Staying at the top of your game is always a challenge.  Creating a community of “life-long learners” is a key goal of our local school district.  But actually committing yourself to constant study and improvement is a real challenge once you finish school.

This is especially true for small business owners.  WIth the relentless pressure of running the company, working with employees, servicing customers and satisfying clients, there is little free time available for taking classes or learning with intention.  Yet, the constant change is the nature of our business today.  Now more than ever, a successful business person must keep up with the latest trends and tools.

Many small businesses look to their local chamber to find opportunities for professional development.  We are fortunate to have three active chambers in OPRF, Forest Park and Berwyn each providing interesting curriculum for both members and nonmembers. Our Chamber here in Oak Park and River Forest offers one program each month geared towards a wide audience and 2-4 additional programs monthly focussing on the needs of a particular sector.  Information about our classes can be found on our website.

As recently as a year ago, you had to attend in person to gain information from these programs.  With current technology, we’re able to record and post the programs through Facebook Live, allowing busy entrepreneurs to watch at his/her own convenience.

Businesses sometimes struggle to find relevant, affordable professional development opportunities among the barrage of emails touting online courses, webinars and expensive conferences.  In addition to offering our own programs for local businesses, we’ll be curating information on other programs and services available to our local businesses.  The SBA, the City of Chicago, nearby “development centers”, other chambers, our local community college and universities and even for profit entities such as labor lawyers all offer reasonably priced – or free – professional development opportunities. The trick is knowing about them and then making time for them.

The Oak Park and River Forest public libraries are also phenomenal resources.  Offering both in person programs and free online webinars, they a tremendous resource for local business people committed to life-long learning and professional development.

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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...