDATA[Jewelry Retailer Lia Sophia Closing Its Doors]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 18:32:44 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/LiaSophia11.jpg

The popular direct-sales jewelry retailer Lia Sophia announced Monday it will be closing its doors this month.

“We are so proud of building Lia Sophia over the past 28 years into an outstanding company that has empowered women, and whose jewelry has been a favorite of so many,” creative director Elena Kiam wrote in a blog post on the company's website Monday. “However, given the challenging business environment, we made the painful decision to wind down Lia Sophia in the United States and Canada by December 31, and cease operations by the end of February.”

Kiam’s husband, Lia Sophia CEO Tory Kiam, acquired the business from his father Victor Kiam. Victor Kiam, former owner of the New England Patriots, made a name for himself in the 1980s as president and CEO of Remington Products, famously appearing in commercials coining the slogan, “I liked the shavers so much, I bought the company."

Victor Kiam purchased the retailer in 1986 under its original name Act II Jewelry before renaming it to Lady Remington. Following the entrepreneur's death in 2001, the brand was acquired by his son Tory Kiam and his wife Elena. In 2004 the couple relaunched the brand under the name Lia Sophia.

"Most of all, we're proud to be a family company, and to see the names of our daughters, Lia and Sophia, on every box of our jewelry," the company's website states.

Lia Sophia sold its jewelry through a network of local independent sales representatives, relying on in-home demonstrations and a direct-selling approach similar to the practices of Avon and Tupperware.

An outpouring of messages to the company’s Facebook page from customers and employees expressed a mixture of shock, disappointment and appreciation for the products and jobs the company created during its operation.

Photo Credit: Lia Sophia]]>
<![CDATA[Report Names Most Popular Holiday Gift Cards]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:05:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shop_cards.jpg

While shopping for the holidays typically includes searching for the season’s hottest toys, gadgets, clothes, and electronics, it also often calls for the purchase of a gift card.

The National Retail Federation reports gift cards are the most sought after gift for the eighth straight holiday season, with 62 percent of consumers hoping to receive one this year.

Card marketplace site CardHub released a list Friday of the 24 most popular gift cards for 2014.

According to the list, Visa is the most searched for gift card by consumers.

Amazon, iTunes, American Express, Netflix, Walmart Target, Google Play, eBay and Starbucks were also named among the most popular pieces of gifted plastic.

With Black Friday just one week away, many stores are offering up early deals and extending sales.

If you’re looking to avoid the holiday shopping hassle or purchasing an unwanted gift, gift cards might be your best bet.

See the full list here.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg News]]>
<![CDATA[Tips to Avoid Black Friday Shopping Scams]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 20:59:35 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black-friday-employees-thanksgiving+%281%29.jpg

Black Friday shopping isn't always easy.

With many retailers planning to start Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales on Thanksgiving Day, some even sooner, the Better Business Bureau has listed the top ways for holiday shoppers to avoid scams and hackers.

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Print out your coupons to have them on hand when you go to the store, ensuring that they can guarantee the low prices they’ve claimed to have.

Only Shop at Trusted Retailers
Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's Business Review for customer satisfaction at www.bbb.org . When browsing online, look for and click on the BBB seal to confirm that it is a valid and trustworthy source.
Check Store Policies Prior to Buying
Confirming each store’s policies on returns and exchanges will help you decide where to spend your money, avoid costly restocking fees and miss short holiday return deadlines.
Use Your Credit Card
Shoppers are protected under Federal law to dispute any unauthorized charges on their credit card. Same goes for if you buy an item and it is never received. Many card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals and uses your credit card number.
Hold On to Documentation of Your Purchase
A printed gift receipt protects the recipient from being denied the ability to return or exchange an item at the full value you paid for it. When shopping online, the BBB recommends saving a copy of the final confirmation page you are brought to after purchasing you item. This saves you from relying on the business to email you a receipt and can serve as a back-up proof-of-purchase if need be.
Make Sure Your Personal Information is Protected
It’s worth taking the time to read the site's privacy policy to understand how your personal information will be used. If you can’t find one, consider that to be a red flag your information may be used and sold to others without permission.  Always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying.
Yes, Some Deals Are Too Good To Be
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is, especially those showcasing extremely low prices on hard-to-get items.  Go with your instincts. Sometimes the best deal is passing up a scam that would cost you more in the end.

Photo Credit: AP/FILE Photo]]>
<![CDATA[New Lammily Doll Aims to be "Normal Barbie" ]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:02:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/lammily+fashion+3.jpg

A graphic designer turned toy maker has created what some are calling the “anti-Barbie” and "normal Barbie."

The Lammily doll, which became available for purchase and delivery Wednesday, is intended to show what Barbie would look like if she had the measurements of an average 19-year-old woman’s body.

According to the doll’s website, she “is the first fashion doll that isn’t ‘enhanced.’”

Creator Nickolay Lamm says he started a crowndfunding campaign in March, hoping to develop a doll “with typical human body proportions.”

The idea quickly took off, as more than 13,621 supporters backed the idea, preordering more than 19,000 dolls.

But as the idea developed, Lamm created a new element to the “real life” doll—a sticker extension pack, which is set to become available in January.

The stickers, called Lammily marks, include options to give the doll face acne, freckles, moles, blush, scars, cellulite and even stretch marks.

“Lammily represents the idea of being true to yourself in a world that too often convinces us to pursue an unattainable fantasy,” Lamm wrote on his website.

New fashion options are also set to debut in January.

Photo Credit: Lammily.com
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<![CDATA[Website Lets Consumers Haggle on Pricing]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:56:34 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/greentoe-1.jpg Most consumers hate haggling, and most brick and mortar stores don't even embrace it, but an online venture can make consumers more comfortable over price negotiations. NBC Chicago's Lisa Parker reports.]]> <![CDATA[Four Ways to Master the Exit Interview]]> Thu, 13 Nov 2014 14:17:50 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/handshake_web.jpg

When an employee leaves a company, both the departing party and the employer face many challenges, regardless of the circumstance. Employers lose a member of their staff – someone they’ve invested in – and then add on the cost of replacing the employee, which typically includes a 30 percent uptick in salary, and companies are looking at an expensive ordeal. Exits can be especially difficult in situations where the departure is unexpected or the result of a negative employee experience.

However, as difficult as it may be when an employee departs, employers can find value in the process, most notably through an exit interview.

Feedback from an exit interview has the potential to offset the cost of future employee losses by incentivizing business improvements by gaining valuable insight into areas of improvement.

Here are four tips to help employers navigate the sometimes challenging exit interview.

Treat the exit interview like any other interview. Due diligence is key. Review the employee’s work history so there are no surprises. In an effort to identify trends of exiting employees, take diligent notes. Be sure to send a thank you note afterward and invite them to an alumni group if your company has one. Encourage the employee to stay in touch – you never know when you could bump into them again!

Demonstrate empathy with employees. The key here is the tone and verbiage you use when asking questions. Disgruntled employees might find it hard to pinpoint the root of their frustration. Guide the employee to understanding their irritations by asking why they felt they didn’t have the resources they needed for a project. At the same time, its best to avoid pointed questions such as, “Why did you quit?” Instead, employers can pose more targeted questions to yield better responses: “What prompted your job search?” or “What does your new employer offer that we did not?”

Set a goal to learn about the organization’s culture. Aside from understanding why the employee is choosing to leave, gather information and feedback on the company’s culture and business practices. Ask questions about the employee’s satisfaction with his or her peers, career path and culture at the company.

Interview retirees, too. Often overlooked, retirees have valuable information and vast knowledge about his or her organization. They’re also more likely to be candid with their feedback, as they won’t be concerned with potential backlash. Questions you could ask to uncover more information about your company include, “Tell me about the core skill sets needed to succeed here,” and “What were the three best things about working here?”

Employers should remember that exit interviews can prove as useful as hiring procedures. Done correctly, exit interviews can improve company culture, hasten the vacant role filling process and improve employee retention.

Candace Murphy is an IT Recruiting Manager 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.

<![CDATA[Valerie Jarrett Shops Chicago Small Businesses]]> Sat, 29 Nov 2014 18:02:18 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/211*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-29+at+5.56.46+PM.png Valerie Jarrett, the senior adviser to President Barack Obama, was in her home town on Small Business Saturday shopping at local stores. Jarrett wants to put a spotlight on the initiative. ]]> <![CDATA[How Coupon Cabin Helps on Cyber Monday]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 12:15:04 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009915202_1200x675_365261891648.jpg Charlie Wojciechowski introduces us to CouponCabin.com a Chicago based company offering free promotional coupon codes for hundreds of merchants.]]> <![CDATA[Local Shops Ready for Small Business Saturday]]> Fri, 28 Nov 2014 18:26:06 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/209*120/small+biz+saturday2.jpg

With the Black Friday frenzy coming to an end, small businesses are hoping to reign in on some of the holiday shopping madness.

Local businesses say the popularity of shopping local for the holidays is growing.

“We’ve definitely seen a jump on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday,” said Mel Nelson, owner of the M2 Boutique on Southport Avenue.

Small Business Saturday was started in 2010 by American express. In part to help small retailers during the economic downturn and it continues to grow in popularity.

The US Small Business Administration estimated that customers spent nearly $5.5 billion nationwide in 2012 at small, independent stores during the event.

“America’s small business owners are on the front lines when it comes to creating new jobs and opportunities,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Tuesday. “Their efforts exemplify our Nation’s founding idea that no matter who you are, what you look like, where you come from, or whom you love, if you work hard, you can make it if you try. On Small Business Saturday, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring ours is a country where small businesses can thrive.”

As local shops gear up for Small Business Saturday, experts say shopping trends could be turning in favor of the “mom and pop” shops.

“Perhaps there’s an attitude change more toward people in your neighborhood helping them out,” said Shopping Deloitte Retail Expert Tom Compernolle.

And shoppers agree.

“I do think it’s great having local options where you don’t have to necessarily fight the traffic at the malls you can you know living in the neighborhood just kind of walk over,” said shopper Kristen Castelloni.

“I think people want to cheer on the small guy and not have everything look the same with the big retail boxes,” said shopper Carrie Mondschean.

In Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce said a recent study showed the benefits of customers buying into Small Business Saturday.

“For every dollar you typically spend at a local independent store about 60 percent of that stays within the community,” said Rudy Flores with the Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.

<![CDATA[10 Stores to Shop Thanksgiving Day]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 22:13:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black+friday3.JPG

More and more retailers are opening their doors earlier and earlier in the run up to Black Friday, with many national chains opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Here is a list of stores that will be open for the holiday and what deals you can expect.

Target— Target is opening earlier than ever — 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, two hours ahead of last year's 8 p.m. start — with plans to kick off online sales the week before Black Friday. Target's biggest deal? The new Samsung Galaxy S5, which normally sells for $200, is going for one cent (with a two-year AT&T contract).

Walmart— Walmart announced it will open on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m. this year, kicking off "Five Days of Deals" on different categories of merchandise. Shoppers can even get a head start on Thanksgiving morning, with sales on the Samsung 55-inch Ultra HD Curved Smart TV ($1,298, or $900 in savings) and iPhone 6 ($179 with a 2- year contract).

Best Buy— Best Buy stores will be opening at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, an hour earlier than last year. Best Buy’s flagship deal: a 50-inch Panasonic TV for $199.99.

Kmart— With sales beginning at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, Kmart is pushing the definition of "Black Friday." Kmart is selling Westinghouse 55-inch HDTVs for $449.99, plus homewares like Proctor Silex irons and toasters for only $4.99.

Sears— Unlike its sister store Kmart, Sears will be opening at the (slightly) more traditional hour of 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, although it's still an earlier start than last year's. Sears is promoting deals on appliances, like a Kenmore front-loading washer-dryer pair for $799.99.

Macy's— Macy's will kick off its Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon, two hours earlier than its opening time last year. The department store's big deals, which last until Nov. 30, are focused on clothes, shoes and jewelry.

JCPenney— JCPenney is likewise pushing its opening times ever earlier. The store's sales are slated to begin at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, likely aiming to win shoppers from competitors by offering 50 percent off bedding, bath, and luggage.

Toys"R"Us— Another early starter, Toys "R" Us will be open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving with discounts on items ranging from Evenflo Booster Car Seats ($49.99 instead of the usual $89.99) to "Frozen" toys in every conceivable form.

Kohl's— Like many other stores, Kohl's will be opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. In previous years, the retailer has opened as early as 4 a.m. on Friday. Over 500 deals will begin online starting Nov. 24. In store, shoppers will get $15 in "Kohl's cash" for every $50 they spend.

Old Navy— Old Navy is one of the rare stores opening later this year, with a 4 p.m. start time instead of last year's 9 a.m. opening. The retailer is again promising to award $1 million to a shopper in its "Overnight Millionaire" promotion. The first 100 shoppers in line at every North American Old Navy store will be entered in the sweepstakes.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Businesses Giving Back for More Than the Holidays]]> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:51:08 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Generic+Gifts+Generic+Holiday+Shopping.jpg

Thanksgiving is near, and for many businesses, that means thanking clients, partners, employees, a community and supportive family and friends. But giving back as a business doesn't have to be just a holiday theme.

Some Chicago businesses, professional leaders, and organizations are contributing to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement and incorporating community-building and philanthropic initiatives into their missions, mantras, and even business models.

CSR is an effort companies take upon themselves to appeal to the ethical and social needs of its audience and the broader economy, population, or environment it serves, or serves within.

While CSR has become a widely recognized descriptor of business practices, the intent and impact go beyond responsibility, or obligation. Perhaps “social involvement” may more accurately depict the efforts companies large and small are taking to reduce waste in production, increase environmental sustainability, consider its impact on community, and prioritize people and society while maintaining profitability.

There’s proof that consumers are paying attention to company ideals too. According to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Social Responsiblity Report from June 2014, 55 percent of consumers will spend more for products and services from companies committed to making a positive impact.

If you’re looking for ways to give back year-round as a company, or as an employee, Chicago has several organizations and resources where you can connect with like-minded individuals and learn about how to increase your social impact.

One such group is Illinois B Corps., which represents Benefit Corporations, or companies that are “certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

Their website highlights that there are over 1,000 Certified B Corps globally, including well-known companies like Seventh Generation, method, and Patagonia, and nearly 15 in Chicago.

According to Nancy Goldstein, founder of Compass(x) Strategy and one of the Chicago B Corps' community leaders, “the group has been working on showing local business leaders how they can build a better business."

"We want to inspire people to think beyond short term shareholder gains to long term stakeholder gains. That means doing what is right for your customers, your employees, the environment, and your community,” she said.

To find events and resources about building a business that gives back year-round, see below:

Illinois B Corps
Social Enterprise Alliance
Chicagoland Environmental Network
Corporate Responsibility Group
Chicago Fair Trade

Rebecca Otis is a digital marketing strategist and consultant, 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+.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Best, Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:47:40 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/black+friday3.JPG

With so many stores offering up Black Friday deals, it can be tough to decide where to go.

To make bargain hunting a little easier this year, personal finance site WalletHub has released a list of “2014’s Best & Worst Retailers for Black Friday Deals.”

The list, which the company said intends to “help consumers maximize their savings this year,” is based on a survey of 5,525 deals from Black Friday ad scans from 21 of the biggest U.S. retailers, according to researchers.

The list named J.C. Penney as the top retailer for Black Friday deals, with an average discount of 65.44 percent.

Also named among the best retailers were Macy’s, Rite Aid, Meijer, Sears, Walgreens, Office Depot and OfficeMax, Ace Hardware, Kohl’s and Staples.

Sears was dubbed the best retailer for those looking for deals in apparel, accessories and appliances, Office Depot and OfficeMax had the best discounts on electronics and computers, Macy’s topped the list for discounts on consumer electronics as well as consumer packaged goods, Kohl’s had the best deals on toys and furniture and Kmart was the top retailer for jewelry discounts.

Among the stores with the not-so-great discounts were Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Amazon, Big Lots and Costco, which all had average discounts less than 32.16 percent.

In addition to traditional deals this year, several retailers are offering pre-Black Friday sales and others are extending the shopping event into a days-long affair.

Experts say shoppers are better off mapping out their Black Friday plans beforehand.

“One way of making sure that the sales are real sales is to know ahead of time what exactly we want/need to buy and what the cost is before this event and where the best prices are and then compare them to what is offered on Black Friday,” Tahira K. Hira, professor of personal finance and consumer economics at Iowa State University told WalletHub.

Hira also recommends making a list of needs ahead of time and sticking to that list to avoid overspending.

At least four major retailers were not included in the WalletHub survey as they did not provide data on their Black Friday deals. Those stores include Apple, Home Depot, IKEA and Lowe’s.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Stores That Will Be Closed for Thanksgiving]]> Thu, 27 Nov 2014 07:45:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Nieman-Marcus.jpg

With many stores opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, some retailers are keeping their doors shut for the holiday.

Several retailers are closed on Thanksgiving to give their employees the chance to enjoy the holiday before the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

Nordstrom announced that it would be closed Thursday, Nov. 28, "to celebrate one holiday at a time."

“This is how we’ve approached the holidays as long as anyone here can remember,” Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson said.

T.J. Maxx and Marshalls have also announced they would be closed on Thanksgiving, but would offer extended hours and new merchandise throughout the holiday season.

"As in past years, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our Associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends" Rebecca Leonard, spokesperson for T.J Maxx and Marshalls, said in a statement.

Home Depot also plans to close for the holiday, tweeting "Take time to enjoy food, family and friends, and we'll see you early Friday morning."

In addition, USA Today reports at least 12 other retailers will stay closed for the holiday, including:

  • Coscto
  • Ace Hardware
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Patagonia
  • Dillard's
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Neiman Marcus
  • GameStop
  • Nordstrom
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Burlington Coat Factory
  • REI

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The Onion Looks Into Possible Sale: Report]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 16:14:12 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/the-onion86426287.jpg

This is not a joke. It appears the owners of Chicago-based satirical news site The Onion are looking into a possible sale, according to reports.

Onion Inc., owner of The Onion and the entertainment site A.V. Club, has hired a financial adviser to explore options for a possible sale, according to Bloomberg, which cites people with knowledge of the matter.

The company is also reportedly working with the investment bank GCA Savvian.

Onion CEO Steve Hannah confirmed the hiring of a financial adviser in a memo to staff obtained by Bloomberg. The memo reportedly said the adviser was handling inquiries for both investment partners and potential buyers of The Onion.

The Onion released its last print edition in Chicago last year as it planned to moved to an all-digital format.

Mike McAvoy, president of Onion Inc., told Crain’s Chicago Business at the time it's sad to see the print edition no longer exist, "but it’s important to see the Onion succeed.”

The Onion consolidated its media operations and moved from New York to Chicago's River North two years ago.

The city welcomed the move, dubbing July 31 "The Onion Day."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McDonald's Reveals How It Makes McRib Sandwiches]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:54:28 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcrib+mcdonalds+youtube.jpg

McDonald's is making good on a recent promise to answer questions, even the potentially nasty ones, about the Oak Brook, Illinois-based burger chain's food.

Case in point: A video released Monday on YouTube shows just how McRib patties are made.

"Is it real pork? Why is it that shape?" the company ponders in the video description. "Some of the biggest questions about our food revolves around the McRib, so Grant Imahara and a McDonald’s skeptic are going to Lopez foods, one of our U.S. pork suppliers, to find answers."

In the video, Wes Bellamy, who apparently tweeted a photo of a frozen McRib while noting how "disgusting" it looked, meets up with former "Mythbusters" host Imahara for a tour of the pork processing plant where McRibs are born.

The video shows the broken-down meat ready for cooking and shaping, and at the end of the process, out pops a frozen McRib puck that's not dissimilar to the one Bellamy tweeted.

But by this point, he's convinced it's not disgusting.

"It's different now that I know what actually goes inside of it," he says.

Do you agree?

Photo Credit: McDonald's]]>
<![CDATA[Target to Close Two Chicago-Area Stores]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 18:05:45 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/target9.JPG

Target Corp. has announced that it will close 11 stores nationwide early next year and two of those locations are in Illinois.

The company said the closures are expected to take effect Feb. 1, 2015.

The list includes a store in McHenry, located at 1860 N. Richmond Rd, and one in Calumet City, located at 1717 E. West Rd. Other closings include stores in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Texas, Iowa and Georgia.

“The decision to close a Target store is only made after careful consideration of the long-term financial performance of a particular location,” Target said in a statement. “All eligible store team members are being offered the option to transfer to other Target stores. Team members who choose not to transfer will be offered a separation package.”

The Minneapolis-based company currently has 1,801 stores in the United States and 133 in Canada.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Shake Shack Opens First Chicago Location]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:57:14 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/shake+shack+line.jpg

New York-based Shake Shack, as famous for its lines and web cam as its burgers and shakes, has officially opened in Chicago.

The fast-casual chain made its Second City debut at 11 a.m. at the corner of Ohio and Rush streets in the River North neighborhood, and the crowds were prepared. 

A line stretched clear down the street ahead of the location's opening.

This summer, the company announced another location to open next year on the ground floor of the new Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at Michigan and Madison.

Both locations will serve the modern-day, “roadside” burger-stand staples Shake Shack is known for: burgers, flat-top dogs made with Chicago’s Vienna Beef, frozen custard, craft beer and wine.

The original Shake Shack is so popular in New York that it has become known for long lines and a web camera that shows the real-time wait.

Leading up to the opening, Shake Shack unveiled six life-size, interactive sliding puzzles on Ohio Street. The puzzles featured artwork by artist Noah MacMillan, known in the city for the Chicago Loop District’s iconic “Float” mural.

"In the spirit of Chicago’s vibrant public art collection and in homage to Shake Shack’s roots as a hot dog cart art installation in New York City," organizers said, "the puzzles invite the neighboring community to engage with them."

Photo Credit: LeeAnn Trotter / NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[New McDonald's Ad to Feature Updated Slogan: Report]]> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:48:21 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/mcdonalds+sign+new+1.jpg

McDonald’s Corp. is reportedly addressing haters in an upcoming ad campaign.

Amid declining profits and sales, the Oak Brook-based fast food chain plans to launch a new advertising campaign featuring the slogan “Lovin’ Beats Hatin’,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The latest campaign reportedly aims to spread a positive message in the wake of increasing Internet hate. It is expected to debut on Jan. 1 and may include a 60-second spot during Super Bowl XLIX, which airs on NBC Feb. 1.

While the updated catchphrase won’t replace the chain’s well-known “I’m Lovin’ It” slogan, it is intended to give it more global appeal, WSJ reported.

A spokeswoman for McDonald's confirmed it is "not a new slogan" for the company.

"We’re always working with our partners on great new creative," spokeswoman Lisa McComb said in a statement. "It’s highly speculative and premature to talk about Super Bowl ads and future campaigns for next year."

Last week, the company announced sales fell 3.3 percent globally and in the U.S. during the third quarter.

"By all measures our performance fell short of our expectations," CEO Don Thompson said.

In the U.S., McDonald's Corp. is fighting to hold onto customers amid intensifying competition and shifting tastes toward food people consider more wholesome. In hopes of improving its image, McDonald's last week launched a social media campaign inviting customers to ask questions about its food. It began with frank questions like, "Why doesn't your food rot?" and "Is the McRib made from real pork?", showing just how bad some of the perceptions about McDonald's food can be.

To improve the image of its food, McDonald's recently rolled out chicken wraps with sliced cucumbers and the option to substitute egg whites in breakfast sandwiches. It also plans to eventually let people swap out the french fries in value meals with options like salad or vegetables.

<![CDATA[Why Employees Are Calling in Sick to Work]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 18:27:01 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sick-Flu_generic.jpg

It might not come as a surprise that employees calling in to work sick aren’t always sick, but a new survey has revealed some surprising excuses employers say they’ve been given.

The survey, conducted by Chicago-based CareerBuilder, shows 28 percent of employees have called in to work sick when they were feeling well.

While almost half of employees say they have a “paid time off” program that allows them to use their time off however they choose, 23 percent of those workers say they still feel obligated to make up an excuse for taking a day off.

But the creativity of some excuses has some employees raising their eyebrows.

From putting a casserole in the oven to “accidentally” getting on a plane to having a "lucky night" and not knowing where they were, the unbelievable reasons employees called in to work are quite surprising.

While the outrageous excuses might come as a surprise, not every employee is playing hooky. A majority of workers feel they do not have the luxury to take a sick day and more than half of employees said they have gone into work sick because they felt the work wouldn't get done otherwise, the survey noted.

Though the majority of employers say they give their employees the benefit of the doubt, 31 percent of those surveyed said they have checked to see if an employee was telling the truth. Some asked to see a doctor’s note, some called the employee, and some even drove past the employee’s house.

Nearly 1 in 5 employers have fired an employee for calling in sick with a fake excuse.

How are these employees being caught in a lie?

Nearly 24 percent of employers say they caught an employee lying about being sick by checking social media. So think twice next time you post a photo of your adventures to Facebook or tweet about your day off.

<![CDATA[Which Big City is Better for Business?]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 20:50:26 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+skyline+generic.jpg

New York and Los Angeles may be bigger than Chicago, but bigger isn’t always better when it comes to running a business in the nation’s three largest cities.

Chicago outranks both New York and LA in terms of overall quality of life, a key metric for employers looking to recruit top talent. According to the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, which considers everything from housing and education to cities’ social, political and economic environments, the Windy City ranks 42nd globally, compared with 44th for New York and 59th for LA.

Chicago, which was recently named one of the top cities for fast-growing companies, is also more affordable than its coastal counterparts. Not only are average real estate costs lower – $22.62 per square foot in Chicago vs. $29.61 and $55.28 for LA and New York, respectively – but the value of a dollar is higher in Illinois than in California and New York, giving businesses, and the people who work for them, more purchasing power.

Here’s an infographic with more information on how “the big three” stack up:

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.

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<![CDATA[Microsoft Tech Conference to Come to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:15:17 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/214*120/mccormick+place+chicago.jpg

A mega-tech conference is coming to Chicago this spring, officials announced Thursday.

Thousands of Microsoft’s brightest minds will unite at McCormick Place for the company’s Ignite event.

“Ignite is really the signature event we have for our business customers,” said Microsoft General Manager Julia White. “We are really happy it will be here in Chicago for the first time.”

It’s a major coup for tourism and technology in the city.

Microsoft says it will combine five of its annual tech conferences into a singular one event, set to be hosted at McCormick Place.

“The desirability of Chicago in general—the food, the entertainment, the sports—made it really ideal,” White said.

The conference is scheduled for May 4-8. It could bring as many as 20,000 people to the city and an estimated $47 million in spending.

“This is a testament to what has happened at McCormick Place and all the other strengths—our airport, our hotels, our entertainment, our restaurants and it plays to Chicago’s strengths,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The announcement was made at 1871, one of five startup incubators in Chicago. The newest, the Chicago Innovation Exchange, opened Thursday morning in Hyde Park.

The city’s growing tech sector is another reason Microsoft chose Chicago.

“We are recognizing it for what it is—a real technology hub,” White said. “Ignite is the first great partnership but I think there will be more.”

The Microsoft announcement comes on the heels of news that next year Chicago will host both the NFL Draft and the James Beard awards, events that were previously in New York.

So far, Microsoft's agreement with the city is for one year only.

“My goal is to make it an annual conference so they keep coming back,” Emanuel said.

<![CDATA[Emanuel Brings Microsoft Ignite Conference to Chicago]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:32:15 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/microsoft3.JPG

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to rack up tourism successes for the city. 

On Thursday, Emanuel announced that Microsoft would bring its "Ignite" conference would head to Chicago during the week of May 4-8, 2015. 

Ignite plays as something of a meta conference for Microsoft, who will combine a series of smaller conferences  -- TechEd, Microsoft Management Summit, The Exchange, SharePoint, Lync and Project -- into one. 

The conference, which will take place at the McCormick Place Convention Center, is expected to draw upward of 20,000 tech entrepreneurs, engineers and investors. 

It could be worth up to $47 million in revenue for the city. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dow Drops 460 points, Rebounds]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:57:24 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009257445_1200x675_343121476001.jpg What caused the stock market to take a big slide today. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.]]> <![CDATA[Suburban Teen Creates App That Shoots Up the Charts]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 21:43:00 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000009185795_1200x675_339892291645.jpg 10/9/2014: A suburban Chicago teen helped create the "Impossible Rush" app that's become a worldwide hit. Lauren Jiggetts reports.]]> <![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App, Garner Worldwide Attention]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:13:56 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.

<![CDATA[New Restaurant Set to Replace Hot Doug's]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 15:58:33 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/hot-dougs.jpg

While the closing of Hot Doug’s may have marked a somber moment in the encased meat world, there’s a new meaty menu set to go up on the walls of the former sausage superstore.

Frank Meats Patty is expected to move into the iconic Avondale space located at California and Roscoe as early as Dec. 1, Chicago Eater reported.

Hot Doug’s closed its doors for good last Friday, marking the end of a legacy in the city’s hot dog realm.

Owner Doug Sohn said he has to vacate the building by Nov. 1 and announced plans to auction off the decorations for charity.

Then comes Franks Meats Patty, owned by the group behind Fatso’s Last Stand and Lockdown Bar & Grill.

While the new eatery will have a lot to live up to following in Hot Doug’s shoes, but general manager of Lockdown Bar & Grill Bob Corbett says they’re going to be much different.

"We're not trying to be Hot Doug's,” he told Eater. “I stood in line there for years like everyone else."

The expected fast-casual gourmet burger and hot dog joint will boast a menu similar to Fatso’s with a few adjustments. It will feature new Chicago-related décor, later hours and delivery services.

But there will be one piece of Hot Doug’s that could make things easier for fans—the new meat will be cooked on the same grills.

Eater reports that the group is purchasing Sohn’s kitchen equipment.

"If you serve good food and keep the prices fair, people will come in," Corbett said in the interview. "As long as the customers know I'm not trying to be Doug."

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Jordan Brand Standalone Store Planned for Chicago]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:32:29 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/MJ+Bobcats+Retirement.jpg

Chicago sneakerheads will soon have a one-stop shopping option for snagging the latest Air Jordans.

Flight 23 at Footaction, a Jordan Brand-only store, plans to open a 36,000-square-foot retail store at 34 S. State St. next June, the Chicago Tribune reports.

It will be the second specialty store for the brand in the country after a New York location opened earlier this year.

The store will only stock Michael Jordan-brand shoes and merchandise and will be located in the space currently occupied by Forever 21.

The company signed a 15-year deal for the Chicago store, according to the Tribune.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Allstate Raising Rates in Illinois]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:12:55 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Allstate_tag_4color_hor.jpg

Allstate is upping its rates for customers in Illinois.

The Northbrook-based insurer will be increasing its car and home insurance rates in the state by an average of 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Allstate spokeswoman Shaundra Turner Jones said the increase equates to an average of about $3 a month per auto policy and $10 a month per home policy.

“The reason for this change is to keep up with rising costs,” she said in a statement. “Customers are encouraged to talk with their local agent about discounts for which they may be eligible to help offset these increases, including our Full Pay discount and Easy Pay discounts, among many others. Customers can also work with their local agent to migrate to higher deductibles as a way to help keep premium costs lower.”

The increases, which are larger than ones implemented by the company in other states, both take effect this month-- The homeowners’ hike takes effect Oct. 27 while the car increase begins Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The insurance company is reportedly Illinois’ second-largest property and casualty carrier, following State Farm.

<![CDATA[Determining the Best Lease for Your Business]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:48:31 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/For+rent+generic+sign+722.jpg

As the No. 2 city in the country for fast-growing small businesses, Chicago has become the go-to place for entrepreneurs looking to launch new business ventures.

But before they can bring their big ideas to fruition, small business owners have to find a place to house their companies. One of the most common questions that come up when leasing office space is whether it’s better to sign a long-term or short-term lease.

This is especially important for small businesses whose success, or failure, could be at least partially dictated by this decision. While there’s no right answer – every company’s needs are different – there are certain advantages to each that, when carefully analyzed with the help of a commercial broker, can help steer businesses toward the best option.

Benefits of a long-term lease include:

  • Stability – If you find your dream location, a long-term lease (typically five years or more) ensures you’ll be able to stay there for an extended period of time, even if your building is sold. Short-term tenants (one to five years) risk being forced out of their space unexpectedly, inconveniencing customers and employees and jeopardizing the future of their business.
  • Predictability – Tenants that sign a long-term lease know how much their rent will increase from year to year, regardless of market conditions. By comparison, companies that sign a short-term agreement could see their real estate costs soar each year, hampering growth.
  • Tenant Improvements/Concessions – Landlords are often more willing to give tenant improvement allowances and other concessions like free rent to tenants that sign long-term leases. These aren’t off the table for short-term tenants, but they may be more difficult to negotiate.

Short-term leases are attractive for the following reasons:


  • Flexibility – Tenants that need to scale up or down, or move to a new location altogether, are easily able to do so with a short-term lease. Conversely, long-term tenants would either need to sublease or transfer their lease to another tenant in order to relocate.
  • An “Easy Out” – It’s estimated that eight out of 10 businesses fail within 18 months of opening. Unlike long-term leases, which leave tenants on the hook for unpaid rent if they ever go out of business, short-term leases allow entrepreneurs to cut their losses and move on if a business venture fails to take off.

One alternative to a traditional short-term lease is shared office space, which allows businesses of all sizes to rent space on an annual or month-to-month basis. In addition to offering amenities like conference rooms and cafeterias, as well as a full support staff to assist with back-office functions, these centers make it easy for tenants to add space as their businesses grow or reduce their footprint during down periods.

Another option is to sign a short-term lease with several renewal options. For example, a tenant who inks a three-year lease could have an option to renew for an additional year or two – often at a higher rate – after the initial term expires. Doing so allows tenants to have the best of both worlds by remaining in their existing location if business is going well or relocating to another location (without penalty) if they run into problems with their landlord or simply want a change of scene.

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.

<![CDATA[Employee vs. Independent Contractor: Avoid Misclassification]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:41:59 -0600 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/212*120/Money_generic.jpg

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, companies have been creatively looking to “trim the fat” when it comes to expenses.

The recession, coupled with increased business regulations and health care reform has led businesses to continue expense-minimization efforts.

One way this has been achieved is by classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees. The cost advantage of this is that you aren’t responsible for providing them with certain perks (healthcare benefits) and you don’t have to pay employment taxes on their wages. But because this is a way of avoiding certain taxes, this is something that is highly monitored and regulated by the IRS. We all know that Uncle Sam needs his money and that the IRS is there to ensure that businesses are giving their just due to the government.

With that being said, companies found to be misclassifying their employees are leaving themselves open to receive a hefty civil fine of up to $25,000 per event PLUS potential back employment taxes.

So how do you know if you’re misclassifying your employees? Here are the three factors that the IRS uses:

  • Behavioral Control – To what extent do you control how the worker performs the work? If you are directing how work is accomplished, providing training, giving instructions, etc. the worker may be seen as an employee. This factor is all about asking how much autonomy does the worker have and how much are you controlling the “who, what, when, where, and how” of his work.
  • Financial Control – To what extent do you control the financial aspects of the work? If you are purchasing the tools necessary for the work to be done and/or reimbursing the incurred expenses of the worker, the worker may be seen to be an employee. Likewise, the IRS looks to see if the independent contractor is able to realize profits or losses in the performance of duties. If the worker can incur no losses, he/she can be viewed as an employee.
  • Relationship of the Parties – How do the parties view the relationship? Here the IRS looks at how permanent the relationship is, if the worker receives any benefits (i.e. insurance), and what business relationship was intended (as shown by written contracts).

These three factors are all taken into account and the IRS looks at the whole situation to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Being aware of the test the IRS uses can help you in avoiding the misclassification of workers and the penalties that comes along with it.

Jamal Jackson, JD/MBA is a corporate attorney licensed in the State of Illinois. He is the Managing Partner of Jackson Corporate Law Offices, Co-Founder of Initiative Consulting Group, LLC, and a Public/Motivational Speaker engaging audiences in the topic areas of Business, Leadership, and Legacy (www.JamalEJackson.com).