It may seem incongruous to expand a business by planning how to leave it, but entrepreneur Susan Schneider, owner and managing partner of Private Label Linens, LLC (PLL), says it’s a strategy that has “helped me move my company forward in a positive way.”
The impetus for the plan was the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program in Chicago. Susan’s husband, Richard, a partner in PLL and owner of Supreme Novelty Fabrics, participated in Chicago’s inaugural program earlier this year. His insights helped them both “view our respective businesses differently,” Susan states.
PLL is the only company in Chicago that focuses exclusively on manufacturing and renting custom linens, using domestic-manufactured fabrics and local employees. For years, PLL focused on selling private label linens to area restaurants. After the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, they launched an in-stock linen rental and laundering service, which resulted in immediate sales and some high-level contracts. For example, PLL provided all the linens for the largest dinner at the NATO conference Chicago hosted in May. PLL linens also graced the tables at President Obama’s birthday celebration, the Nobel Peace Prize awards dinner, and the opening nights at the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Eager to win lucrative corporate and government contracts, Susan is in the process of becoming certified by the WBDC as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) and has met with WBDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) staff for assistance in navigating the government contracting process. She also joined two organizations, the Illinois Restaurant Association and Meeting Planners International, where she took immediate advantage of an opportunity to email members about her services, resulting in an instant business boost.
Since the first of the year, her company’s sales have increased dramatically, and the number of employees has nearly doubled, from 9 to 17. Virtually all the new hires reside in Chicago’s southwest side where her manufacturing facility is headquartered.
“The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program gave us the courage to try new things and stop doing certain things that weren’t working,” she affirms. “We no longer feel like a small cog in a big wheel. There’s lots of support out there. We just weren’t taking advantage of it.”