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The Innovators Among Us

If the Pandemic Has Taught Us Anything It's That Resilence and Innovation Are More Important Than Ever.

Daniel Bruce Wimer

DIBI Menswear

DIBI (pronounced “D-B”) was launched in 2010 with just 14 styles of skinny ties. At the time I also had a boutique event production company in Chicago and was modeling for the FORD agency.  

With DIBI we promote individuality among customers and encourage them to express their unique sense of style. As a lifestyle-driven company we hold ourselves to the highest standards of creativity, quality and customer service.  

I always planned to open a physical location, but with so many North American and international boutiques cancelling orders or closing their doors due to the pandemic, I sped up my timetable. I believe we are ahead of the curve because local retail will come back stronger than ever. In many ways digital shopping is great, but online can’t duplicate the physical experience of brick-and-mortar. 

I have been involved with the international fashion industry for the past 15 years, and I draw on that experience to help guide a client. The most important element to anything I design or sell is physical comfort. Whether formal or casual, apart from looking amazing, it must also feel amazing.  

Raised in Palatine, and married with two young sons, I have extended family in the area. We live in Lake Barrington and enjoy outdoor activities and spending time together in the kitchen. 

Learn more at ShopDIBI.com

Mauricio Romy

Ovenbird

I began the Ovenbird project in June 2020 after launching our toy store—Happki—in Deer Park in late 2019. I know how difficult it is to start a business and manage it with limited resources.  Small business owners wear many hats, and it can be overwhelming when you’re not seeing growth. After opening Happki, I learned that technology is a great tool, but often only affordably accessible to large enterprises. I knew Ovenbird was needed to provide a solution for small business owners like me.

Our platform is in the early stages of development by our small, dedicated team in Illinois, Columbia and Spain. We plan to release our platform in modules that allow business owners to start using our tools as they are released. We look to launch an Inventory Management module by April and a CRM module in June. Our target is to have five main modules, adding Point-of-Sale, eCommerce and Analytics by November.

My goal is to create something that caters to Main Street businesses that for too long have been neglected. Small businesses don’t need lots of bells and whistles, just something simple and affordable. We want to build a community of small business owners and provide them with the tools they need to be successful.

To contact Mauricio Romy visit Ovenbird.io.

Zach Witt

ilumen: Solar Power Products and Installation

The foundation of our business is to educate and promote solar energy in the area. We started in 2016 when I realized there wasn’t a big presence of solar here. I changed that with ilumen Solar.

We specialize in highly aesthetic solar installations. Our goal is to make the install look as seamless as possible, while maintaining a quick return on investment. We do this with meticulous design, all-black panels, a 25-year warranty, hiding conduit in attics and clean electrical work. We go above-and-beyond so that a customer is 100% happy.

The business continues to grow and evolve, almost by the day. Before this I was in IT and Telecom sales. I was good at my job but wanted to make the world a better place.

Now is a good time to go solar because the sooner we can get off fossil fuels the better. Every home in SW Lake County that goes solar makes a difference in reducing carbon in the atmosphere. Even if you can’t do an onsite system, you can still subscribe to a nearby community solar farm.    

I’m born and raised in Barrington so it’s exciting to be making a positive change here. I went to Montana State University for Business Management and Entrepreneurship (and also “studied” snowboarding).

Learn more at ilumenpv.com

Nancy Van Broekhoven

Party Pouch: Shareable Ready-To-Serve Premium Cocktails

Launched in 2019 with my partner, Dominic Voso, Party Pouch develops and packages multi-serving, ready-to-drink cocktails in a convenient one-liter pouch. The pouch is lightweight, portable, won't break or spill, and is easy-to-share. We use only premium spirits mixed with all-natural ingredients, no added sugars and gluten free. We have three versions: Vodka, lemonade & tea; “Sex on the Beach” (vodka and tequila based); and Blue Agave Margarita.

Dominic and I come from different backgrounds. I was in banking, airlines and consulting. Dom launched an energy drink and was in franchise development and management.

Our first products are in 125 locations in Illinois. We’ve done fairly well considering our original marketing plans were canceled due to the pandemic. This year we are poised to go national having used 2020 to develop new products and distributor contacts. In our pipeline are more flavors, an expanded selection of spirits, and a Party Pouch Light with lower alcohol.

Among our most valuable lessons is that consumers respond to innovation more than we expected. We strive for a “2 + 2 = 5” mentality where partnering with retailers create more revenue and profit for them, and more demand and exposure for us.

Learn more at PartyPouch.com and use the store locator to find retail locations. 

Heather Moran

Singer

Heather Moran is a veteran of the local music scene. The bands she has played with are too numerous to name. Suffice it to say if you’ve been to any local hangout before the pandemic, and heard this amazing voice rising above the instruments, you’ve probably fallen under her musical spell.

2020 was a tough year for Moran as it was for all local performers. Economically it was a wash for most as they scrambled to find other sources of income. Heather—like her colleague Gina Gonzalez—turned to online performances. With the talent to tackle not only the American Songbook but rock, folk, country and more, Heather lives for her live performances. During the shutdown of musical venues, she has been refining her skills as a pianist.

Heather Moran also supports efforts in the community to promote local businesses. Watch her fabulous performance of "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year’s Eve (https://fb.watch/2Pq2YSJT0L/).

Gina Gonzalez

Singer-Songwriter

Local performers were hurt more than most when the shutdown occurred last year. Losing the opportunity to get up on a stage meant more than a loss of income; it also excised a performer’s creative outlet.

Gina Gonzalez, who’s performed for decades including tours as a singer with the Gary Sinise and the Lieutenant Dan Band, knew she had to play. So, she leaned into doing something she never thought possible—performing live online. From a comfortable set-up in her living room, often joined by her husband Leo and pet dog, Bella, Gonzalez signs on to Facebook and off she goes. Her playing is subsidized by a virtual tip jar so that fans can pay for her performance.

Does this replace the income she generated before the shutdown? Not even close, but it’s a nice way to stay connected to a fan base, perform music, and have a few laughs with fans while collectively hoping for better days soon.

Gina Gonzalez performs on Facebook at 8 p.m. most Fridays, at facebook.com/GinaGonzalezMusic. Her original music can be streamed on Spotify.

Brian Blasey

NeverMeasure

After 20+ years at Motorola I joined a small manufacturing company. After a while I was able to sell my share and start working with Chuck Miller on NeverMeasure, a simple device to help homeowners hang things straight on a wall. Our first product came out in 2018.

Last year, we experienced a missed opportunity. NeverMeasure had been selected as a finalist for an International Hardware Show Design and Innovation Award just as Covid reared its ugly head. The show ultimately was cancelled. As it turned out we won the award and would have received our trophy in front of all major retailers. Ultimately, winning the award was great but had little impact on sales.

Our biggest lesson learned: you never know who you are talking to and where it may lead. For example, while at a show two years ago I met a guy who liked my pitch and recorded it. He shared it with somebody he knew and long story short, it ended up with us appearing on QVC.

We have a roadmap in 2021 for new products that revolve around the concept of making home improvement simple, less intimidating, and even fun. Executing that roadmap takes capital and that is what we’re focused on.

Learn more at NeverMeasure.com.

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