Success Stories

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

Laura Pager

Ask Gale Construction owner Laura Pager what she’s most proud of, and the answer is simple: “That we’re still standing after 20 years.”

But success didn’t happen overnight. As with so many of the projects the firm has tackled over its history, Gale Construction was built one brick at a time. 

The Joliet, Illinois-based company specializes in highway construction and heavy and civil construction projects for local, state, and federal agencies, as well as commercial customers. Since becoming certified in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program, which provides assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged business owners, it has also gained a foothold in the world of government contracting.

Pager was working in the investment world in 1996 when she got a call from an old high school friend, Mike Gale, with a plan to go into business together. She had experience within finance and money management, and Gale was knowledgeable about on-the-ground... Read More

Vasquez family

Southern Illinois-based Competitive Range Solutions started in 2011 as an information technology commodity-based business. Owner Noah Vasquez focused on leveraging relationships to make hardware and software sales. Revenue was coming in, but the company’s margins weren’t great. Vasquez knew that something needed to change.

“Our business model did not support sustained growth objectives,” he said. “We weren’t doing anything groundbreaking; we did what we could with what we had, but it simply wasn’t enough.”

The solution: move the company into value-added technology solutions and support services. After becoming certified in 2013 in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program, which offers assistance to firms owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, CRS diversified its revenue portfolio and embraced a more sustainable business model. Turning down business opportunities was at times painful for the company, Vasquez says, but... Read More