Chicago nonprofit offers business advice to community at Evanston Public Library


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. EPL is partnering with SCORE Chicago to provide small business mentorship and workshops to Evanston entrepreneurs.

Julia Esparza, Reporter

The Evanston Public Library is working to connect local businesspeople with retired industry professionals to offer business advice and guidance.

Each week, entrepreneurs and business owners are able to attend one-on-one mentoring meetings and workshops at EPL. The workshops are hosted by volunteers from SCORE Chicago, a not-for-profit organization that offers business advice to community members. Mentors with SCORE include retired executives who are available to assist Evanston’s “growing entrepreneur community,” said Susan Markwell, EPL’s business and financial literacy librarian.

EPL and SCORE also host workshops and seminars addressing a wide range of topics including information security, e-commerce and business taxation. Markwell said attendees sometimes come from outside Evanston to participate in these sessions, which are free to the public.

“A lot of the time, small business owners put their livelihoods on the line in trying to make these businesses work,” Markwell. “It’s really helpful to know there is this network of people that can offer support in turning that dream into reality.”

Markwell said SCORE asks participants to fill out a survey, then matches mentees with professionals who have experience in the specific area they are interested in.

She added that workshops are a good opportunity for patrons to learn about topics they hadn’t considered before. The workshops are often interactive, Markwell said, and mentors may tailor their discussions to the issues the businesspeople in attendance are facing on a given day.

EPL director Karen Danczak Lyons said SCORE promotes the library’s mission to help the community.

“EPL wants to help our residents reach their goals by providing the programs and resources to do so,” Danczak Lyons said. “So when they have questions like ‘How do I start a business, and where do I look for funding?’ we can be there.”

By bringing in mentors from SCORE, Danczak Lyons said residents are able to build a direct relationship with seasoned professionals who are eager to provide advice.

Bob Strauss, one of the mentors who hosts workshops at EPL, said he signed up to be a mentor with SCORE one month after retiring. He said his job now is “to help people be successful” and that he helps facilitate many of the group sessions at EPL. Strauss said he even meets one-on-one with participants outside of the library.

He said he advises many different types of businesspeople, including those trying to advance up the corporate ladder, entrepreneurs who have left large companies to start their own and others who have never worked in the industry but are interested in starting a small business.

“Part of our mission is to help businesses succeed, whether it’s making one dollar or $5 million,” Strauss said.

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