As part of our #WhySI campaign sharing why Southern Illinois is a great place to live, work, and do business, we asked William and Keesha Lo a few questions about their experience as business owners in Southern Illinois. William and Keesha are co-owners of Bake Me Happy Food Co. dessert shop and co-founders of the Southern Illinois Eats Facebook Page. Additionally, William serves as General Manager of New Kahala restaurant and as CEO of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
The Southern Illinois Eats Facebook page is devoted to promoting locally owned restaurants in our region and has garnered a large following. Can you share more about why you started this page and the impact that it has had on our local restaurant industry?
We recognized that the restaurant industry can be volatile and that we needed to find a way to preserve and promote new and existing local restaurants. Newly opened restaurants are the most vulnerable and need help in the first year of business. The page has helped tremendously -- restaurant owners have reached out to tell us how much the page has helped. Southern Illinois Eats has leveled the marketing playing field. We've made it easier to compete with national chains and their multimillion dollar ad campaigns.
We've also helped steer restaurants toward popular trends. Many members will create posts looking for foods that are traditionally found in larger urban areas. Local restaurant owners are able to then use that information when creating or adjusting their menus. This allows many chefs in the area to really push out of their comfort zones as well. Many restaurants are adding new and creative things, which in turn spurs others to follow suit. This friendly competition really benefits consumers as it drives interest in restaurants and creates an incentive to return and see what's new.
As business owners, how have the Southern Illinois people, community, culture, and resources contributed to your success?
One of the things we love most about Southern Illinois is the willingness to support local from every aspect. You see residents supporting local businesses, businesses supporting one another, and our farmers and businesses working together to supply and use our local ingredients like peaches, berries, mushrooms, microgreens, pork, etc. And it creates a culture of support that keeps our small businesses alive, especially during hard times like the pandemic.
Why is Southern Illinois is a great place to run a business? And a great place to live?
We love getting to know our customers and building those relationships. At New Kahala, we've known many of our regulars for years. We've seen their families grow, watched their children grow up and then their children start their own families. Bake Me Happy is new, but we are already building those relationships by celebrating their birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings with our customers. We get to see baby shower cake orders turn into first birthday smash cake orders. The relationships with our customers are what keep us going.
Southern Illinois is beautiful, quiet, and has so much to offer. You can travel through the region trying new-to-you restaurants and it will take you ages to work through the list. We love the community, that people are willing to just jump in if someone needs help, and that you can never meet a stranger here.