Zakery Kates, 25, says earning an award in the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Awards, at his age, is a little “awkward.” Granted the honor was in the category of Young Entrepreneur.But don’t get him wrong, he’s more than happy to take the accolade and run with it.“There is so much more I want to do and improve upon, and while this is a great honor, it makes me want to step up even more and work hard to grow and support my local community,” said Kates, the president of Simple Edge Marketing in Naperville.Kates said, rather than rest on his early laurels, the award has filled him with sense of responsibility and obligation to surpass his own standards.Kates is the youngest ever to be given the award since the chamber began recognizing local businesses in 1998. Kates said he has been a member of the chamber for the past four years and that it has helped him grow the business that he actually began while still in college.“I was born in Oak Park, but we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I actually grew up,” he said. “I still consider myself a southern boy, but I moved back here to Chicago for college where I attended COD and then eventually got my degree from DePaul.”Kates said he earned a degree in industrial organizational psychology and started his business during his junior year. He elected to also take courses in business and marketing, which delayed his eventual graduation, but clearly he has put his academic training to good use.“I’ve always been a passionate people person, and I still use my psychology training in my marketing in that I want to communicate to people,” he said. “Even on the tech side of things, I stress simplicity and ease of use with the things we develop. We want them to be easy to use and accessible.”Today, Kates lives and works in Naperville. He employs one full-time person besides himself, along with a couple of designers who help the web marketing firm offer services that include specializing in custom WordPress web design along with social media consulting, video production and search engine optimization.To date, Kates said he has worked with about 75 clients during the brief history of his business, ranging from marketing work for smaller clients like attorneys and restaurants to medium-sized engineering and manufacturing firms.“We’ve grown from just doing small businesses to having a healthy mix of various-sized clients,” Kates said. “While we do provide a variety of services, our specialty is custom web design. Our mission is to make sure great businesses have great online visibility.”Paul Feith, president of Paul Gregory Media and a former Small Business of the Year Awards winner, said he met Kates a few years ago and became “sort of a mentor to him for a while” after hiring the young entrepreneur to do some development work. Feith said he found Kates to have more skill sets than he imagined.“I tried him out two or three years ago, and what I found was despite his age, he was not just a developer of websites but someone who had learned great communication skills, and I let him talk directly with our clients,” Feith said. “Besides having good business acumen and the ‘chops,’ he also has great client skills. When he first joined the chamber, he asked a lot of questions and sought out tips and tricks that would help him develop his business.“I saw something in him then, and it turned out he was everything and more.”Tags: From the Top [embedded content]
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