Next Level Northwest helps companies during pandemic

Next Level Northwest, a nonprofit business accelerator founded by five northwest Chicagoland municipalities in 2017, recently celebrated its seventh program graduate and renewed its commitment to support local businesses by offering the program virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think every business owner needs a second opinion at some point or another," commented Tom Tkaczyk, president of Rada Auto in Elk Grove Village and the program's first graduate. "This program helped me develop my business, and it helped me develop myself. The results have been phenomenal."

Tkaczyk joins fellow business owners in the first cohort to complete Next Level Northwest, including John Eggert of Relish Catering Kitchen in Schaumburg, Manan Joshi of Country Style Donuts in Hanover Park, Min Bowler of Lakeshore Title in Rolling Meadows, and Steve Long, Jr. and Jeff Staten of Blink Tees in Hoffman Estates.

Next Level Northwest formally launched its business accelerator program in 2019 and has helped seven local businesses to date with free one-on-one business coaching services. Other graduates have included CraftedWild and Miller Industrial, both from Elk Grove Village. Applications are currently being accepted for new businesses to enter the program in all participating communities.

When Illinois began its shelter-in-place protocols, Next Level Northwest businesses experienced challenges like many other businesses in the community, but business owners also noted that having established processes, networks, and professional guidance has helped them respond strategically.

Seed funding provided by Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Rolling Meadows, and Schaumburg established Next Level Northwest as a 501c3 organization. Board members from Wintrust Community Bank, Comcast and Lavelle Law have contributed additional support.

"One of the things that we worked on with our coach was strengthening our marketing through Facebook," commented Manan Joshi of Country Style Donuts. "That has helped a lot, particularly when COVID hit. We started doing DIY donut decorating kits and raising awareness with customers that we are still open on social media."

The participating communities saw a pressing need for this type of business support in our communities," noted Rummel. "Through this innovative public-private partnership, we're doing our part to make sure the businesses in our communities are contributing to a stronger regional economy."

The program begins with a competitive pitching process where qualified business owners share information on their companies and what they hope to gain from the accelerator program. Panels of community business leaders rate each pitch and select a winner from each community to be matched with an experienced business coach for a free one-on-one 90-day accelerator engagement. These pitch events and coaching sessions are being offered virtually.

To learn more about program qualifications, the application process, and to connect with program representatives in your community, visit

Blink Tees receives their completion certificate in November 2019. From left are Ray Rummel, president of Next Level Northwest; Jim Norris, village manager of Hoffman Estates; Sybil Ege, NLNW coach; Jeff Staten, co-owner at Blink Tees; Steve Long, Jr., co-owner at Blink Tees; Kevin Kramer, director of economic development at the village of Hoffman Estates
John Eggert with Relish Catering Kitchen displays his completion certificate at a NLNW board meeting in April 2019. From left are Matt Frank, director of economic development for the village of Schaumburg; Paula Hewson, assistant village manager at village of Schaumburg; John Eggert, executive chef/owner at Relish Catering Kitchen; and Jeff Williams, NLNW coach.
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