One Nation, Under Scrutiny — March 19, 2015

One Nation, Under Scrutiny

Almost 14 years ago on a Tuesday afternoon, second-grader Ymn Ghalyoun sat in her elementary school classroom. She remembers hearing about the planes crashing into two towers in New York. At first, Ghalyoun didn’t understand all of the news she was seeing on television about the buildings crumbling. But soon enough, things started to change for her.

She was told to be careful, to watch what she said, because the country – whether on the news on in her everyday life – was watching. Ghalyoun, who didn’t wear a hijab at the time, started to become conscious of the way others perceived her religious identity, her otherness.

“I started feeling afraid,” she said. “I wouldn’t want my mom to come to school because I didn’t want people to know that I was Muslim.”

And while Ghalyoun says that she will not let that day define her, it is hard for her to deny that things could never be the same after it.
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Diversey Business Turnover — November 13, 2014

Diversey Business Turnover

By Allyssa Campbell-Sawyer, Emily Clement and Gabriela Najera

StoryMap of Lincoln Park/Lakeview East businesses.

Lincoln Park is one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods and is home to some of its most significant tourist attractions. It’s home to DePaul University and Chicago hot-spots like the Lincoln Park Zoo, Sweet Mandy B’s and Second City Improv.

But not far from many of those attractions, other businesses are failing.

Between Clark Street and Sheridan Road on Diversey Parkway, there have been a cluster of businesses that have either turned over or closed down within the span of about a year. These business are spread between the Lincoln Park and Lakeview East neighborhoods. Many businesses have closed, including Pizza Persona and Langford Market, while new businesses have popped up, including Yolk. and mfk. These business failures could be blamed on poor business sales, but the success or failure of a business rides on much more than one factor alone.

“There are a million ways to go out of business; I think rent prices increasing push people out more than anything,” said Scott Worsham, 51, owner of recently opened restaurant mfk.

Seafood restaurant mfk. opened July 3 at 432 W. Diversey Parkway. (Photo/Emily Clement)
Seafood restaurant mfk. opened July 3 at 432 W. Diversey Parkway. (Photo/Emily Clement)

A recent study by Small Business Trends showed that 50% of new businesses fail within the first year, while 95% fail within the first five years. The most high-risk businesses include independent restaurants and retail stores – the same types of businesses that have been closing in Lincoln Park and Lakeview East. Another study published by The Washington Post showed that new businesses have a 39.8% chance of surviving the first six years.

When looking at the demographics of the Lincoln Park and Lakeview East areas, it is
surprising that business is so bad in these neighborhoods. The average income in Lincoln Park is $115,774; in Lakeview East, 56% of residents earn $50,000 or higher.

Patrick J. Murphy, a business management professor at DePaul University, explained that in the case of these Near North neighborhoods, business are failing because the areas are already well-off, therefore there’s no place for them.

“Traditionally when we think about new businesses starting, especially entrepreneurial businesses, they don’t go to where things are already fine,” Murphy said. “Entrepreneurial businesses do better where things need to improve.”

Despite Murphy’s hypothesis, Yoav Saada, 28, owner of The Panini Republic, says he
has the recipe for success in Lakeview East, wrapped in his fresh paninis. The restaurant has only been open since late September, but Saada felt that with DePaul and a handful of hospitals nearby, the location of his restaurant has potential.

He also said that with his fresh meat and veggies prepared in-store daily, there is no competition to his menu.

“There are a few paninis at Panera, but they don’t come close to my quality,” Saada said.

The Panini Republic opened late September on the corner of Diversey Parkway and Pine Grove Avenue. (Photo/Emily Clement)
The Panini Republic opened late September on the corner of Diversey Parkway and Pine Grove Avenue. (Photo/Emily Clement)

According to Murphy, the number one reason for business failure was dysfunction within the team of the business. Often times the dysfunction begins with bad employees hired by the owner or manager. An incompetent employee leaving a company costs the owner money, and a good employee leaving costs them even more. This is why it’s important for business owners to hire good employees and be able to keep them.

But another reason Murphy cited is a problem with the plan of action for the business
before it even gets on its feet.

“The founder, or whoever comes up with the original plan […] doesn’t effectively
distinguish between his or her idea and the opportunity that they’re going after,” he said.

Murphy explained that the idea for a business, or the type of establishment an
entrepreneur or owner is looking to open, must complement the opportunity for that idea. For example, if a neighborhood is missing an ice cream shop, there is opportunity for an entrepreneur to open one in that neighborhood. Having an idea without an opportunity or vice versa spells trouble for a business, he said.

Yolk., the Chicago breakfast and brunch giant, opened a new location on Diversey Parkway in March of 2014.

“We have had a great response from the neighborhood,” said manager Lou Liagridonis, 38. “This area needed something [like Yolk.] and it hits a big genre. Anybody from young to old comes here.”

While Liagridonis thinks Yolk. will find success on Diversey, other well-known chains nearby like Nine West Outlet and Jamba Juice have failed to keep their doors open. Murphy attributes that to the fact that these chains have corporate offices that they report to. If a certain store location isn’t performing at the level of others, the corporation may force that location to close.

When a business fails, the owner then must go through the process of closing his or her business down: filing tax returns, reporting capital gains and losses, all of the tedious, robotic steps necessary for a mess-free shutdown. But Murphy said that the most difficult part of closing down a business is not the process itself, but the psychological toll on the entrepreneur.

Worsham admitted that failure is an intimidating thought.

“Spending a lot of money to open the doors and having some great people, then failing
them all — that’s the biggest [fear],” Worsham said.

With all the new businesses opening in the area between Clark Street and Sheridan Road on Diversey Parkway, there’s no telling which of them, if any at all, will find their niche market in Lincoln Park. However, if these entrepreneurs want success, they have to make sure all of the elements of their plans come together to create good business.

“Let’s say the right talent or knowledge, in the right place, at the right time, combined with the right goals – and then a little bit of luck,” Murphy said.

Storify: Wrigley Field Demo — October 20, 2014
The Pros and “Cons” of Michi Trota — June 9, 2014

The Pros and “Cons” of Michi Trota

Michi Trota can’t remember the exact moment she became a nerd, probably because it wasn’t an exact moment. From childhood, she inherited a passion for comics and sci-fi/fantasy series from her parents. Her mother encouraged her to look up to the strong female characters in the series they loved together; not “girly-girls,” but rather self-assured women, even if such women were fictional.

Growing up, Trota was given a great deal of parental responsibility to care for her little brother because of her mother’s worsening multiple sclerosis. When she was 12, her mother died, and her father remarried in her teens. Once he remarried, their father-daughter relationship was strained — he wanted her to surrender the autonomy she was given as a girl.

Yet there was one thing that brought Trota and her father together despite their power struggle.

“A lot of the ways that my father and I remained connected was through a mutual love of those fandoms….loving anime…loving science fiction,” Trota said.
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In the “Game of Thrones,” You Binge or You Die —

In the “Game of Thrones,” You Binge or You Die

A young woman retrieves four books and three magazines from a nook in her bedroom shelf. She spreads the reading materials out on the knitted bed throw lying on top of her comforter, fanning them so that each cover can be seen in all its glory.

Among the near-collage of posters on the walls of the room, including one large poster of Lady Gaga, boasting the “Born This Way Ball Tour 2011,” two posters stick out from the rest.

Rachel Kucharz, 20, has a bit of an obsession. The two posters, four books, and two magazines all have one thing in common – they all celebrate the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
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Throw Some Beats On That — How to Create a Piece of EDM Music —

Throw Some Beats On That — How to Create a Piece of EDM Music

Derrick Williamson, Jr. sits down to the desk in his college dorm room. On the far right sits a midi-piano, about one third the size of a regular piano. It is silver with typical piano keys; notches and buttons sit above the keys. To the far left, sits an American Audio VMS 2, a brand of midi-controller. This midi-controller, or a portable DJ machine, has two black turntables, and an array of switches, notches, buttons, and crossfaders.

In the center of the desk lies a Mac computer with a program open. For Williamson, the program serves one creative purpose.

It’s where the music happens.
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