Coronavirus Chicago: BACP holds 1st Remote Small Business Expo as city slowly reopens

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the city of Chicago reopens slowly, its 60,000 business license holders are trying to find ways to adapt in this new economy.

On Thursday, the city's Business Affairs and Consumer Protection hosted its first Remote Small Business Expo.

"COVID-19 has created a new world of challenges and one ripe with opportunity for innovation," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

E-commerce experts offered examples of businesses that transitioned online and used targeted marketing, social media and even texts to get the word out about their new options online.

That included a bakery in California that makes baked goods for Filipino celebrations. Their focused posts let customers know what's available, and business is up 60%.

Local business owner Chef Cliff Rome shared his own hesitations with technology and urged small business owners to ask for help if they need it and to be brave with new things.

"We have to make a conscious decision to do something we are uncomfortable with in order to make sure we are putting forth the best effort, but the outcome is incredible," said Rome, with Rome's Joy Companies.

Rome, who has a catering business and restaurant, was the expo's keynote speaker. He offered his experience, urging humility, listening to customers and collaborating with other business owners.

"Like-minded individuals start to create pathways for individuals, makes the load a little lighter," he said. "That's what we need."

Like many local businesses, the city took its small business help online, not only with the expo, but weekly webinars for small business owners. There's also a personal protective equipment marketplace for business owners at chicagoppemarket.com.
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