Small business is hard.

Yet every day, thousands of people get up and go to work at one of our local establishments.  Whether that means one of the retail boutiques, restaurants or dental offices that typically come to mind or one of the hundreds of service businesses that might escape your radar, our local economy is hard at work enhancing our lives.

To recognize our outstanding businesses, the Chamber of Commerce created the Spotlight Awards.   We understand how difficult it is to compete with online providers, curate product offerings, train staff in exceptional service, provide subject matter expertise, invest in facilities, reflect the values of the community, support nonprofits, pay the bills and still offer products and services at a competitive price.  We get it!  We applaud and celebrate those doing an incredible job balancing all of this while resonating with our community.

The Spotlight Awards do just that.  Everyone in the community is encouraged to nominate any local business that deserves recognition for just being great.  We created six broad categories:  customer experience, marketing, investment, community character, green / sustainability and innovation.  Last year the public nominated 125 businesses.  The testimonials spoke to the quality of the nominees.

That said, we are not into picking favorites.  “Best of” popularity contests are not our thing in a community where are there so many terrific options.  Our job is to shine a spotlight on the multitude of businesses that go above and beyond to create a place where “shop local” is a joy, not an obligation.

Every business that receives a nomination will receive a Spotlight Award Nominee window cling and logo that can be used on social media or websites.  And yes, there will be a deserving winner in each category, announced with the appropriate fanfare and celebration in October.  But the real value is the nomination process.  The real value is involving residents in this public “atta boy,” shining a spotlight on local business who contribute so much.

Small business is hard.  Help us let the amazing businesses here know we appreciate them.  Nominate a small business between now and July 15 at

Join the discussion on social media!

Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...