Subscribe to the RSS feed for Business posts

Business Startup Help

Let us say you have had an idea rattling around in your head for a few years about how to improve a basic service or product that you have used in the past. You are pretty sure you have the knowledge and skill to deliver that enhanced service or product. Now you are wondering how to go about commercializing it.

Almost every business startup entrepreneur has gone down a similar path of having a great idea and wondering how to bring it to market. Occasionally, lightning strikes and the idea is truly a zero-to-one proposition–there was no one doing it and suddenly there is one doing it. However, those are few and far between. In most instances, the new idea is an enhancement or improvement over current services or products.

A number of organizations exist to support this type of would-be entrepreneur. Many years ago, states and local governments began establishing support networks to help people commercialize their ideas. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a major player in the small business support network; the Small Business Development Centers and the SCORE volunteer network are two examples of SBA efforts.

In recent years, more and more independent incubators and accelerators have popped up in metropolitan areas or near research universities across the nation. Public libraries have even started to engage in this support effort; the Naperville Public Library’s NaperLaunch Business Services Center is a prime example of libraries getting into the mix.

Usually, a startup founder already has a good idea; business acumen may be the thing that is needed most. That kind of help can generally be provided by the types of organizations mentioned above. One of the advantages of these groups is the personal experience of the people involved. Former founders like to share their expertise, and many of them can be engaged through participation at an incubator, accelerator, business development center or similar facility.

At the NaperLaunch Business Services Center, for instance, the focus is on teaching and sharing this kind of expertise. A partnership with experienced SCORE volunteers provides expert mentoring services to augment the library’s vast print and online information resources. This emphasis on authoritative information resources and expert mentors are just two of the things that set NaperLaunch apart from other startup organizations; another is the fact that these services are provided free of charge.

Most currently available programs assist startups in the very early stages of developing an idea, identifying a customer problem and creating a solution that can be delivered profitably. At NaperLaunch, startups are instructed and coached through these steps leading to development of a unique value proposition. The NaperLaunch Academy curriculum provides specific instruction on how to take these idea-development steps and then complete a break-even analysis, develop a business plan and create a marketing strategy.

In the past year, it became obvious that some NaperLaunch members had moved beyond the startup stage and needed new ways to advance their businesses. In response, several Master Mind groups were organized that have attracted productive founders to participate and continue their progress.

Program participants have voiced appreciation for the assistance gained. It is a testament to the philosophy of “giving back” that so many individuals have provided so much startup help to local entrepreneurs. In these ways the mission of NaperLaunch, to foster business success, is fulfilled.

Monday, November 30, 2020 - 4:30pm

Resources to Help Narrow the Gender Pay Gap

Congratulations, you landed a job offer! But now comes the tricky part: salary negotiations. These are challenging conversations for any job seekers and employers but even more so for women.

Confidence in salary negotiation or lack thereof is starkly highlighted by the gender pay gap. Without dramatic changes, that gap will not close until 2106! According to data from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), when compared to the per dollar pay of a white, male worker:

  • White women make 82 cents
  • African American women make 64 cents
  • Indigenous women make 60 cents
  • Latina women make 54 cents
The Gender Pay Gap

Photo Credit: (Great People Inside, 2017)

But never fear! There are free resources available to help women advocate for themselves and close that pay gap in this century.

The AAUW offers a free Work Smart program that helps participants research their target salary, highlight their accomplishments and find the right words to negotiate for better pay and benefits. Anyone can sign up for an online course, which takes less than two hours to complete and can be done at any pace. Want to learn more about AAUW’s Work Smart Program? Check out their website.

Another online resource, Learn How to Become, also discusses the wage gap and provides background and tools for women to advocate for themselves and become better salary negotiators.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 9:15am

NaperLaunch Academy Offers New Options for Accessing Business Startup Curriculum

More than 100 entrepreneurs have attended NaperLaunch Academy to develop fundamental business knowledge and learn the “lean startup process.” To meet the needs of busy entrepreneurs, the Academy curriculum is now available in two formats: live workshops or self-guided virtual courses.

Live Workshops

Beginning August 11, SCORE mentors and NaperLaunch staff will present the Academy curriculum in a series of six 2-hour workshops, which will be offered in an ongoing, sequential rotation. Participants may choose to attend some or all of the following workshops in the sequence that best meets their needs.

  • Business Conceptualization
  • Startup Financial Issues
  • Business Operations
  • Business Planning
  • Strategic Marketing Planning
  • Sales

This fall, workshops will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays from August 11 to September 15, and on Wednesdays from September 23 to October 28. Workshops will take place via Zoom videoconference until further notice.

More information, including course descriptions and registration information, can be found on the NaperLaunch Academy webpage.

Self-Guided Virtual Courses

In addition, the original 17 NaperLaunch Academy class sessions are available virtually on the NaperLaunch BizVids webpage. Participants can work through the courses on their own schedule. Sessions were videorecorded during a previous NaperLaunch Academy cohort and are provided with links to handouts and PowerPoint presentations.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - 4:15pm

Summer Job Search Help

2020 has been a roller coaster of a year and we are only halfway through! The good news is that Naperville Public Library’s job search resources are holding steady, prepared to help anyone find the career they are seeking. Included below is a comprehensive list of job search resources that NPL cardholders can access from home.

Brainfuse JobNow! - Live job search assistance from job coaches, including resume and cover letter help and live interview practice and feedback, plus several online resources and links. Check out this video tutorial! -  Refresh skills or learn a new computer program. is an online library of instructional videos that can help anyone learn software, technology, creative, and business skills to achieve personal and professional goals. Check out this video tutorial!

Mergent Intellect - Prepare for an interview by learning more about a company’s industry. Mergent Intellect contains public, private and international business data and profiles, plus consumer demographic data to generate insightful business intelligence.

ReferenceUSA –  Create a geographically targeted list of companies for your job search. This database is a premier source of business and residential information with more than 40 million businesses, 150 million households across the U.S. and Canada, and 270 million consumers available for you to search. Check out this video tutorial!


If you would like a one-on-one appointment to learn more about how these resources can be tailored to your specific needs, please contact a member of the business team. We are happy to meet virtually to assist you in using our job search tools as well as other Naperville Public Library business resources.

Shoshana Frank – Naper Blvd Library (Job Search)

Lindsay Harmon - Nichols Library (Entrepreneurship/Small Business)

Kent Palmer - Nichols Library (Entrepreneurship/Small Business)

Donna Pistolis – 95th Street Library (Financial Literacy)

Amy Weidner – Naper Blvd Library (Job Search)

Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 3:00pm

Create a Target Company List with ReferenceUSA

Screenshot of ReferenceUSA

Get help with your job search with ReferenceUSA, a free digital database you can access from home with your Naperville Public Library card. The steps below will help you can create a targeted company list to find the perfect potential employer. (For a video tutorial, visit the Library’s YouTube channel.)

Begin by visiting the Library’s website to access the database, then use the Resources & Services dropdown menu to navigate to the Jobs & Careers page.

Scroll down and click on ReferenceUSA at the bottom right side of the page. From here, you will be automatically directed to log into the Library’s online resources with your Library card number and PIN. After logging in, the home page for ReferenceUSA appears.

There are two different areas of potential interest for job seekers: the U.S. Businesses search and the U.S. Jobs/Internships. The jobs are focused on information supplied by and updated regularly with new job listings; rather than applying through ReferenceUSA, be sure to visit the company’s website to apply directly.

To search the U.S. Businesses database, click on Search, then select the Advanced Search tab. The Advanced Search includes numerous features that can be used to narrow the focus; these are the left side of the page. After a limiter is selected, it is displayed in the middle of the page. The right side of the page shows the current number of companies that meet into your search criteria; clicking on Update Count will update that information.

Start with a Geography limiter such as Metro Area, then in the middle of the page, choose your state and local regions to narrow the results. For example, selecting Chicago-Npvl, IL will narrow the list to about 400,000 companies.

Adding a Business Size limiter such as Number of Employees will narrow the results and provide a better idea of the work environment. In the example above, clicking Update Count narrows the results to about 4,000 companies.

To truly create a targeted list, specify a Business Type using either the Keyword/SIC/NAICS or Major Industry Group limiters. This will help you narrow your list to companies in a specific industry.

Experiment with these limiters until you have created a list of about 100 to 200 results. When you are satisfied, click View Results on the right side of the page.

The results page shows information about each company, executive’s names, locations, phone numbers, and limited email addresses. Downloading this data as an Excel spreadsheet will enable you to edit and remove companies or highlight them during your job search.

To download your list, check the box at the top of each page of results. Then click Download, choose how you want the information downloaded (the default works well), and click Download Records. (You can also choose Email Records; ReferenceUSA will send an Excel document via email to the address you input.)

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask a member of the Naperville Public Library’s Business Team. You can also email them to schedule a virtual appointment for one-on-one assistance.

Good luck on your job search!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 8:45am