BAPA believes in small business owners. Small business owners make up the fabric of our neighborhood. They are often the men and women with whom attend church, volunteer and exercise. Their children attend school with our children. We know there is a story behind every business owner and that story is often tucked away.
In February, the Beverly Yoga Center celebrated 10 years of business. When I first thought of opening a yoga studio in our neighborhood, I had recently moved to Morgan Park from the North Side where yoga studios were abundant. The idea emerged from my wish to create a place where I would like to spend time.
Market research showed opening a business in Beverly was risky. I wasn’t willing to give up on my wish, so I lessened the risk and signed a lease for a small studio apartment to see if people would come. My in-laws generously invested $575 for my security deposit.
Shortly after my son turned one, he became my assistant. We travelled to IKEA to plan a reception area. He played with blocks as I called about hanging drapes. He sat in his stroller when I applied for my business license and signed my lease. His long naps allowed me to create marketing materials. At my dining room table, the Beverly Yoga Center was transformed from an idea into a business.
I love many aspects about owning a small business. I am inspired that my job is filled with purpose and aligned with my deeper core values. I feel blessed to use my innovative and creative energy for the bene t of our community. That being said, there is also the voice of the small business owner that isn’t shared and only spoken about with those who know—other small business owners.
Being the person behind the small business exposes our vulnerability as ordinary human beings. When customers aren’t happy, it isn’t about the business, it’s about the person behind the business and in our neighborhood, we most likely know who they are.
I’ve talked to many small business owners who are colleagues and friends and this is a feeling everyone has had to get used to. People watch, judge and make assumptions about decisions that we make both personally and professionally.
In our neighborhood, small business owners know we are watched. Every time I place junk food in my grocery cart at County Fair, I secretly hope I don’t run into anyone to see that fruit snacks, Doritos, frozen pizza and chicken nuggets do enter my kitchen.
When I’ve had a long day and my children have pushed me over the edge and the peaceful and stress-free yoga-studio-owner’s voice carries down the block, I want to hide under my covers and pretend it wasn’t me who yelled.
We have limitations as small neighborhood businesses. We know we are competing against large businesses with lower prices, more incentives, deep discounts and entire departments to execute what many of us do with the help of a few. It’s humbling to accept the limitations of what you can do.
Small businesses become part of family life. Children come to help empty the trash, wash windows or le paperwork. Spouses take on many different roles. My husband is my honorary book- keeper and sounding board in the middle of the night when a long list runs through my mind.
Most small business owners will tell you they work seven days a week because the business is often in the background of their mind even when they are closed for the day. Business owners are always the first line of contact regardless of what family party or plans they have for the day. Then there are the people who are behind-the-scenes lifesavers who work for us because they believe in us and our mission, not for the pay. I’ve learned to appreciate that small business owners are hard workers, innovative and deeply committed to our neighborhood.
Today, as I was lost in thought, getting to my last email before picking up my daughter from art class, I was stopped in the school parking lot by a dad who said, “You own Beverly Yoga Center, right? My wife and I started attending and love it.”
Small business owners often forget we are valued. As you can imagine, it filled my bucket to hear that comment.
Do you have a Story Behind your neighborhood small business? Please send it to Grace Kuikman, firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share it with our neighbors.