News + Resources

Pritzker Jewelry & Entrepreneurship Program

- Monday, June 09, 2014
Pritzker Elementary School student, Monifa W. proves that you are never too young to develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Monifa was enrolled in the StartingUp Now Arts and Entrepreneurship class on jewelry design this school year and her talents immediately began to shine through. The class taught the students the principles of entrepreneurship along with the skill of jewelry making to ultimately create a profitable business.

Monifa showed talent in both entrepreneurship as well as the jewelry design side. She took the class very seriously by coming to class prepared and making the sales events a priority. With her dedication, she made the effort to work on projects outside of class. She was the first to arrive and last to leave at jewelry sale events. From her work in the class, she created quality product to sell and became good at pricing product appropriately. But what ultimately helped her close over $300 in sales was her personality. A lot of her sales were related to her personality and networking skills— Her personality drew in a lot of customers.

Monifa’s personality also made a lasting impression on her instructor Randi Craigen as well. Randi plans to stay in touch with Monifa over the summer to continue to build a relationship with her to be a support and mentor in her life, continuing to teach her skills and helping to cultivate her interest in design.

Sun Spotlight: Gabe Anderson Creates The Fulcrum

- Wednesday, May 07, 2014


18 months ago, Moody Bible College student and entrepreneur Gabe Anderson decided to create a hands free way to watch movies and videos with smart phone devices on airplanes, cafes, and tabletops.

From that idea, Gabe developed the Fulcrum. The name for the Fulcrum comes from its' unique shape and purpose. A Fulcrum is the triangular pivot point for a lever, and as a promotional product "The Fulcrum is the pivot point for your business."

The Fulcrum is a cost effective Custom Promotional Product designed to showcase businesses in a memorable practical way. Whether announcing the availability of onboard WIFI or serving as a glorified business card, customers and tradeshow attendees can happily use the Fulcrum to hold their smartphones.

Gabe always wanted to rekindle his relationship with his father and saw the creation of the Fulcrum as the perfect opportunity to reconnect. Through his company AAP Creative, Gabe’s father has been able to help him further develop and expand the company’s printing, production, and vendor opportunities. Today, Gabe’s relationship with his father is now better than ever and the Fulcrum’s business has grown as well.

Currently, the Fulcrum has been ordered by Wilson Sporting Goods and the company has expanded to a larger model to use as a tablet stand for personal use or for closed books as a promotional product for trade shows and book stores. It is able to accommodate any tablet, as well as small to large books for display.

As a student in the StartingUp Now course at Moody Bible College, Gabe has learned the importance of developing a business plan. With this plan in place, the company has plans to continue to grow through corporate giveaways and promotional products.

To learn more about the Fulcrum or to order visit:

Am I Newsworthy? 4 Steps to Building a Solid Public Relations Strategy

- Wednesday, May 07, 2014


The media often portrays public relations as high profile industry, reserved for politicians, athletes, and large corporations to manage and shape their public images and smooth over highly publicized crises. This often leaves start-ups and small business owners to wonder if Public Relations is a necessary communications strategy, along with their marketing and advertising initiatives. When scaled down to match your organization’s needs, a public relations plan is essential to start-up success.

Here are 4 steps that will help you build a positive public image for your brand:

1. Pitch Yourself as an Industry Expert- Whether you’re starting a salon, restaurant, or writing a book, chances are you’ve done extensive research, gained respected education in your field, and you have valuable knowledge to share with your public audience. Research conferences and events in your industry and submit proposals to become a speaker or panelist. Make yourself available as an expert source for reporters and editors that write on topics in your industry. You can build a creditable and trusted brand with the public by sharing your knowledge and expertise. Make sure you always have an update to date bio and professional headshot so that you are ready when these opportunities arise!

2. Define Your Key Messages –. How the public views your organization has a direct link to the messaging you are putting out to them. To define your key messages, have a strategy session with individuals that know your organization the best to determine: What makes your business unique? Why is your story compelling? Who is your target audiences? What’s the most important thing your target audiences should know about you? Once you decided what messages you want communicate to your target audience, incorporate this messaging into all your communication vehicles including your website, press releases, and marketing collateral.

3. Build a Relationship with Your Local Media- The local media in your city or community is just as valuable as national media. Developing a great relationship with your local media can attract new customers and clients. Editor endorsed articles establish a credibility that traditional advertising cannot always reach. Research publications, editors, producers, and bloggers in your local area that cover topics in your industry. Connect with them on Twitter, Linkedin, or send them an email introducing yourself and information about any new product launches and unique things about your businesses. Don’t forget to incorporate your key messaging!

4. Become Social Media Savvy – Make some buzz in your city’s online community by developing a strong online image. Whether it’s starting a blog, offering expertise on Facebook pages/community groups or on the local newspaper’s website, get involved in the conversation. In all of your online conversations incorporate your key messaging and communicate your expertise and uniqueness. When your services are needed, your stellar public image will be attached to your brand and you’ll be first on their minds.

Seize every opportunity you’re given to promote your public image and don’t pass up a chance to get the word out about your services and who you are as a company, brand and industry expert.

Second City Syrups: An Adventure into the Coupling of Culture, Community and Creation

- Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Second City Syrups is a delicious line of herb infused syrups designed to add unique flavors to Lattes, Teas, Lemonade, and Cocktails. Created by Chicago based business partners Justin Buege and Chris Thomas, Second City Syrups seeks to serve the Chicago area by offering a premium product while supporting the direct community through joint responsibility in agriculture.

Second City Syrups takes pride in a holistic approach. From seed to harvest, all of the herbs used are locally grown in urban farms, back yards and rooftops in the city. Second City Syrups also strives to cultivating creativity. With unique flavors, like sage, cucumber and rosemary, Second City Syrups gives individuals the opportunity to have fun and be creative with the flavors while making drinks at their parties, picnics and events.

Justin has worked with StartingUp Now to better map out financial planning for Second City Syrups. Justin’s work with StartingUp Now has helped him to develop a recipe for the company’s future success. Justin and Chris hope to expand to grocery stores, cafes, and special events.

To find out more about Second City Syrups Like them on Facebook:

Want to Get a Taste of Second City Syrups? Enjoy An Evening of Simple Syrup Tasting on May 16th!

Who: Please RSVP with Chris and Justin at (only those who RSVP can come. It's the venue's policy since there will be alcohol, so please RSVP before the start of the event!)

What: Second City Syrups needs people to sample, savor, and criticize the syrups in a vast array of drinks while enjoying the company of fantastic people and music. From your feedback, they fine tune their syrups and recipes, as well as add any new ideas your creative genius' come up with. They’ve got some great espresso cocktail recipes as well and will throw those in too for those who want to try.

When: Friday May 16th 7:30-10pm.

On the Menu:Infused Simple Syrup Flavors: Basil, Rosemary, Ginger, Mint, Sage, and a variety of blends

Drinks they'll be used in: Lattes, Hot Teas, Iced Teas, Lemonade, Cocktails, Sweet Teas

Where: Overflow Coffee Bar 1550 S. State. They’ll be meeting in one of the rooms adjacent to the coffee bar, but this makes it easier for everyone to find as you'll go through this entrance off State. The closest red line stop is off Roosevelt (then you'll go down State till right before 16th). There is also free parking off 16th between State and Clark, off Dearborn between 16th and 17th, as well as metered parking everywhere. Pay attention to the signs.

How: Come with a full stomach and a palate ready to be blown out of the water! There's a suggested donation of $10 to help cover the cost of alcohol, syrups, other drink ingredients, and the use of the room. Please give any donations to Chris or Justin.

StartingUp Now Offered at Moody Bible Institute

- Monday, April 07, 2014


This January marked another significant milestone for StartingUp Now. Beginning in January 2014, L. Brian Jenkins began teaching StartingUp Now at Moody Bible Institute (MBI) in Chicago, IL. The class, “MI–4419: Topics in Missiology -- Business As Mission”, is an accredited 3-hour class, providing college students with hands-on interaction focused on strategically guiding students through the process of turning their ideas into reality. For many, this is the first time making the connection that the principles of sound strategy apply within the context of ministry via business planning. Based on StartingUp Now: 24 Steps students are learning to create an execution strategy to:

1. Developing your “Big Idea”
2. What are my “Core Values”
3. Who is my “Target Customer Profile”
4. My Financial Plan
5. Get it Going—Launch Time!                                                                                                                                                                                       
MBI students are currently in the final stages of completing their plans for both business and ministry ideas. In order to gain first hand knowledge of the business plan presentations, students attended Technori’s Pitch Event in February. Students were privy to see various entrepreneurs, in the startup phase just like themselves, pitching their business ideas to potential investors. On May 8, 2014, these same MBI students will present their business/ministry plans to MBI’s Trustees to gain critical feedback on their ideas and possibly connect to capital opportunities to get launched too. Stay tuned for future updates!

Creating A Superior Customer Experience

L. Brian Jenkins, MA - Friday, April 04, 2014

S3-- Superior Experience + Superior Service = Sells More

Have you encountered the proverbial “experience from hell” when a purchasing a product or service? Have you dealt with the employee of an establishment who can care less that you are standing there? You are seeking to exchange your hard earned cash only to be treated by an employee as if you’re disrupting their life. In fact, these types of challenges only increase as employees are asked to do more often with less resources. An awesome experience can lead to a lifetime loyalty from your customer base. As your business grows, it is necessary to review your customer service policy and ensure it is being followed or create a policy if one does not exist.






ABT Inc., located in Glenview, IL a Chicago suburb, is a family owned and operated business established in 1936. ABT annually earns national awards and recognition as one of the best independently operated businesses[1]. ABT has provided excellent customer service to my family over the last 35-years. As a child I was introduced to ABT by my family through a long standing relationship with the owners and an outstanding salesman, Mr. Shelly Cohen, who worked at ABT for more than 30 years! Shelly’s integrity, excellent knowledge of products, unparalled attention to our needs, and solution based mentality to solve problems has created multi-generational loyalty in our family. ABT’s focus on the customer is clear in their policy, “The Answer is always ‘Yes’ to any reasonable request”.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners know that the customer is the lifeblood of our startup. Based on my experience as a small business here are a few simple tips that can help increase the experience of your customers:

  1. Create a Superior Experience—make the customer say “WOW”! Exceed their expectations. Whatever industry you’re in there’s always a way to improve the experience. What is it that makes the experience of your business unique from all others in your industry? How have you earned repeat customers? Can that experience be replicated/expanded to ensure each customer receives that same level of excellence?

  2. Provide a Superior Service—The service you provide should match their experience when purchasing your product/service. Are you listening to the customer identify their needs? Do you have the requisite experience and product knowledge to meet the customer’s need? What is your plan for follow up with the customer? How do you connect with the customer beyond the initial sale? Strategically processing each step ensures the service you provide matches the experience for total customer satisfaction.

  3. Leads to Selling More—Establish customer loyalty. Let’s face it…in today’s modern world a customer has multiple options to purchase the same or similar product. Whether it’s a traditional brick and mortar retail store, a company’s web site, or a wholesale warehouse, the customer has many choices—which is a good thing. However, if you create an experience that exceeds the customers’ expectations you have earned a loyal customer—sometimes for life. Increased sales often comes from repeat buyers who also refer their friends, colleagues, family and others in their network. Word of Mouth advertising is still the most trusted form of advertising for businesses and often leads to increased revenue.

[1] “America’s Best Independent Retail Stores”, Bloomberg Business Week, June 19, 2009

Startup Stories - Covenant Catering

- Thursday, June 13, 2013

To start off our new "Startup Stories" segment of the blog, we will be regularly showing off the great results from our  book "StartingUp Now: 24 Steps to Launch Your Own Business". We will also include interviews from the leaders of these companies.









The Who and Why

Covenant Catering is a catering service based out of the north side of Chicago that truly believes in providing high-quality service for all their customers and it all begins with the word “Covenant.” The co-owners of Covenant Catering, Aaron and Martice Gray, fully rely on in their faith and believe that a covenant is way stronger than an agreement, it is a promise. When you work with Covenant Catering we give you our full commitment and believe we are responsible to you, our customer, and God, who has made this business possible.  Our covenant is a commitment to provide catering service with the following Core Values: 

Our Values: We commit to...

·         Provide remarkable Customer Care.

·         Passionately prepare Delicious and Creative food.

·         Go above and beyond all Health/Safety regulations.

·         Conduct business with integrity and professionalism.

·         Embody the phrase "it's all about service!

Interview Questions:

Q. How long has Covenant Catering been up and running?

A. In business since 2009.

Q. Have there been any major difficulties that you’ve encountered while starting your business? Is thereanything you would have differently?

A. Starting capital is always a problem. The beginning and getting the incorporated. Also Getting everything in order.

Q. Roughly how much has StartingUp Now helped you in starting your own business?

A. Layout of the business plan: best business planning we have ever seen. We Appreciate a blueprint of the             business plan that startingup now presents.Business plan structure is concise. Refers to legal advice that is veryuseful in the beginning of starting a company. Service at startingup nowis first class. Brian has done great jobmentoring us through the whole process. We will definitely refer this book .

Q. Why has Covenant Catering  been so successful in the past four years?

A. Great product and great business ethics.  Creating a great product is just half the battle they said. The next step  is selling the product and becoming likeable by your customers and Covenant Catering does this through addinga personal touch to their product by showing their customers that we truly care for them and want to serve themthe best way they know how. 

         Martice and Aaron work hard to make sure that their customers are fully satisfied with their product every time.  When running a small business there are no days off.  The Grays are constantly doing business related activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  In the words of Aaron, “details matter,” and to be certain that all details have been considered and thought through.   

         StartingUp Now was the main resource to them understanding what the steps were to becoming a legal, up-and-running business. Covenant Catering started their business plan with the StartingUp Now business model and they continue to praise StartingUp Now for helping them become so successful.

If you want to contact Covenant Catering for your next event or to learn of their menu:


And if you mention this article, you will receive 10% off of your total order



Interview by: Canmu Dennis - Community Coordinator Intern at StartingUp Now

Contributing Author: Jerome Smith - Community Coordinator Intern at StartingUp Now




A Tool for Change: Entrepreneurship in Prison

- Thursday, November 29, 2012

At StartingUp Now we always say "anyone can be an entrepreneur." Troy Rienstra, a missionary for Christ and a prisoner serving a life sentence in a Michigan correctional facility, has decided to accept that challenge and invite us to support his mission of revolutionizing the prison culture through the values, skills, and application of entrepreneurship.

When Troy gave his life to Christ, he realized that whether or not he was ever granted parole, he needed to begin his life for Christ where he was at. He began to think of how he could serve those around him within the prison community. Troy knew that the environment of prison is not one that encourages purposeful living. Most of the men around him would be serving life sentences like himself, and the ones who would receive a second chance would face little hope of acceptance from employers or social circles. Troy knew that the best way he could serve his fellow inmates was to change the mindset of sitting out the rest of their lives and show them by example that a life of value could be possible. In order to do this, Troy and a fellow inmate Mack formed the Life Change Group. Now the group consists of twelve men committed to living a life of service while serving their sentences.

One of the focuses of the Life Change Group is to help each other gain skills in entrepreneurship as a tool of serving others. Each member of the group devotes their time to learning what they can from written materials on the subject and developing goals to pursue. Much of their support in this endeavor comes from Church of the Servant, Christian Reformed Church, which Troy's parents, Rich and Carol Reinstra attend. The church views Troy as an "inmate missionary", rejoicing over his change of heart and purposeful vision. Troy's ideas have inspired them to form a their own group, Christians for Prisoners / Prisoners for Christ, which works to support the discipleship of Christians in prisons as well as to advocate for restorative justice. They have provided the Life Change Group with various reading materials to help them get started, as well as arranged for a series of guest speakers to hold seminars on site.

Founder of StartingUp Now, Brian Jenkins, was honored to be one of these speakers in November, 2012, and was able to meet and speak with the group about StartingUp Now. The Life Change Group is now able to use the StartingUp Guide to plan their business ventures. As Brian learned while visiting the men, their first venture has already begun. Group member Mark introduced an unexpected skill by teaching the men how to crochet beautiful baby caps and booties. The caps are sold by a group of the Christians for Prisoners who travel across country on bicycle to raise awareness of extreme poverty, including the struggles of poverty faced by returning citizens after their sentences are completed. The handmade caps help to support the mission of Sea to Sea, as the bicyclists call themselves, as well as testify to others of the hearts of the men behind bars who are trying to rebuild their lives and relationships with the outside world.

Troy Rienstra, the Life Change Group, and the growing number of teams supporting them hold the belief that the cycle of poverty and crime need not be a continuous one. We hope that StartingUp Now may be another resource to the Life Change Group in pursuing their vision of a life of redemption and restoration for any prisoner who would choose change over defeat. We will continue to work with the Life Change Group and pursue the possibility of creating an entrepreneuship training program designed for use within prisons. 

Industry Profile: Green Technology

- Tuesday, November 27, 2012
What is Green Technology, and how can it improve your business strategy?

Green technology has become a buzzword over the last few years, referring to a variety of innovative products and techniques designed to promote sustainable living. As both our need and awareness increases for alternative methods of protecting the Earth's resources, green business strategies have become valuable tools for increasing efficiency as well as attracting a growing market of eco-minded consumers. Many business owners still believe that green technology can benefit only those businesses involved in energy or food production, however, with the advances being made in areas such as heating systems and recycling methods, every business can find ways to employ earth-friendly alternatives to their existing processes.

Developing and providing green technology has been the platform for many new businesses to find their niche in a competitive world, businesses such as Wolbrink Architects Chartered, a Chicago architectural firm that designs and constructs eco-sensitive, energy efficient buildings. Their ongoing project, Green Dream, is creating ENERGY STAR-rated condos in Chicago. Impressively, each unit is between 46.5-57.5 % more energy efficient than ENERGY STAR's baseline standards. In response to this incredible innovation, Wolbrink Architects received the 2006, Mayor Daley's Greenworks Award for market transformation.

Directly capitalizing on green technology, is the dry cleaning service, Greener Cleaner. Using a liquid silicone solution, the non-toxic alternative to the commonly used perchloroethylene, Greener Cleaner is able to say that their product is safer to use and non-hazardous to the environment to make or dispose; it also cleans more effectively and is gentler on fabrics, giving clothing longer life cycles and reducing waste.

Even fashion can be green, as proved by Mountains of the Moon, an eco-friendly clothing line that focuses on sustainability and responsibility. They are committed to using only low-impact dyes and long lasting fabrics such as cotton and hemp, grown without the use of pesticides and manufactured in US, sweatshop-free facilities. Designer, Melissa Baldwell intentionally creates “designs that are stylish but that can also be worn for multiple seasons and that surpass short-lived fads and trends . . . less likely to end up in landfills.”

Innovative businesses like these are receiving encouraging responses for their contributions to the green movement. Not only do a growing number of consumers prefer green products, but some states and influential corporations have begun to offer incentives to green businesses. Several grant funds are available in Illinois, including assistance for installing efficiency technologies to incentives for green building projects. 

In the corporate world, the investment firm, Goldman Sachs, announced this year a “$40 billion target for financing and investing in clean technology companies over the next decade.”

Other opportunities available to green-minded entrepreneurs include franchising schemes which allow you to operate your own business from an established platform. One such opportunity is being offered by EASI Energy Automation Systems Inc. which creates products designed to improve efficiency in existing electrical systems. EASI provides the needed training, tools and support to entering affiliates, and start up costs are minimal as inventory is kept by the corporation, and affiliates may work from home and at their own pace.

Another valuable resource for Chicago entrepreneurs is the recent establishment of the Green Exchange building housing a wide range of tenants each operating a sustainable business within the localized community. Renovated from a factory built in 1913, the five story building now features state-of-the-art green technology including a green roof with 8,000 SF organic sky garden, high efficiency heating and cooling system, a 41,329 gallon rain cistern, and an escalator with occupancy sensors. Tenants benefit from increased exposure, synergy opportunities with like-minded businesses, and reduced overhead as a result of building efficiency and by sharing common spaces and amenities.

Opportunities like these make eco-awareness a valuable and even necessary consideration for forward thinking entrepreneurs. To learn more about how you can green your business or start a green business, visit these additional resources.

Green Certification and Industry Partnerships:

Find Green Business Grants:

Green Franchise Opportunities:

5 Green Businesses You Can Start From Home:

Teaching Entrepreneurship - Fostering Opportunity

- Monday, October 15, 2012

Cornerstone Academy students selling their mosaic picture frames at Chicago Business Opportunity Fair

Cornerstone Academy students selling mosaic picture frames at Chicago Business Opportunity Fair, April 2012 

At StartingUp Now, we teach that entrepreneurship is more than a tool for profit. It is a lifestyle which embraces hard work and ingenuity as a means of growing strong economic markets, self-sustained communities, and flourishing individuals. These and other principles of entrepreneurship are vital, not only to the health of our own struggling economy, but even more so to that of our future generations. Educators who recognize this need within the lives our youth, are exploring ways in which we can introduce the concept and skills of self-employment at the student level.

One such fore-thinker is Mr. William Seitz, co-founder of Cornerstone Academy in Chicago, IL and Director of the school's core curriculum of economic principles. Cornerstone Academy is an alternative high school for students who have dropped out of public schools, and Mr. Seitz believes that preparing these students for a bright future, involves giving them the tools to see their potential and imagine the possibilities.

At Cornerstone Academy, traditional disciplines such as math and science are supported by school-wide lessons in the fundamentals of economics such as: “all choices have consequences.” Every month  a new principle is introduced and highlighted by teachers within the context of each class. Students also participate in a school economy based on a credit system which records their attendance and adherence to codes of conduct. Credits are translated into positive and negative dollar amounts, giving students the opportunity to earn a small income to be used for school events such as attending a Shakespeare play or going ice skating in Millennium Park. In monthly meetings with their “banker” (Seitz), students review their credits and are given the option to retrieve their funds, or save them in the bank. However, in keeping with the principle “all choices have consequences,” those students who use their money right away often face the difficulty of paying for events which other students have set aside money for. Seitz says these experiences teach students that their choices are their own. He cannot make wise choices for them, but he shows them the consequences of the choices they make.

Another choice Cornerstone students are offered is to participate in the student business, Artistic Expressions. Students design, make, and sell mosaic picture frames and mirrors, at craft fairs and expos, earning money and valuable experience interacting with consumers. The program started in 2006, when Entrenuity (not for profit founded by SU's founder, Brian Jenkins) lead an entrepreneurship course at Cornerstone in which students created the business model for Artistic Expressions. Their goal was to design a business that would function according to the economic principles they had learned in class. As a result, their design became the foundation which has for 6 years continued to support students in their business experience.

Like any well organized business, Artistic Expressions is formed of separate teams: the designers, the manufacturers, and the sellers. Profits are divided evenly between the teams and then amongst team members, according to the amount they contribute. Because participation is voluntary, each student is responsible for his or her own choices and level of commitment, and they each get to see the direct results of those choices as they earn their income.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry, a Cornerstone student who was part of last school year's selling team. He told me about his experience selling the mosaics at the 45th Annual Chicago Business Opportunity Fair at Navy Pier in April, 2012, and what he learned from being in the role of a businessman.
    “The environment was totally new; it was a new experience because I couldn't look around at everything myself, because I had to sell. Speaking to so many strangers was hard at first, but once I sold one, I wanted to sell another," says Jerry.
    Overcoming his natural shyness, Jerry worked hard to discover effective sales techniques of approaching the difficult crowd.
    “If I talked to them about our school and how we made the frames ourselves, I might sell a few. But if I mentioned that Mother's Day was coming up, and I asked them if their mom might like one of these picture frames, then I would sell a lot."
    Other lessons Jerry said he learned that day included patience and recognizing that hard work only paid off after more hard work. He is also excited about this next year's opportunities. “I want to make and sell this year,” he told me excitedly. “If you sell what other people make, you only make part of the profit, so it is better to sell your own product if you can.”

    The opportunity of a hands-on business experience is one that has broadened the possibilities for many of Cornerstone's students. Jerry reports that he would never have thought that starting his own business could be an option before; he always expected to work for someone else. Now he thinks it might be something he could do one day. “Not arts and crafts.” he told me emphatically. Computers and software design are what interest Jerry. He plans on attending college to study computer science and social work to discover ways in which he can serve people using his skills in technology.

Other Cornerstone students have been inspired by their experience with Artistic Expressions to start their own business, such as Mark, who, during his senior year, began a fitness training service and earned money for his college tuition.

Beyond making a small profit now, students of Cornerstone Academy are adopting a vital mindset for their future. Whether they follow the path of entrepreneurship, or choose to work for existing businesses, they have the faith in themselves to make ambitious decisions and apply their skills towards attaining their goals.

Recent Posts