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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlights

We are proud of the work being done by Freeport and Stephenson County business owners and employers. The features below tell the stories of innovation, ingenuity, perseverance, and generosity that continue to be the common theme for success.

Jet Beauty Mart owners and employees standing behind a row of their wigs for sale

Jet Beauty Mart

JetBeautyMart is more then just a beauty supply store. Once you walk in you will find yourself in hair-heaven, and ready to help you find what you need are owner Oliver Hammond and his fantastic staff. Jet Beauty Mart also offers shoes, clothes, makeup, and much more. Oliver Hammond said, “I am proud to offer everyday needs but also some unique finds.” Oliver says that one of the most rewarding parts of being a business owner is getting to know the customers and making friends. Jet Beauty Mart has been in business for 26 years and is located in Downtown Freeport at 5 W. Stephenson St. Oliver says that the best advice he would give to someone starting a business is, “start slow, be patient, and be honest.” Next time you are in downtown Freeport make sure you stop into Jet Beauty Mart and say “hi”, they would love to see you.
Photo of Carmella Jackson, owner of Twice as Nice

Twice as Nice

Twice as Nice, owner Carmella Jackson says, “Owning a business comes with a myriad of emotions. First off, the joy and exhilaration of starting your own business in the first place are perhaps the most enjoyable. It takes a lot of preparation, a ton of difficult decisions, and a whole lot of family and friend support! But after the initial stages of ‘Oh My! What have I done?!?’ wear off, you can savor in the knowledge that you accomplished your dream. I opened my first store back in November of 1999 and looking back I think fondly of how amazing it was to be able to open the doors and welcome in my new customers, who have subsequently become true friends. Some of my customers were just teenagers when they first started shopping with me and have now become mothers who are shopping for their own children! It’s a wonderful cycle that I was able to watch unfold right before my eyes!”

Is it difficult to own your own business? “ABSOLUTELY! There will be times (perhaps many times) that you will want to give up, throw in the towel, say good-bye to being your own boss but if you truly love what you do and continue to educate yourself in your field, you can overcome the trials and struggles that come your way. Don’t ever doubt what you’re capable of. Keep learning, keep helping others and keep an open mind to suggestions and criticism. Any booming business that you know of has had to change the way they do business somehow to accommodate the everchanging economy, customer base, and the world as we know it. There would never be any way anyone of us could have predicted that businesses would have been affected the way they were this past year. I mean, A PANDEMIC?!? Jeepers, It caught all of us off guard and we had to quickly pivot in order for our businesses to survive. Some of us worked 12-14 hours a day just to come up with ways to push through the newly regulated world that we live in. Pivoting in order to allow our customers to continue to utilize our products and services, it was the most difficult time for any business, (unless you were selling hand sanitizer, toilet paper or masks LOL, then this was your time to shine!). Anyway, the most rewarding part of owning your own business is the feeling you get when you are able to help people fulfill a need in their life. My business happens to be reselling clothing and furniture which is rewarding in that I am helping the earth by recycling items that otherwise may have made it to the landfill while also assisting people to find true treasures for a great value! It is literally a dream come true for me.”

What resources helped you the most in your entrepreneurial journey? “During your entrepreneurial journey, you will want to make yourself aware of the many different organizations and programs available to you that will assist your business to thrive. The programs that will be available to your business will differ according to your particular specialty but something that everyone can do is join their local chamber of commerce (Greater Freeport Partnership). This is an amazing place to find resources to help boost your business in so many ways. They have access to so much information regarding finances, customers, business plans and the list goes on. Make sure to utilize them for as much as they have to offer. Also, make yourself aware of any local services or groups that may be in your area. For me, the local downtown group has been a lot of help with organizing and advertising events as well as offering information that is relevant to my business.”

Final thoughts: “Overall, if you are contemplating starting your own business my advice would be this:
Research – make sure to check out other businesses that are similar to yours and see how they run things, ask questions, soak in as much as you can.
Plan – make a business plan, save up money, utilize any grants or funds available, try to minimize the amount of money that you need to borrow
Execute – JUST DO IT! – Go for it – How will you know what you’re capable of if you don’t give it a try?”

Heritage Woods staff lines up on the stairs near the front entrance

Heritage Woods

Heritage Woods of Freeport has been a part of the community for seven years. It has been their pleasure to give back to the community by offering affordable assisted-lifestyle living for seniors over the age of 65 on a limited income, as well as offering employment opportunities to our community. “Our emphasis is on maintaining your health, wellness, dignity, and independence at Heritage Woods of Freeport. You will enjoy friendly neighbors to share common life experiences in an attractive community that is comfortable, secure, and safe,” said Patty Miller. Heritage Woods is located at 1500 S. Forest Rd. just off the roundabout.

Midwest Community bank staff group photo

Midwest Community Bank

Midwest Community Bank has nine locations that exceed the expectations of their northwest Illinois customers, families, and businesses specializing in delivering financial products and services. Their vision statement, “Committed to your Success,” applies to everything they do at Midwest Community Bank.
The bank started in Freeport in 1966, and while it has grown significantly over the years, it is still proud to be headquartered in Freeport.
The employees share their time, talent, and treasure in the communities in which the bank operates. They realize it’s only due to the wonderful customers in each community that they continue to remain in business. The bank and its employees give back in order to say “thank you” and to help make our community strong. They are enriched by giving back and continually learn from the people they spend time with and serve.

Key Industries

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Construction, Plumbing, Heating, & Service

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Private Label Food Manufacturing

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New Messaging Tools Available to You February 14, 2024 greater freeport partnership You don’t have to be in marketing to understand that it is increasingly difficult to get your message out! Additional social and media channels, homogeneous algorithms, and the expense of advertising make reaching customers a challenging endeavor. The Partnership has recently upgraded our customer management software (CMS) and with it, the opportunities for our members to utilize tools within the […]
Diversity in Business February 8, 2024 diversity, greater freeport partnership Last week we had the first class of our 2024 BASE Camp program. The Business Academy for Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs (BASE) Camp is an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to learn more about the important elements of business ownership to be successful. We had great instructors in Kim Ewoldson, executive director of the Sauk Valley Small […]
Celebrating Black History Month: Local Events in Freeport and Stephenson County February 5, 2024 Black History Month, Celebrating, Freeport, Stephenson County As we usher in the month of February, celebrating Black History Month takes center stage across the nation. In Freeport and Stephenson County, these events serve as a platform to commemorate and pay homage to the rich and diverse African American heritage in the community. From educational seminars and cultural exhibitions to artistic performances and community discussions, the local events […]
Manufacturing is Key to Stephenson County’s Economy January 31, 2024 Freeport, greater freeport partnership, Manufacturing, Stephenson County A key pillar in Illinois’ economic base is manufacturing. The manufacturing industry has a variety of subsectors with a very diverse employment base and is the state’s largest industry when ranked by contribution to GDP (gross domestic product). The total economic impact of manufacturing in Illinois is estimated to be between $580 and $611 billion annually. This figure reflects the […]