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At Your Service

Illinois Small Business Development Center
Bldg E, Room E105, ECC Campus
Tel: 847-214-7488
Fax: 847-931-3911
Hours: M-F 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed Fridays June - Aug.

Success Spotlight

Nutrition Care Systems, Inc.

Nutrition Care Systems Logo  

Dorothy Stewart first visited the Illinois Small Business Development Center (ISBDC) at Elgin Community College (ECC) in May, 2011.  Her company, Nutrition Care Systems, Inc. (NCS) had made great strides since its inception in 1993, providing expert nutrition and food service guidance to a wide variety of long-term care facilities and healthcare agencies throughout the state of Illinois.

Today, and after 18 years in business, NCS employs a staff of 30 dieticians that serve 200 long term care facilities.  At our first meeting, Dorothy made it clear that she wants to position the company for significant growth, and needs to implement essential processes to make that happen.  She was seeking assistance from the ISBDC to help assess the areas needing attention, and ultimately looking for recommendations to implement the discipline, processes, and organizational structure to take the company to the next level.

Lisa Stewart, Dorothy's daughter and NCS VP/COO, has been charged with developing the changes necessary to lead the company’s growth.  Lisa meets regularly with the ISBDC to explore areas of the company that will benefit from improved systems and staff efficiencies, while still delivering on Dorothy’s commitment to helping Long Term Care facilities provide for nutritional and emotional needs while maintaining the highest quality of life for their patients.

During their association, the ISBDC and NCS have identified and implemented improvements in several areas:

  • Customer service: Institute proactive steps to anticipate and monitor customer issues before they become significant
  • Key operating statistics: Identify metrics based on elemental data, and regularly review them,  providing more timely control over business fluctuations
  • Marketing: Identify programs to acquire additional customers
  • Accounts Receivable: Implement new policies to optimize cash flow management
  • Financial: Institute an annual budget process that includes management participation

Lisa Stewart adds: "Working with Sybil Ege of the ISBDC over the past several months has proved very beneficial.  Not only has she been able to advise and direct us on issues we identified as needing attention, but also has shed light on other areas of operations that could benefit from additional focus and improvement.  Her advice ranges from corporate vision, strategy and implementation to personal support and encouragement through the various challenges of entrepreneurship.  Although working with the ISBDC during the early stages of NCS would have been advantageous, we find it just as beneficial to work together now – 18 years later – as we navigate through this next phase of mature growth and renewal. Many thanks to the ISBDC for sharing such valuable experience and direction!"

Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts

Coco Bean Fine Deserts Image  

Luckily for folks in the Fox Valley, pastry chefs Paul and Nancy Saucedo decided to open Cocoa Bean Fine Desserts in Geneva in 2004. It is located at 11 South 7th Street (just south of State Street). If you haven’t yet stopped by for coffee and a delicious treat, you are really missing out. Everything at the Cocoa Bean is made fresh and from scratch.

The Saucedos had accumulated great credentials before opening the Cocoa Bean. A graduate of Kendall College, Paul had 15 years prior experience, including working at the Rhapsody Restaurant in Chicago’s Ritz Carlton Hotel and the French Room at the Hotel Adolphus in Dallas. Nancy received her degree from Northern Illinois University, and received Le Grande Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Her 10 years’ experience includes working in France, as well as here in Chicago at the United Center, where she opened their Catering department, and in Dallas at the Four Season and eatZi’s.

But working for others was not the direction they wanted to take long term. Paul, in particular, had always wanted to have his own business. Returning to the Chicago area in 2003, they researched where they might start a business which would be dedicated to making fine pastry. They settled on Geneva, and brought the first of its kind coffee shop to the Fox Valley. But the Cocoa Bean is much more than a coffee shop. It offers exceptional pastries, a wide variety of breakfast and lunch items, and a sophisticated cake and sweet table catering service, par excellence.

Nancy no longer assists Paul in the kitchen. She concentrates on customers and working with brides. Paul now focuses on the “finishing” work – creating pastries that are not just delicious, but that are works of art. He also heads up development of new menu items, like the homemade chorizo quiche, one of their latest entries. The menu rotates with the seasons.

When the Saucedos designed the space in Geneva, they deliberately included an extra-large kitchen capable of supporting both the Geneva location, and another future storefront in an as yet unnamed suburban location.

When asked “what advice would you give to others who want to start their own restaurant,” Paul and Nancy said that their years of experience gave them the critical edge. Their business continues to thrive, and their fine reputation continues to grow.

The Saucedos have been working with the IL Small Business Development Center at Elgin Community College since 2003, when they first sought assistance in developing their business plan. Over the years, they have forged a strong relationship with the SBDC counselors. Paul is grateful for that relationship, emphasizing that the SBDC was always there to listen, to give sound advice, and above all, to lend their moral support.

JP NetQuest™, Inc.

JP NetQuest photo  

In 2007, Norbert Barszczewski and his wife weighed the pros and cons of starting their own business.    They agreed that starting a business was a mutual goal and a natural next step in their careers.  They felt the Chicago area offered sufficient opportunities.  But should they both be involved at the start, or only one of them?  They determined that the smarter course would be for only one of them to be involved initially, and that the other person should remain employed full time. Their assessment of their potential risks made it clear that their decision to dedicate only one person to the start-up would provide the couple a comfortable level of financial security and healthcare benefits, both very important factors in the first 6-12 months of any new business.

In July of 2007, JP NetQuest was launched.  The company specializes in Web Development, HTML Email Marketing, Social Media for Business Training, Online Advertising and other computer related services. Norbert learned quickly that running your own business requires a lot of skills beyond the core of your profession. To be successful, you need to be a marketing expert, a PR pro, have some good knowledge of accounting practices, and be good at general organizational skills. Norbert’s education and prior experience is important, but being a successful business owner requires flexibility and creativity as well, especially in today’s competitive environment.

Norbert’s specialty focusing on internet services and practices is very dynamic.  He’s found that it’s critical to develop new solutions and products, closely monitor the market, and stay ahead of the competition.  The Social Media has proven to be “the next big thing,” and Norbert truly enjoys being part of this process and teaching others about the best practices, success stories, and general understanding of the concepts.

Norbert knows he must increase his brand recognition, locally and in the industry.  To that end, he will continue to offer workshops and training, participate in networking events, stay involved in professional associations, and work with non-profit organizations as a way of giving back to others less fortunate.

Hard work, skills, a professional public relations and marketing approach, competitive and well priced products  are all important for success.  But only a well thought out and comprehensive business plan and approach will yield success in the long term. Norbert recalls a presentation he attended at the Mt. Prospect Library about starting a business.  It was presented by Kriss Knowles, the Director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Elgin Community College. The IL SBDC was truly instrumental in the early stages of getting his business off to a good start.  Kriss was especially helpful in explaining how to successful manage his company’s books.  The IL SBDC also organizes and hosts networking and training events. Norbert reflects how useful these events were to him.  He not only learned how to communicate and network effectively with other business owners, but he also made some great contacts that are now “power” partners. Norbert reminds everyone that the IL SBDC is a great resource.

Because the counseling services of IL SBDC are free, and the training programs they offer are modestly priced, Norbert appreciates how he saved money for business and accounting advice. And saving money, while still getting expert advice, makes very good business sense indeed.

For more information or to schedule a session with a small business counselor, please call 847-214-7488.

Applied Behavioral Coaching Moms


Applied Behavioral Coaching Moms help provide the building blocks for families futures!

ABC Moms Owners Photo  

Applied Behavioral Coaching Moms or ABC Moms, Inc. opened its door on July 1, 2008 to provide two distinct services, in-home support and support within an educational environment to help parents succeed at parenting.  In the home, ABC Moms qualified Parenting Coaches come into a family’s home and work with them to find the answers to their unique family dynamics. They are there to observe, coach, and leave each family with individualized tools to achieve their own parenting success. In an educational setting, ABC Moms provides research based educational training, informative parent seminars, invaluable consultations, customized materials, and individualized behavioral plans. 

The founders of ABC Moms have extensive backgrounds in education and a combined experience of more than 25 years in education. Dana Burke has spent the past 12 years working with children, parents, and educational teams in both public and therapeutic school sectors, providing support as a speech therapist assistant, a classroom teacher, and as a behavior analyst, developing and implementing behavior plans for children. During this time she created and presented many interactive lectures and workshops to educational professionals and parents on the best practice strategies for working with children. Dana also has extensive experience in working with individuals diagnosed with autism and in training their caregivers. Dana looks forward to sharing her knowledge and extensive experience with families to promote an optimal home environment. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders and Sciences from Southern Illinois University and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in Special Education.

Jennifer Schuler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked with countless children, families, and other professionals as a counselor, consultant, and an educator. Her extensive and varied experiences over the past 14 years in hospitals, specialized therapeutic schools, public schools, as well as in private practice, provide her with knowledge and insight to share with families in their everyday interactions with one another. Numerous solution-oriented interventions have been successfully developed out of her expertise in the area of behavior. Jennifer prides herself in using proactive support and reinforcement to create positive relationships within the home. She has a bachelor's degree in Applied Psychology and a master's degree in Social Work, both from Loyola University in Chicago.

Throughout their experiences, Dana and Jennifer have encountered numerous parents who needed hands-on support in dealing with difficult behavior in their homes. As educational staff members, they felt limited in the support they could provide to parents away from the educational environment.  As mothers themselves, Dana and Jennifer also had a desire to share their knowledge of human behavior and proven strategies to promote positive behavior with members of their own community. Dana and Jennifer are now able to combine these two desires by providing parent coaching and therefore helping families to make the most of each and every day.  

ABC Moms feels that they provide a unique, hands-on service by individualizing each family’s support and materials.  Through their small, information gather and problem solving meetings, family members feel comfortable about opening up about daily struggles within the family.  Each family drives their service as each family is unique and there is no one size fits all plan, ABC Moms truly customize their strategies and materials for each family’s needs.  They also value open communication and, therefore, make themselves accessible to families as they implement each new strategy or technique. Although the parents may be implementing the new recommendations by themselves on a daily basis, they rarely feel “alone” as ABC Moms are there to provide feedback and encouragement through out the entire process.

Recommended to the IL SBDC by a mutual friend and current client, ABC Moms feel that their small business experienced improvements as a direct result of the guidance and support provided by Kriss Knowles the director of the SBDC. Dana and Jennifer believe that the open communication, immediate feedback, honesty about their ideas and strategies, the teaching of small business accounting and, of course, patience were the most beneficial services offered to them from the IL SBDC at Elgin Community College.

“We greatly appreciate all that Kriss Knowles has done for our small business to be successful in our first year! We feel as though Kriss has been the perfect mentor for our small business.  As our business continues to grow, so will our needs.  Kriss and the IL SBDC will be our first step for guidance and support.”

To contact ABC Moms please visit their web site at and for assistance with your exiting or start-up business, contact the Illinois Small Business Development Center located at Elgin Community College at 847-214-7488. Business workshops, classes and free one-on-one counseling sessions are available.

Earth Heart™ Inc.


Herbal Aromatherapy for People, Places and Pets

Success Spotlight (product photo)  

Vicki Rae Thorne founded Earth Heart™ in 1992 as a sole proprietor and incorporated the business in August of 1996. She started studying herbs in 1974 out of a love of cooking. The concept of food as medicine and herbs as the foundation for prescription drugs fascinated her. When her older son suffered from recurrent ear infections she became serious about herbal medicine as a natural approach to common maladies. Echinacea was the first herbal medicine that she grew and made into a variety of herbal remedies, and it proved valuable for healing all sorts of infections. Vicki’s interest in aromatherapy started in 1992 when she purchased several essential oils after a weekend intensive seminar, and proceeded to formulate massage oils that were effective in treating pain and helping with relaxation. Positive personal results and additional positive feedback from massage therapists along with their clients helped Vicki propel her “hobby” into a business.

Earth Heart™ began with a personal struggle to be healed. During Vicki’s exploration of complementary health practices, she discovered ways to integrate traditional herbal remedies with modern medical practice. Vicki has a long-standing background in education from past work in music and PBS, and more recently offering natural health classes within community and professional continuing education. She has been able to introduce many people, including teachers and massage therapists, to the use of herbs and aromatherapy as an integral part of health. Her training as a Master Herbalist and Certified Aromatherapist emphasize both the art and science of natural and holistic healing practices, and she is a member of the American Herbalists Guild and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

Vicki’s latest success is Canine Calm™, an aromatherapy formulation for anxious dogs that a holistic kennel in McHenry commissioned nearly 10 years ago. It was not unusual for visiting dogs to become agitated at both feeding time and during the arrival of new animals. The Canine Calm™ blend has been used safely and effectively since March 2000 and the kennel owner has told Vicki that she can tell when the diffusers are empty because the dogs get nervous and noisy again. Canine Calm™ aromatic misters were introduced when the kennel owner’s customers noticed the change in their pets and wanted the same calming experience at home. Since then Vicki has developed 3 additional products for canines: Travel Calm™ for motion sickness, Guardian to help dogs stay healthy, and Buzz Barrier for repelling insects. Earth Heart™ products and services have been developed and refined by listening carefully to her customer’s comments. All of these products have been carefully researched and blended to be safe and effective plant-based products that are simple, practical and affordable to use. Testimonials Vicki has received from customers regularly confirm her quality and commitment to providing the very best product.

The success of the canine products has shifted Vicki’s focus toward finding natural pet products distributors nationwide. Her products currently have 2 local distributors, and at last count, 30 retail locations, including an animal hospital, health food store, pet shops and the original kennel. Vicki has even been able to outsource both her manufacturing and graphic design, and this year was able to hire an intern to perform market research. Her vision for Earth Heart is to have product placement throughout the independent pet specialty market, including pet shops, veterinary clinics, groomers, trainers and kennels, as well as in the national chains. Vicki’s definition for success includes that the business provides a regular income, and recognition as a household name synonymous with quality and integrity. She would eventually like to sell the business to a strategic buyer who will continue making products with the quality that she has worked so hard to achieve and maintain.

Vicki first learned of the IL SBDC while teaching at Elgin Community College’s School of Massage Therapy. She first approached the IL SBDC when she decided to focus on the canine products – they are her niche product with the best history of repeat sales to date. The counselors at the IL SBDC helped Vicki to refine her business plan, and have been supportive of her progress with solid advice on tactics and strategy, explanations of accounting and marketing practices, professional referrals, and the use of marketing tools. The seminars and networking events have also been helpful for Vicki in developing marketing materials as well as making connections. Marketing tools – especially the seminars about branding and imaging – have helped supplement the advice she received from counselors. Most of all, knowing someone was there to help her stay focused, to provide clarity and encouragement was invaluable.

To contact Vicki or view her current product line please visit her web site at and for assistance with your existing or start-up business, contact the Illinois Small Business Development Center located at Elgin Community College at 847-214-7488. Business workshops, classes and free one-on-one counseling sessions are available.


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