Wilmette’s Meyer spreads the new about business
Ann Meyer of Wilmette of SmallBizChicago.com, a news site that offers resources and stories about small businesses in Chicago, is competing for a 250,000 grant from Chase Bank on Saturday, June 16, 2012 in Wilmette. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
WHO: Ann Meyer
WHAT: Independent journalist writes about the world of small business
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:44AM
If you’re the proprietor of a small business, you’re used to hard work, hard challenges and hard-won rewards.
You’re probably not at all used to reporters covering either your triumphs or your concerns. Ann Meyer wants to change that.
The Wilmette resident, a career journalist who is an articulate and passionate cheerleader for small business, hopes her fledgling venture, SmallBizChicago.com will provide a voice for small business in Chicago — a stage for businesses and a resource for owners and operators to turn to when they need media help.
“You hear politicians say that small business is going to power the economic turn-around,” she said in a recent interview. “Well, I believe that.”
Meyer used to write about small business for the Chicago Tribune. She began work on SmallBizChicago.com in 2010; the vision for it grew out of her years of experience with business entrepreneurs.
“Most small businesses in Chicago never get covered in the news, and they never talk to the media. I thought it would be really valuable to provide an outlet for them to get their stories to the people who need to see them.”
The Oak Park native came to journalism early (she was an editor for the Oak Park-River Forest High School newspaper) but jokes that she fell into business reporting after graduating from Northwestern University and working at newspapers in Florida.
“I’d had no real desire to go into business reporting, but I discovered there are a lot more opportunities for interesting stories if you’re willing to look for them.”
Whether she writes about marketing, leadership, the challenges and successes of businesses – or the sometimes necessary failures – Meyer said the key to dynamic business reporting is remembering the people at the core of every story.
After striking out on her own in 2010, Meyer successfully nurtured, and continues to edit a trade group magazine. But she couldn’t get the idea of SmallBizChicago.com out of her head. She gathered a group of professional experts and colleagues from whom she could draw advice and well-written columns, and launched the web site with a $10,000 investment.
It’s currently in what Meyer refers to as “beta testing” but she hopes to expand it and make it more active in the near future. Although she is quick to say that journalism is her chosen field, Meyer’s own entrepreneurial spirit is healthy.
In an attempt to gain new capital for SmallBizChicago.com, she signed up for the Chase “Mission: Small Business” challenge, a grant program run by Chase Bank and the LivingSocial group. If her application is one of the winning 12, she said, she will be able to use the money to increase her sales and marketing efforts, and to hire full- and part-time journalists to work on page content.
When Meyer is not developing SmallBizChicago.com or working on other projects, she finds time to spend with her family: husband Greg Burns, children Matt (studying economics and finance at McGill University), Jenny (a sophomore at New Trier) and Lindsey (a student at Wilmette Junior High School) and her dog Dottie.
Her family has supported her efforts, she said – just as she is trying to support the men and women whose businesses she wants to support.
“I’m doing this because of my passion for journalism, but also because I believe in small business,” she said.
“Enterpreneurship is something people understand as having a social purpose all its own. It powers this country.”