Chicago Soydairy Expands With Small Business Loan

For Ryan Howard, founder of the Chicago Soydairy, growing his business is not just about location, location, location it is also about soy, soy, and more soy. In 2005 Ryan had an epiphany while driving through Illinois farmland. A vegan since he was a teenager, Ryan questioned why Illinois exports soy beans around the world yet there is no meaningful soy based food products manufactured in Illinois. Armed with a food engineering degree from Purdue University and experience working at General Mills in West Chicago, Ryan founded the Chicago Soydairy out of his home in Wheaton with his partner Dan Ziegler. The duo’s first creation was Temptation Vegan Ice Cream. Through hard work and persistence Temptation was soon on the shelves of Whole Foods across the country. With the business poised to take off Ryan and Dan needed a location and financing to compliment the small number of seed investors they had recruited. A location in Lombard seconds away from the intersection of Interstate 355 and North Avenue provided the access they needed to ship their product quickly to retailers, wholesalers, and restaurants. Lombard was also an attractive location because it was close to Ryan’s home and on the doorstep of a burgeoning vegan community in Chicago and the suburbs. In 2006 Ryan approached Choose DuPage for a small business loan armed with a comprehensive business plan that was honed with assistance from the College of DuPage Small Business Development Center. DuPage County had recently created a Small Business Loan Program and used Choose DuPage to market the program and qualify prospects. The County quickly approved the application and awarded the company a loan of $50,000. The money was used to purchase additional equipment to keep up with demand for their Temptation line. The two high energy founders were not content to just manufacture the ice‐ cream however and soon were creating recipes for soy cheese and soy marshmallows. The marshmallows become so popular that in the fall of 2009 Ryan approached Choose DuPage for another loan of $45,000. The funds were used to purchase the proper equipment to produce and package the marshmallows in quantities large enough to meet the growing demand. Before long the company of two had eight employees, doubled the size of its facility, and continues to cultivate new customers. According to Ryan, “Choose DuPage and DuPage County have been great partners in helping us to grow the business. The people at Choose DuPage treat us like we are a Fortune 500 company which is pretty amazing given our size and the fact that there are tens of thousands of businesses in DuPage County.”