Speak up and tell us

What business you would go to

As owner of a former Milwaukee Avenue business, The Pump Room Boutique, Dulce Ramos would get frustrated by naysayers on the neighborhood listserv who would only express what they did not want to see on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square, thank you very much. She implored, “Speak up and tell us what business you would go to.” Me, I’d love a book store (yes, I know brick and mortar stores may be all but nostalgia). My neighbor Gail would like to see a coffee shop and more take-out or other inexpensive dining options. Jennifer, who frequents Milwaukee Avenue, would like to see a wine bar sans T.V.s on every wall, and a thin crust pizza place (Chicago’s known for deep dish and stuffed), and maybe an antiques store or consignment shop.

Innovative ideas

But maybe we’re limited by what we know. What if we created some really innovative business idea? something really unique? something we don’t even know exists? That, game readers, is what I’m asking you to do.

I have a curiosity for many things, so my readings cover much more than planning related topics. One of those is The Berkun Blog, on management and creative thinking. Back in April, Scott Berkun posted a “Report from Web 2.0 expo” that included slides from a workshop he conducted there: “How to Innovate on Time.” In the slides is an innovation exercise that I’ve adapted here.

Take a look at the 20 photos below (you can click on the photo mosaic and then zoom in for a better look) and choose a word that comes to mind when you look at each one (hint: it’s helpful to include some verbs). Make a list of those words (count left to right, top to bottom). Go ahead and do that before reading on.

Then develop a new service, a product, or any type of business based on at least three of the list of 20 words you came up with. In the comments section, please share the potentially crazy business idea you created. Tell us what three words, what photos they correspond to (count left to right, top to bottom), and what is the innovative service/product/business.

In the Berkun exercise, I chose 40 words at random and worked from those. Here I chose 20 words, then did a Flickr search for the words, but you pick the words the photos convey to you. If the 40-word approach works better for you, by all means use it and share the three words you used to create your business idea.

When I did the Berkun exercise, the three words I chose were radio, ritual and play. The product I came up with was a radio/audio system that you program to your moods and daily rituals; it’s voice activated so you can play music or audio according to your whims and routines on command. Crazy, right? Maybe not so much: For example, not that I’m much of a cook, but there’s something about classical music with horns that I somehow find inspiring for cooking. To wind down at night, I could speak “nighttime” for the local lite music station. Etc.

In a continuation and narrowing of the exercise, in coming up with something specifically for my place of employment, the three words I chose were radio, boast and goal. I came up with an internet radio show boasting of events and accomplishments and conversing in depth on policies and goals of the municipality where I work.

See the potential? Share the potential.

7 Responses to Speak up and tell us

  1. m d says:

    I’m not going to play the game…or maybe I am. I was looking at the photos 1, 2 and 5-the dessert, staircase, and henna tatoo. I thought of some Middle East meets American wedding planning business that not only booked the elegant location (with the winding staircase), and wonderful desserts, but also coordinates the henna party. A henna party (according to Associated Content Online) is a party in which the bride is given tattoos with special ink marked on her hands and her feet. Warding off of evil spirits and ensuring the happiness of the new couple is the main purpose of this ceremony. Traditionally, a green dress is worn to the henna party by the bride. It is the option of those attending to get tattooed alongside the bride.

    Why I really wanted to respond to this post was to answer one of the first questions, being “what businesses do you want to see on Milwaukee Avenue?” What I think would be great to have is a business incubator. There is an old (furniture?) building right off the corner of Milwaukee and Kedzie that needs to be put to better use, which would be a great location. Business incubators are not a new concept and can be found in several Chicago communities. One I know of off the top of my head is (or used to be) in the Kinzie Industrial Park area. That incubator (from what I remember) focused more on businesses dealing with industry, which isn’t very appropriate for Logan Square, but the Milwaukee Ave incubator would be a great place for small boutique shops, local artists, and other local start ups. A great example of this is The Distillery District in Toronto. I just visited this area early July and felt that something like that would be a perfect fit in Logan Square.

    Just a thought…
    Logan Square is perfect a spot for these.

    m d: The henna party wedding planner would be a unique niche business for Milwaukee Ave. But that’s just the kind of idea I’m looking to generate. Milwaukee Ave. doesn’t only have to be about retail. Second stories could be utilized for offices and service businesses that don’t generate a lot of foot traffic, but create jobs and some daytime population to patronize the retail businesses. Something like a wedding planner could also use other Milwaukee Ave. business services and products like flowers from Fleur, cakes from Pierre’s Bakery, or scout Logan Square unique locations for wedding ceremonies. ~ Lynn

  2. Jennifer says:

    I went to Fleur to talk to about flowers for our wedding. $5,000 is the minimum budget for a wedding. Seriously. They won’t even talk to you about flowers for a wedding if you can’t commit to spend a minimum of $5,000. I thought that was ridiculous!
    I’m not sure what my budget for flowers is at the moment. Currently the guest list is at 75. I don’t understand why I need to spend $5,000 to put out 10 floral centerpieces, 1 boutonnière and 3 bouquets. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    Jennifer: That’s too bad. Here you want to patronize a local business but its practices won’t allow it. The business m d came up with through the innovation exercise — the henna party wedding planner — might though be able to establish a relationship with them and work out deals for folks without such large flower needs. And a variety of businesses would support a variety of other businesses. ~ Lynn

  3. How about a restaurant — could be named Layered — offering all things with layers (17): cakes (1), sandwiches (18), lasagna, jello, seven layer salad, baklava, etc.? ~ Lynn

  4. ace says:

    a bakery that makes yummy 1, pink 15, glamorous 2 treats

  5. Kate says:

    I was at the Azucar restaurant last night and overheard the owner talking about how they opened because there was a need for more things for local people to do locally and I thought about all of the errands I can take care of locally and this conversation seems to fit that and what cannot be done locally.


    Art shows and spaces.

    Concert venues

    Food: Buona Terra, Taqueria Moran, El Cid, Sol Del Sur, Lula, Streetside, Friendship Chinese, Spice, Charley Thai, Rustik, and Hachi’s Kitchen. Wow. The diversity of restaurants is really wonderful. Urban Belly just opened. Provenance? So great.

    The farmer’s market is great.

    The Food Coop is EAGERLY awaited.

    Apparel: Wolf Bait and the B girls and the few thrifts are all I need. Okay, Target for other things.

    What’s missing?

    A nice bookstore and record store. Wouldn’t that be great? The library and the newspaper places by the els are nice, but I am eager for more.

    Decent pizza. I like Dunlay’s pizza and the Spanish pizzas at Azucar, but takeaway pies…

    A new year round pool.

    Public school support.

    A bigger library.

    CALFORNIA EL station revamped. Okay, now I am off topic (and dreaming)

    What would you like to see?

    Kate: Great contributions to the conversation about the commercial revitalization of Milwaukee Ave. and Logan Square. Have you ever been to the pool at Koz Park? I just wrote about it over at Examiner.com: “The Phelps phactor.”

    Hope you’ll give the innovation exercise here a try as well. Sometimes we don’t even know what might make a great business or serve our needs. ~ Lynn

  6. Dulce says:

    This was very cool!
    I, also, came up with FOOD as my business option.
    Probably because I really enjoy trying new foods.

    I love fusion, so my Eating Concept is like a CAFE, with gourmet treats that are affordable, but a fusion of different cultures. NOthing would be served that was not a mix of two different types of food.

    The setting would be elegant, yet Urban and trendy. Homey feeling too.
    It is a CAFE of sorts and MUST serve coffee…made correctly (Like Cafe con Leche’s coffee….a little on the darker side and very HOT! …. disclaimers will be posted to avoid another McDonald’s lawsuit)

    It is the type of place you will come to listen to World Music and relax and leave feeling refreshed and accomplished. A portion of profit will be donated to a charitable cause monthly.

    They will not serve alcohol but it will be listed as a BYOB.

    Name tags will be handed out at the door, so people get to know each other, if they frequent it often and be able to call each other by name.

    Okay, gotta go but my mind is still racing.

    Dulce: Sounds like a place I would frequent. I think it’s a good fit for the neighborhood too. ~ Lynn

  7. Carter says:

    hey Dulce, have you been to Pura Belleza Coffee & Art? It’s on 21xx N. Western, it’s really, really nice. Good selection of reasonably priced food, fantastic ambience (the artwork is really great), we went there while taking breaks during a recording session last weekend, if it was walking distance from me I’d be a regular for sure.


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