Welcome back to Peoria Magazine’s Small Business edition, 2023, in which we pose the nagging question: Is bigger better?
Not in this issue, no sir.
Again, we partner with Bradley University’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship to profile 10 central Illinois enterprises that know what it’s like to build something from scratch, with all its headaches and highlights.
The face of entrepreneurship may be changing hereabouts. It’s still driven by ambition, innovation, work ethic and all the usual suspects, but it’s more diverse, as evidenced by Christelle Frausto, the subject of our cover story and the recipient of Turner’s Women in Business Leadership Award.
Since moving to Peoria from Chicago in 2015, Frausto has started four businesses and is working on a fifth, while becoming a leader in the local Hispanic community and beyond. “I am a huge promoter of Peoria,” said Frausto, who feels duty-bound to pay it forward. “I couldn’t do any of this to this degree in another place.”
Meanwhile, one of the most promising local startups in memory is Natural Fiber Welding, Turner’s New Exporter of the Year. The company’s meteoric rise has been accompanied by some course corrections, of late, but its success in raising venture capital, the headlines it has earned for its ingenuity, and its “plants, not plastic” commitment to Earth-saving sustainability should give central Illinoisans confidence that NFW can make it big and — fingers crossed — do it from here.
As Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, rightly notes, “There’s money in doing good.”
In this issue, you’ll read about other companies — such as Micro Products with its Micro Weld brand and Midwest Bioprocessing Center with its iActive line of sunscreen — that are dedicated to doing their thing, making their products, in America and in Peoria.
So, is bigger better, or not? Like some 300 million other Earthlings, I shop at Amazon. As a company, it’s hard to get much larger — a market capitalization topping $1.3 trillion, annual revenue of about $540 billion (nine times Caterpillar’s), 1.5 million employees — like late author Kurt Vonnegut’s RAMJAC Corporation come to life.
Recently, I bought landscape edging there — eight pieces, 48 linear feet, about $155 with tax. What arrived instead was a box of four, which meant I was paying double for half the promised product. Stuff happens. Long story short, what I thought would be an easy fix, wasn’t. Called a customer service number and got a recording. Corresponded in an online chitchat. My description of the problem didn’t seem to fit neatly into Amazon’s most-likely-to-go-wrong list. I packed everything back up, returned it, reordered. And then went through the same routine all over again. Groundhog Day.
By then I was just irritated because I’m busy and I’m old and I don’t like kids crossing my lawn, either. Two swings and misses convinced me I could live without landscape edging.
Oh, I’ll continue to shop the online goliath, and certainly buy its stock. It’s hard to ignore the temptation of a world of goods at your fingertips, delivered quickly to your doorstep. What business doesn’t want to grow up to be Amazon, which once was a struggling startup itself, selling books?
But given my druthers, I’d rather walk into a local mom-and-pop, which the Small Business Administration tells me collectively creates more new jobs, keeps more dollars in the community, gives more to charity, is more environmentally friendly, and provides a personal touch.
Small businesses face formidable challenges. When they surmount them, well, it’s a great story, and this issue is full of those. Enjoy!