City hosts bilingual program on how to start a small business
‘I want to continue to get the Hispanic community more involved’
ROCHELLE — On Nov. 9, the City of Rochelle hosted a bilingual program at Salt 251 for residents on how to start a small business.
The Hispanic Community Business Expo featured presentations by a number of community stakeholders on the process of starting a business. The event started as an idea by City Councilwoman Rosaelia Arteaga.
“I wanted to do this because since I've been on city council, there have been a lot of people that have reached out and asked me things about opening a business,” Arteaga said. “And I don't always have all the answers. I want people to have those answers from the people that know."
After a welcome by Arteaga, Waubonsee Community College Small Business Development Center Spanish Business Advisor Noelia Ruiz walked attendees through basic requirements of starting a business.
Kishwaukee College Director of Adult Education & Transition Programs Patti Wragg explained the resources available at the college for prospective business owners including classes to help with doing business with a language barrier.
City of Rochelle Building Inspector Geoff Starr then explained the process of getting business spaces approved by the city and the resources available to owners. Chuck Cantrell of the Ogle County Health Department presented as well on what it’s like to work with his organization as a business owner, especially for prospective restaurateurs.
Rochelle Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tricia Herrera presented on the benefits of joining the chamber and how it can help new businesses with marketing and social media. Barrio Agave Owners Jen and Alejandra Gonzalez spoke from the perspective of a business that recently took the leap and opened its doors.
Andy Shaw of the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone spoke about the benefits available to businesses within the enterprise zone in the area, including relief on sales tax when buying building materials.
Presentations were made in Spanish and through translators. Rochelle Municipal Utilities Utility Billing Manager Autumn Hernandez spoke about working with RMU as a business customer. City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh and City Community Development Director Michelle Pease talked about incentive programs available to business owners and said the city is available as a resource to local businesses.
“Thank you all for coming tonight,” Fiegenschuh said. “We need to do this more often. I want everybody here to know that the City of Rochelle is a resource for all of you. Anytime you need any help with anything, that's what we're here for. I know it can be scary when you're starting a business and it seems like there's a lot of barriers to doing what you want to do. But our staff is always here to help you. We're here as a resource. It doesn't mean we can always say yes, but our philosophy is trying to find a way to help you open your business. A city is only successful if everybody in this room is successful. If you ever have any questions, all you have to do is reach out to city hall. We have the answers to your questions.”
Arteaga said she was happy with the night’s turnout and the city would like to host more informational meetings like it in the future. When she was elected in 2021, she became Rochelle’s first Hispanic city council member.
“I was happy to see the people that came,” Arteaga said. “There were a variety of business interests from attendees tonight including people who want to open a restaurant, electrician business and a family fun park. I want to continue to get the Hispanic community more involved in different city aspects. I want them to be more informed, which means getting people more involved. Getting them to come to these informational meetings to learn about what the city has to offer, a lot of people seem to be asking questions because they didn't know. And before I got on city council, I didn't know either. I just want to be able to bridge the information gap and get everybody the information they need.”
Arteaga said the city has a number of bilingual employees at both City Hall and RMU to work with residents and customers. She called the experience of making the presentation Nov. 9 in English and Spanish “exciting” and thanked the community stakeholders that came to speak and take part in it. Rochelle’s population is nearly 30 percent Hispanic.
City officials hope that Nov. 9’s event will result in residents taking the leap and starting their own businesses in the future.
“I hope that people who have a goal or a dream, even if it takes a couple of years, get to that dream and get those wheels turning,” Arteaga said. “Whether it's a restaurant or their own plumbing business, whatever they want. I hope they work on it and execute it and go and ask questions and follow through.”
Arteaga said it’s important that the city’s business community reflects its demographics, but it’s more important that those businesses are supported by customers and local organizations so they can be successful.
Over the past few years in her work as the city’s first Hispanic council member, Arteaga said she’s felt passionate and that she has a job to do.
“Because my parents didn't have the opportunity or the language,” Arteaga said. “I just try to help when I can. In my position I root for the people that were here tonight that were like myself and my parents. I sometimes feel like I carry that. But it's not weight, it's passion. I know that I want to do good things for everybody. But I want to be a representative for the Hispanic community and I want more people to be informed and to start their own business and go to school. I want them to be able to have what they want and do better for themselves.”