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  • Suburban baker opens Sweet T’s cake shop in Arlington Hts. Jun 25, 2014 6:08 PM
    To Tammy Montesinos, baking a cake is more than just mixing together flour, eggs and sugar. “A cake is a memory you’re building for people,” said Montesinos, who is bringing those memories, and herrecipes, to her new shop, Sweet T’s Bakery & Cake Studio in downtown Arlington Heights.

  • Prospect Heights grocery store has closed Jun 24, 2014 7:26 AM
    The Save-A-Lot Food Store in Prospect Heights, open just one year, closed last week, Mayor Nick Helmer announced Monday. Helmer said after the city council meeting that another person hopes to open a grocery appealing to the area's Hispanic residents in the building at 610 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the Palwaukee Center. “That area really needs a grocery store,” he said.

  • Gurnee: Video gambling won't save American Legion Post 771 Jun 24, 2014 5:15 AM
    While Gurnee trustees and Mayor Kristina Kovarik agreed Monday they weren't interested in allowing video gambling to boost the local American Legion's finances, she pledged to help find other ways for the organization to raise money. “I certainly want to find a way to help the American Legion,” Kovarik said. “No 'ifs' 'ands' or 'buts' about it.”

  • Des Plaines Theatre owner to review 2 takeover pitches Jun 24, 2014 5:05 AM
    The owner of the shuttered Des Plaines Theatre will meet with city officials to review two proposals from those who may be interested in purchasing or managing the historic venue. The facility has been closed since Jan. 15 after its owner failed to meet a city deadline to fix building code issues. “We would've liked to have gotten more (proposals), but we have two, and hopefully one of those is something he wants to do and the city can live with it," the city's George Sakas said.

  • Fusion of talents, food focus of couple's new BBQ restaurant Jun 23, 2014 5:00 AM
    Kukec's People features Alice Banach of North Barrington, a rock-and-roll fan, who turned her enjoyment of that era and love of cooking into a new restaurant called Rock 'N Ribs in at the Village Square Shopping Center in Lake Zurich. She and her husband, Terry Banach, opened in May and then held a grand opening last week.

  • Oakton Street Antique Centre growing in Arlington Heights Jun 23, 2014 5:00 AM
    Bonnie Throne, owner of Oakton Street Antique Centre in Arlington Heights, has made it past the 20-year mark. We talk to her about the business.

  • Small businesses finding sales through Instagram Jun 22, 2014 6:11 AM
    A picture is worth thousands of dollars for Limelight Extensions. Phones start ringing at the Farmington Hills, Michigan, salon each time co-owner Miranda Jade Plater posts pictures on photo-sharing app Instagram. Would-be customers call to book appointments or ask questions about hair extensions she posts. Colorful styles get the most attention. Plater still gets calls about a photo of herself that she uploaded two months ago. In it, she’s wearing long, black curly hair extensions with the ends dyed bright orange. That photo alone has generated about $10,000 in sales. “Without Instagram I couldn’t tell you where we would be right now,” she says. Instagram is an increasingly important part of small businesses’ social media strategies. It’s helping them drive sales, gain customers and develop their brand. The app is especially helpful to restaurants, bakeries, clothing stores, hair salons and other businesses that sell items that photograph well. The app, which was founded in 2010 and was bought by social media company Facebook Inc. in 2012, reaches more than 200 million users worldwide. Owners say it’s easy to use and like that they can automatically post their Instagram photos on their businesses’ other social media accounts, including Facebook and Twitter. Paying for attention To boost Limelight Extensions’ followers, Plater pays local models and reality show stars to promote the company on their accounts. Payment is either a percentage of sales, a flat rate or free hair. In return, they post photos of themselves wearing the extensions with a link back to Limelight Extensions’ Instagram account. The company has more than 27,000 followers. Yumbox is trying a similar strategy. The Doylestown, Pennsylvania-based company makes colorful lunchboxes with portioned sections meant to teach kids balanced eating. It recently paid a well-followed health food blogger to post a photo of a food-filled Yumbox. The post spiked traffic to its website and doubled its Instagram followers to nearly 5,000. Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter allow small businesses to pay to promote their posts and gain followers. Instagram, which declined to comment for this story, doesn’t do that yet. On its website, it says it is working on offering advertising to more of its users. Reaching out to customers There are cheaper ways to build followers. Yumbox reposts customer photos. Devitt and co-owner Maia Neumann scour Instagram for photos others have posted using Yumbox as a hashtag. (A hashtag is a word or sentence that begins with the pound sign ((hash)), such as (hash) yumbox. Using a hashtag, which is clickable, makes it easier for users to find all the pictures about one topic.) Devitt says reposting encourages more people to share photos of their own Yumbox, getting the boxes in front of even more eyes. Women’s clothing shop and online store UOI Boutique broadcasts its customers’ Instagram photos on its website. When someone uploads a picture of a skirt or top or necklace on Instagram with the hashtag (hash) uoionline, it automatically shows up on The Sterling, Illinois, company also asks its 25 workers to take at least one photo with their smartphone during their shifts. The best are uploaded to UOI Boutique’s Instagram account. Hashtag everything The right hashtag can attract customers from far away. Brooke Sacco, the owner of Behind The Moon, a shop that sells used and new kids clothing in Hammonton, New Jersey uploaded a photo of a pair of outfits with the hashtag of the clothing’s brand name. A potential customer in Dallas was searching for that brand on Instagram and asked Sacco to send the $7 dress and romper to Texas. It was the first time Sacco had shipped clothing to customers since she opened the store in April. She tries to post six photos a day, complete with hashtags. “It’s free advertising,” Sacco says. Building a brand But it’s not just about posting pictures of products. Dyer and Jenkins, an online seller of men’s clothing, reinforces that its jeans and T-shirts are made in America through Instagram. Owner Josey Orr posts three photos a day to the Los Angeles company’s Instagram account and has a rule: 20 percent of the photos are of Dyer and Jenkins clothing and 80 percent are photos of weathered American flags, classic cars or West Coast highways. The account has more nearly 11,000 followers. (As a comparison, big clothing brands such as J. Crew has more than 500,000 followers and Urban Outfitters has nearly 1.5 million.) “It’s more about the brand and less about selling products,” says Orr. That’s also true for Hawaiian hot sauce maker Adoboloco. “We use Instagram to show what we’re doing in our lives and outside of the business,” says owner Tim Parsons. He posts photos from the Hawaiian farm where some of the chili peppers used in the sauces are grown. There are also lots of pictures of Maui’s sandy beaches and french fries, eggs and other meals drenched with Adoboloco’s hot sauce. Why does Instagram resonate with potential customers? A photo can say more about a business than words. “People process photos faster,” says Jesse Redniss, chief strategy officer at Spredfast, which works with brands to build their social media presence. “Storytelling is paramount for a business to get people to care about who they are,” says Redniss. “People are always entranced with a story. It’s how people become interested in a brand.” Photographic markdown Another way to spur sales is to offer discounts. A week before Mother’s Day, Las Vegas bakery Peridot Sweets sent a photo of a white Mother’s Day cake with a sugary peony flower on top to its nearly 1,800 Instagram followers. The caption offered the cake for $40 — a $30 discount. Owner Tiffany Jones says she sold seven of the cakes to people who saw the photo on Instagram. The photo also automatically posted to the company’s Facebook page. She sold six more cakes to Facebook fans. “It’s visual,” says Jones about Instagram. “It’s perfect for what we do.” Online: Adoboloco’s Instagram account: Behind The Moon: Dyer And Jenkins: Limelight Extensions: Peridot Sweets: UOI Boutique: Yumbox:

  • Instagram tips for small businesses Jun 22, 2014 6:11 AM
    Here’s five tips for entrepreneurs looking to use Instagram for their small business.

  • Ditka’s opening in Arlington Hts. on Tuesday Jun 21, 2014 8:00 AM
    Da Coach is bringing his restaurant to Arlington Heights starting next week. The Arlington Heights location of Ditka’s Restaurant will open on Tuesday and will be the third, and largest, of the former Bears coach’s Chicagoland restaurants, said Paul Woodard, managing partner.

  • Glen Ellyn exploring fire safety awards Jun 20, 2014 9:39 AM
    Glen Ellyn is considering a program to reward business and property owners who make fire safety improvements to their buildings. The award would be aimed at businesses or property owners who install fire alarms or sprinkler systems primarily in the central business district.

  • Polish deli now open in Rolling Meadows Jun 19, 2014 12:35 PM
    Krakowski Market, a new Polish deli and food market at 2122 Plum Grove Road, Rolling Meadows, held its grand opening Thursday.

  • Renovation underway at Milk Specialties Co. Jun 19, 2014 5:11 PM
    A major restoration is underway in Carpentersville at Milk Specialties Co., a project owner Tom Roeser says will cost "millions." "It continues the restoration of the tri-city riverfront here," Roeser said of his latest project. "You've got East Dundee, West Dundee and Carpentersville and they’ve got this beautiful riverfront that used to only have old, dilapidated buildings and so I’ve got an opportunity to fix them up."

  • Car sales coming to 75th Street in Naperville Jun 19, 2014 1:46 PM
    Finish Line Car Wash at 1090 E. 75th St. in Naperville can begin selling cars from the back of its property after the city council approved a conditional use to allow the new line of business.

  • Downtown music ‘pleasing’ or a turnoff? Debate begins in Naperville Jun 18, 2014 2:45 PM
    What counts as “pleasing” when it comes to music and who gets to choose were questions at the core of a discussion about a potential new sound system some want to see installed in downtown Naperville before the holiday season. “Music, carefully selected at a pleasing volume, is a wonderful amenity that infuses joy, a festive spirit and simply makes people want to dwell in our downtown,” said Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance.

  • Free summer concerts at Geneva Commons Jun 17, 2014 1:01 AM
    For the 12th year in a row, Geneva Commons will be hosting its annual summer concert series, where families and friends can celebrate warm summer nights with free music outside.

  • Schaumburg committee backs requests for county tax breaks Jun 17, 2014 4:26 PM
    Schaumburg’s finance committee has recommended two companies be considered for a Cook County property tax incentive if they move into vacant industrial buildings in the village. Elegant Event Lighting and Redlok Productions, Inc., both of which are already located in Schaumburg, are requesting consideration for Cook County’s Class 6B tax incentive to expand at new locations.

  • East Dundee plans restaurant row for downtown Jun 19, 2014 11:42 AM
    Take all the photographs you can of North River Street in the next month or so, East Dundee residents, because by the end of summer it will not look the same.

  • Process for business’ potential sale moves forward Jun 16, 2014 6:11 AM
    A small business owner shares his thoughts and experiences so other entrepreneurs thinking of selling have some information.

  • Naperville ad exec makes global plans at 23 Jun 16, 2014 6:12 AM
    Kukec's People features Wilbur You, founder of Naperville ad agency, YouTech and Associates, which he hopes to take global. And he's only 23.

  • What do you think about downtown West Dundee? Jun 14, 2014 8:00 AM
    West Dundee officials need your help to create a downtown plan that will show them how to revitalize and get the most use out of the area. There are three ways to register your opinion: in person, through the plan's website and an online survey.

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