Success Stories

John DeCosmo (right) and the team at Ulta Lit.

In spring of 2016, Glenview, Illinois-based Ulta-Lit Tree Company was entering into its busiest time of the year when owner John DeCosmo learned that the company’s purchase order line of credit was not going to be renewed. But when DeCosmo tapped into his longstanding relationships with First American Bank in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, he learned of a valuable opportunity: the SBA’s Seasonal CAPLines Program. Within a few weeks, the company had closed on a SBA-guaranteed loan from First American Bank worth $1.5 million. “I don’t know where we’d be without that loan,” DeCosmo said.

The SBA’s CAPLines program provides loans up to $5 million to help small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs. The Seasonal Line of Credit Program, one of four distinct loan programs under the CAPLines umbrella, supports the buildup of inventory, accounts receivable or labor and materials above normal usage for seasonal inventory.

Ulta-Lit was well suited for... Read More

Carl Tutt

Set your business up for success by starting with a problem, Chicago resident and small business owner Carl Tutt advises. “You have to impact something,” he said. “You have to either solve the problem or create a situation that didn’t exist before.”

Seven years ago, he took his own advice. Inspired by President Obama’s call for energy efficiency and LED lighting in the White House in his first inauguration speech in 2009, Tutt launched Integrating Green Technologies, an environmental consulting and services firm that delivers efficient lighting and wastewater management solutions for government and commercial clients nationwide. Tutt was also able to capitalize on the 25 years’ of experience he gained at McDonald’s Corporation where, as a procurement manager, he helped reduce energy costs at restaurants.

“When I left the corporate environment I said I want to do something that’s going to impact the world,” Tutt said. “Water is a natural resource; you can’t fabricate... Read More

Diana Peters

Entrepreneur Diana Peters believes that success in business requires a delicate balance of embracing risk and preparing for it. “Jumping into the water without knowing how to swim and no flotation device is not a wise decision,” she said. “You need to plan how you’re going to get to the other side.”
More than a decade after starting her business, Symbol Training Institute, Peters has seen that strategy pay off. Peters, who grew up in Skokie, Ill., where Symbol is based, was working as an attorney recruiting coordinator when her father came to her with a business idea. He had been running a tool-and-die shop in Skokie since shortly after emigrating to the U.S. from Ukraine and was interested in creating a manufacturing training center. He persuaded her to join him. “At the time, I had a great career already, so it was a leap of faith when I left my job to help start Symbol,” she said.
At the outset, Peters covered administration and marketing while her father taught all... Read More

Dogs at Active Dog Daycare

Working hard can be a lot of fun, especially if a company’s culture rewards employees as well as customers. At Active! Dog Daycare & Boarding in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, the pack leader is Alex Mickley, who says keeping his team motivated is both the most challenging and rewarding part of owning his own business. It starts with setting expectations during the hiring process.

“People assume they’re going to pet dogs all day, but you’re really more of a lifeguard than a playmate. We make sure they know what they’re getting into before they start the job,” he said. 

Pet care companies such as dog day cares often have a lot of employee turnover, Mickley said, but Active prides itself on its high retention rate. With most employees ranging in age from 21 to 26, Mickley takes seriously his role in helping them start to plan their career paths. Employees also socialize outside of work, participating in team dinners, fundraisers, and other functions. 

“... Read More