Women's Small Business Month - Purple Group

As part of Women’s Small Business Month, IHCC is highlighting some of the women-owned businesses that are part of our community of passionate entrepreneurs. Answers have been edited for clarity.

Laritza Lopez, Founder & CEO of Purple Group

Laritza Lopez, Founder & CEO of Purple Group

Laritza Lopez was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States with her family when she was 12 years old. She grew up in the Little Village area, played trombone in the Kelly High School marching band, and graduated from Loyola University Chicago. After spending the first part of her career working for Fortune 200 companies, Laritza founded Purple Group, a strategic marketing and communications consulting firm.

How did you discover your passion for marketing?
I started my marketing career when I was 16. I had gotten this job working at an auto place that I absolutely hated. It was dirty and I had to work late at night. I started talking with my teachers about my job and my band teacher said his wife ran a non-profit that had their offices in downtown Chicago. He introduced me to his wife and got me an interview, and I started as an intern doing data-entry and other office tasks. Every evening when the other staff left, the marketing team would still be there doing their work and I would go over and talk to them. I eventually asked to be moved to the marketing area, and after asking a couple of times they agreed. I used to write all the copy for trade shows and events, and when I got to college they asked if I could stay with them and I worked there my first year.

What inspired you to take the leap and become an entrepreneur?
After college, I was recruited into a management program with a bank, and it also transformed my life. I got to rotate into different areas of the bank to learn how to analyze business and network.  After the program, I went straight into a marketing officer position with that bank and I spent 17 years in corporate. After that, the idea of “What do I want to be doing when I’m 50?” popped into my head, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t doing what I was doing. I resigned and then spent some time backpacking through Latin America. It was then that I decided to start my own company.

How has your business evolved throughout the years and what has been the biggest challenge the organization has overcome?
Fifteen years ago, I started my company as a strategic communications consulting service. We grew with our clients, and have added services as our clients ask for them. We became Purple Group because we saw the demographic shift in America, saw the rise of the multi-ethnic millennial generation. The biggest challenge we have encountered was the recession (in 2008). It was the most difficult time for any business, just surviving.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Make sure you nail down what your revenue model is going to be. Make sure you know how you’re going to make money.

What are your future goals for Purple Group?
Our goal now is to double in size over the next few years, but we want to do it profitably. We recently launched a consumer product division and we are pursuing different clients, which is exciting. I also want to continue to provide a high energy, fulfilling environment for our team members.  

Learn more about Purple Group at www.purplegrp.com


Women's Small Business Month - Multilingual Connections

As part of Women’s Small Business Month, IHCC is highlighting some of the women-owned businesses that are part of our community of passionate entrepreneurs.

Jill Bishop is the founder and CEO of Multilingual Connections, an agency that provides professional translation and interpretation services in over 75 languages. Jill founded her company 11 years ago when she was looking for career flexibility and now leads a staff of 11, translating for clients such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Stanford University and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

What inspired you to take the leap and become an entrepreneur?
I had turned in a voluntary resignation letter and decided it was the perfect time to take the risk of starting my own business. I knew I wanted to have a family and have flexibility, so I decided to take a year to see if I could create a business that could sustain me and fulfill me professionally.

Jill Bishop, Founder/CEO of Multilingual Connections

Jill Bishop, Founder/CEO of Multilingual Connections

What is the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
Just like a human being, a business grows and changes over the course of its life. I’ve had to learn to stay flexible for what the business needs and the vision I had for it. My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to stay open to the different directions your business may take and be flexible in the way that you look at things.

What are your long term goals and dreams for Multilingual Connections?
I want to continue growing the business and also create additional opportunities for career growth for Multilingual Connection’s employees.  I would like to be giving them the tools to run with it and constantly be learning and growing.

Learn more about Multilingual Connections at http://multilingualconnections.com/

Women's Small Business Month - My Chocolate Soul

As part of Women’s Small Business Month, IHCC is highlighting some of the women-owned businesses that are part of our community of passionate entrepreneurs.

Ramona Thomas is the owner and Chief Sweets Officer of My Chocolate Soul, a chocolate business that specializes in all-natural ingredient, French chocolates and delectable dessert.

After being in business for 6 years, My Chocolate Soul is expanding and has been busy preparing its first retail storefront opening in Uptown. Ramona took a few minutes from her busy day to share her journey as a woman entrepreneur. (Answers have been edited for clarity.)

What inspired you to take the leap and open your business?
“I spent 18 years in education, and at first there were a lot of people who thought I was out of my mind. I’ve always loved sweets and took a French pastry class 6 years ago. After that class, I started working on a business plan that focused on opening a business for all-natural ingredient sweets. I really love sweets and I wanted to create products where people know what the ingredients are inside. There aren’t a lot of businesses that focus on all natural ingredients for desserts.”  

What has been the most satisfying aspect of opening your business?
“Watching people enjoy the final product. If I’m at an event, just watching people light up when they eat the chocolate and hearing positive comments from customers. Bringing joy to people’s lives has been the most satisfying part.”

What are your long term goals for My Chocolate Soul?
“I definitely want us to grow and have a national presence. I would love to be a Chicago staple like Garrett’s Popcorn, where people visit from out of town and say ‘Oh, I HAVE to visit Garrett’s.’ I would love to be able to have that kind of brand in Chicago, where people say ‘You HAVE to go try the sweets at My Chocolate Soul.’ Now that our retail facility is going to open, we can do chocolate production 24 hours a day, and I’d love to see that happen.

You can learn more about My Chocolate Soul and order some treats at www.mychocolatesoul.com.