Behind the Scenes: September 2021
Founder Samm Hutchison with Bear at Bear’s Bites World Headquarters, located at Keller Station in north Peoria. Photo by Evan Temchin
If 2020 was ever “a year like no other,” 2021 has rendered that notion obsolete. With the emergence of the Delta variant, a cloud of uncertainty again hovers over us as we make our weary way into autumn. Normalcy remains out of reach; yet we keep on going.
For the third year, Peoria Magazines has partnered with the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University to recognize and celebrate our region’s entrepreneurs, innovators, startups, businesses and the people who support them. The Turner Center is an amazing resource for the business community—and they have proved their worth throughout the pandemic. To date, their team has helped 362 companies with more than 2,700 hours of COVID-19 relief assistance, including navigating federal and state grant programs, unemployment for gig workers, and general financial assistance. As a result, its clients have reported more than $7.8 million in grant funding.
Despite the prolonged pandemic, Turner Center director Jim Foley remains optimistic about the local business climate. “The interest in business startups is higher than we have ever seen across many industries,” he notes, also citing a number of significant initiatives, such as Distillery Labs, that are beginning to come together.
Enhancing the e-commerce strategies of local businesses has been one focus for Turner Center staff. “Consumers don't want to go back to pre-Covid days and now expect all businesses to be fully digital. We can help make that happen at no cost,” Foley explains. “We are also finding many businesses not executing on the basics—such as having a website or not claiming their business on Google… So we are helping in those areas as well.”
In addition to the ten small businesses featured in this issue, Foley mentions other success stories from the past year: “businesses with the courage to start or expand during Covid, such as Dac’s Smokehouse opening in East Peoria, or so many brand-new restaurants including The Fry Spot and wRap City… as well as existing businesses that learned how to adapt, such as M. Craig Counseling and the Book Nook.” Profiles of these success stories can be found at bradley.edu/turnercenter. —Jonathan Wright, Editor In Chief