NaperLaunch begins offering business help at library

NaperLaunch has launched.

Residents with business ideas now can take advantage of weekly meetups, workshops and one-on-one appointments at the Naperville Public Library's new business startup center - NaperLaunch.

The startup center aims to assist entrepreneurs, some of whom already make the library their office, with the process of starting a business, said Kent Palmer, business librarian.

"(We're) taking our business services, many of which we were already offering, and we have packaged them together under the auspices of the NaperLaunch new business startup center," Palmer said.

The center originally was to be called BiblioTek Centers for Innovation and Discovery. But under the new name, the goal is the same - teach people to turn ideas into businesses.

"This is the kind of facility that would suit the times that we're in in terms of people's jobs and the realities of providing a place where you can start and nurture your business," said Robert Fieseler, a Naperville City Council member who is the city's liaison to the library board. "People who are now nomads going from a Panera to a Starbucks to a carrel in the library can know they have an environment that suits their business."

Weekly meetups are beginning this month at the headquarters of NaperLaunch, an alcove on the upper level of Nichols Library at 200 W. Jefferson Ave.

At the first event last week, staff members from the small business development center at College of DuPage hosted a workshop called "The Art of Starting a Business in Illinois." And at the second Thursday meetup, scheduled for 8 a.m. Sept. 11, Mary Lynn Hoffer, partner at DiGiovine Hnilo Jordan + Johnson, a tax consulting firm in Naperville, will speak about key value drivers for a business.

Time for networking will be part of every weekly meetup so professionals with different areas of expertise can make connections and fill gaps in each other's business plans.

"The potential in the area and the community is huge in people and resources," said Julie Rothenfluh, the library's executive director.

Most events at NaperLaunch will be free, but there could be fees when a separate group is organizing the event. Partners so far include the College of DuPage small business development center and Fox Valley SCORE, which stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives.

While Nichols Library is the base of NaperLaunch, people can get help at the Naper Boulevard and 95th Street libraries as well by setting up a one-on-one appointment with a business librarian. Librarians such as Palmer can help entrepreneurs use databases to research their competition or potential customers by geography, size and industry.

"They are really pleasantly surprised by how powerful these resources can be and how specifically they help," Palmer said.

Resources also can assist with writing a business plan or with organizational structure.

"They've certainly embraced the concept of providing services specifically directed at small businesses and startups so that's really positive," Fieseler said.

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