SumUp Highlights 5 Inspiring Stories From Chicago Small Business Owners in New Marketing Campaign

The entrepreneurs were highlighted by a marketing campaign developed by SumUp, a global financial services company

Chicago is known for its bustling small business scene. In every corner of the Windy City, you can see hard work, resilience, creativity, and diversity.

This November, SumUp unveiled a marketing campaign to honor and showcase the vibrancy of Chicago's small business community, with the valued support of American Express®. It was inspired by the belief that entrepreneurship extends far beyond the balance sheet; it’s about contributing to the local community and fostering the growth of the city.

Showcasing these everyday heroes and giving them the support that they need now, more than ever, is even more important during this holiday season. Ariana Sverdlik, Head of Brand at SumUp, noted, “Shopping local is something that SumUp will always stand for. When you buy from a neighbor, you have better service, and the quality of the products tends to be higher. Your money also stays in the community, which helps create jobs and strengthens the vitality of the region as a whole. Plus, it's more sustainable, since transportation costs – and pollution – are lower.”

The campaign unfolds across various platforms, including Out of Home, Digital, and Social Media, throughout the month of November. It shares the stories of featured businesses through engaging photography and video content.

The initiative tells the stories of five small businesses from Chicago. Sverdlik said, "They have different backgrounds and are spread across different neighborhoods, but their passion and desire to thrive and give back is the same."

Find out more about their stories below.

  • Delaney Ballard from Botanical Cafe:

People are a combination of things they love. And so are businesses; at least that is the case of Botanical Cafe, a hybrid plant shop and cafe. Co-founder Delaney Ballard remembered, “My husband always loved houseplants and wanted to do something with them. I have many years of experience in coffee and food. We decided to combine our passions four years ago, and here we are.”

Ballard was born in the Chicago suburbs and came to the city from time to time when she was younger. “Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to live here. I'm definitely a Chicagoan at heart. I love everything about the city, the people, and the food. And being part of that as well is a dream come true.”

According to Ballard, the hardest part of opening a business is how exhausting it is. She noted, "You can't just have a sick day or a day off because you are tired. You’ve got to go with it." However, some things make it all worth it. “The feeling of accomplishing something is so satisfying. Plus, I have my two-year-old daughter here almost all the time, and I love to see her growing up and talking to everyone – she loves our customers.”

Botanical Cafe is located at 3740 N Lincoln Ave, North Center.

  • Sylvia and Augie Emuwa from Dirty Laundry x Dinobi:

Sylvia and Augustine “Augie” Emuwa own Dirty Laundry x Dinobi, a self-serve laundromat that combines laundry, artistry and community. In addition to offering their plant-based, toxin-free detergent, the space also hosts events and workshops to bring the Hyde Park community together. As Augie expressed, "Dirty Laundry comes from our heart as residents of Chicago, as people who fight for social justice. We want to do good business, but also righteous business."

Dirty Laundry was always designed to be a good place for people to connect. Augie said, "The laundromat is an experience. A place for people to do laundry, find out that they have something in common, and talk about it."

The couple expects to expand the Dirty Laundry concept in the future. According to Sylvia, "I'm excited about what is next for the business and some other things up our sleeve. We are looking to develop more products and to expand the laundromat business."

Dirty Laundry x Dinobi is located at 5230 S Harper Ave, Hyde Park.

  • David Shelist from The Denim Lounge:

David Shelist has been running The Denim Lounge, a specialized designer denim boutique, for 28 years.

According to him, two factors are critical for entrepreneurs who want to open a business to last: being innovative and open to change. Shelist expressed, “If you don’t innovate and recreate yourself often, you are going to fail. Plus, don’t be afraid to take a left turn. You might want to stick to a straight path, but if you don’t turn and try different things, the straight path is not always the right path.”

The Denim Lounge has two stores, both located in Roscoe Village. Shelist said, “It's a very close-knit community. Our business really took off after the pandemic because of the support of the neighbors.”

The Denim Lounge is located at 2039 W Roscoe St, Roscoe Village; The Denim Lounge for Men is located at 3544 N Southport Ave, Roscoe Village.

  • Joe Netzel from Netzel's Barbershop:

Attention, Lakeview: Joe Netzel wants to cut your hair. He’s the owner of Netzel’s Barbershop, a neighborhood barbershop offering traditional men's haircuts.

He opened his business two years ago, during the pandemic. Netzel remembered, “COVID was hard, but the business made me able to have control of my own future. Becoming an entrepreneur was the best decision I have ever made.” According to him, the best thing about his business is connecting with people. “It’s not about cutting hair; it’s about the dynamic of the relationship you have with your customers.”

For Netzel, Lakeview represents what Chicago is about. “It has a big city vibe without having the big city vibe. A smile will go a long way here.”

Netzel’s Barbershop is located at 3355 N Lincoln Ave, Lakeview.

  • Blake Bell from Bliss & Belle:

Blake Bell always had the dream of opening a boutique. And she prepared herself for it: she studied fashion and spent seven years in the corporate side of fashion before opening Bliss and Belle, a women’s clothing and accessory boutique, in 2018.

Back then, she was surprised to see how Lincoln Park's small business community was willing to see her succeed. Bell recalled, “When I reached out to business owners of the neighborhood, they were more than willing to meet with me to sit down and tell me just about their business in the area and what to expect.”

For Bell, the best part of owning a business is to help customers find clothes they love. “I really enjoy when they leave the store excited to wear their new outfit and tell their friends that they found a great piece.”

Bliss & Belle is located at 1011 W Armitage Ave, Lincoln Park.