Google helps Illinois businesses move toward their goals

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$24.48 billion

of economic activity

In 2021, Google helped provide $24.48 billion of economic activity for hundreds of thousands of Illinois businesses, nonprofits, publishers, creators and developers


Illinois businesses

More than 763,000 Illinois businesses received requests for directions, phone calls, bookings, reviews and other direct connections to their customers from Google in 2021

$28.58 million

of free advertising

In 2021, Google provided $28.58 million of free advertising to Illinois nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program


Google employees

More than 1,800 Illinoisans are employed full-time by Google

Location: Glencoe, Illinois
Site traffic increased 2X+ in 2nd half of 2021

Elisa Schmitz got the idea for, a Latina-led lifestyle site with content that takes half a minute to read or watch, when working as a digital-media executive. “I saw the impact of mobile on moms and how it created a sea change in their consumption of media,” explains the mother of three. “They needed information quickly, because mobile devices are interrupted all the time” by calls or texts. Since founding the site in 2011, Elisa and her staff of five, along with their team of 1,000 editorial contributors, have used Google Analytics to fine-tune content and expand it beyond parenting to cooking, wellness, and more. It was especially useful when people changed habits during the pandemic; Elisa could see, for example, that food and health content was outperforming travel content. “Google Analytics helped us make sense of it all,” Elisa says. “We used it to pivot toward what our consumers wanted and needed.”

As an entrepreneur, Elisa was juggling so much–from growing the site’s audience to forming partnerships with experts–that she struggled to set up a fully viable ad program. In the fall of 2020, she enlisted Google AdSense, which matches ads to site content based on relevance. The result was “a huge aha moment,” Elisa says. “With one line of code, I was able to monetize our ad inventory in a way that I couldn’t do on my own.” In the second half of 2021, the site’s revenue more than quadrupled. AdSense has freed up time for Elisa to collaborate with her global team using Google Workspace, and respond to insights from Google Analytics, producing more of the content consumers are demanding–and even to write a book. Traffic on the site has more than doubled to nearly 3 million unique users a month. “I don’t have to worry about ad revenue,” she says. “I can pour my heart, my energy into what I do best: creating compelling content and building community.”


Location: Chicago, Illinois
30 employees

While a University of Iowa business undergrad and ROTC cadet, Carson Goodale grew tired of waiting for service at sporting events—inspiring him to cook up a solution. After college, he served as a U.S. Army Reserve officer, gaining the discipline to start a company. In 2016, he launched FanFood, an online and mobile ordering platform that lets sports fans order concessions during live events. His idea took off, and by 2019, FanFood was in 75 venues, from high schools to stadiums. Carson used Google Workspace products, including Gmail, Calendar, and Drive to keep his 30-person team in sync, and Google Analytics to keep tabs on his website’s performance. YouTube videos highlighted customers’ success stories, touting the ease of mobile ordering, and more venues jumped on board. By early 2020, FanFood had 10x revenue growth. Then, COVID-19 shut down public events.

“We saw businesses around us dwindling, especially restaurants,” says VP of Marketing Isabella Jiao. “We thought, ‘How can we help?’” FanFood had begun expanding beyond sports venues into other markets. Adapting to the pandemic’s new reality, they accelerated plans to bring services to restaurants, drive-in theaters, shopping malls, and hotels. “Searches on ‘contactless ordering’ are way up,” Isabella says. “We are doubling down on our SEO and Google Ads campaigns to reach customers searching with intent.” FanFood is now in roughly 30 percent of all U.S. drive-in theaters, and in venues including an international mall and luxury hotel chain. When spectator sports return, FanFood will be there, including at the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. They’re also building a food truck delivery service for residential and corporate buildings in Chicago. FanFood expects double-digit year-over-year growth to continue. “Consumer mindset has shifted,” says Co-founder and CEO Carson Goodale. “Contactless mobile ordering is now the expectation and as a result, we've unlocked many more new opportunities.”

The Spice House

Location: Chicago, Illinois
75 employees

In early 2018, Charlie Mayer took over as CEO of The Spice House, a gourmet spice shop owned by second-generation spice merchants Tom and Patty Erd. After six decades of family ownership, Charlie was the company’s first outside leader, and he found himself tasked with the unique challenge of growing a homespun business online. “We’ve really tried to build on the brand value that has existed for a long time and push it onto the internet,” said Charlie. With locations in Chicago, Evanston, and Milwaukee, The Spice House is used to sustained foot traffic from curious customers who follow their noses after catching a whiff of fresh cinnamon or cardamom. “Spices are a really interesting product for the internet,” said Charlie. “If you’ve ever been to one of our stores, it’s a sensory experience.” But that’s not something they can easily translate online, so they needed their digital marketing efforts to work even harder — and Google has been a critical part of that.

Spearheading that effort has been Douglass Craig, a growth marketing expert who began working with The Spice House in March of 2018. “I was fascinated with the business and saw that it had a great potential for growth,” Douglass said. Douglass helped deploy new digital advertising efforts, including numerous Google Ads campaigns, which are currently responsible for 15% of online traffic and 20% of online revenue. “All of our advertising is digital,” said Charlie. The Spice House also uses Google My Business to boost the company’s visibility on Google Search and Maps and tools like Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Drive to collaborate across teams. “We’re a 100% Google shop,” said Charlie. “There are plenty of companies that use Google products, but we’ve embraced them wholeheartedly, and they make our business better.”

Since going digital, The Spice House has fostered a number of online communities where customers can share photos, recipes, and other user-generated content. “I love to just go on there and see the innovative things that people do — not just with our spices, but with food in general,” said Charlie. The business also shares its products by regularly contributing to local charities. Overall, Charlie and Douglass are excited that they’ve been able to reap the benefits of digital without losing the homespun nature of their business. And they are confident that they’ve established an approach with Google that will continue to propel them the forward. “We want to be big. We will be big. What we’ve done this year has been about designing a company and pouring a foundation,” concluded Charlie.

Merz Apothecary

Location: Chicago, Illinois
60 employees

Founded in 1875, Merz Apothecary is considered by many to be a Chicago landmark. For five generations, the pharmacy has been home to a rich collection of unique, hard-to-find goods from all over the world. “We’re not your traditional pharmacy,” says President Anthony Qaiyum. “We carry everything from natural remedies to grooming products to home fragrances. People always say, ‘If you can’t find it at Merz, you won’t find it anywhere else!’” Anthony’s father, who purchased Merz in 1972, managed to grow the business during a time when most independent pharmacies were giving way to large chain drug stores. Anthony attributes their steady growth to the fact that “Merz has always done things differently.” In addition to selling non-traditional products, the “143-year-old startup,” as he likes to call it, has always been quick to embrace the power of technology.

Merz Apothecary took their first online order in 1997. Fast forward two decades, and 85 percent of the business’s marketing budget is now dedicated to digital. They use AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to reach customers who are searching for their specialty products. “AdWords is the magical vehicle that gets you in front of the people who really need what you’re selling,” explains Anthony. “Together with Google Search, it drives nearly half of our online revenue,” he adds. The company shares fun and informative product reviews on their YouTube channel, which has garnered over 1.5 million views. They announce product launches, special sales, and extended hours via their Google My Business listings. And with insights from Google Analytics, they’re able to both “figure out problems and identify opportunities on our website,” says Anthony.

Today, Merz Apothecary has two storefronts in Chicago, an e-commerce platform that services 35,000 customers annually, a direct mail operation that sends hundreds of thousands of catalogues to customers across the country, a wholesale division, and an export business that ships products to Europe. Their yearly sales continue to grow at a double-digit rate, and since Anthony joined the family business full-time in 2000, they have gone from 12 employees to 60. “As the owner of Merz, I feel like I’m the caretaker of a piece of history. And I take that duty very seriously,” says Anthony. “I want to leave this business better and stronger than it was when I joined. That’s my passion, and it’s gratifying to know that we're working towards that.”

Birk Creative

Location: Chicago, Illinois
The web has enabled Birk Creative to generate over 100% annual growth

JinJa Birkenbeuel founded Birk Creative in 1997 as a way to collaborate more closely with clients and promote her and her husband’s country band. “Because of my marketing and business background, I was able to think strategically about how to build our band’s first website,” JinJa says. She applied her band’s online marketing process to her new branding business, offering integrated marketing and advertising solutions for companies, brands, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and politicians. “Today, I'm leading everything I create with digital strategy,” JinJa says.

Birk Creative grew from word-of-mouth and relentless enthusiasm into a full-service creative strategy agency. Birk Creative maintains a modern digital storefront and deploys a sophisticated digital-marketing operation. They use AdWords, Google's advertising program, to attract customers both locally and internationally. “It’s really the best way to find and communicate with the customers you’re looking for all over the world,” JinJa says. Birk Creative counts on Google Analytics to understand where their web traffic comes from and fine-tune their marketing. “Our content and social media strategy is based heavily on Google Analytics.” They also take advantage of all the G Suite tools to compete with much larger companies on a level playing field. “Security, efficiency, agility—that's what Google gives us. And we can give the same results to our customers,” says JinJa.

Birk Creative’s portfolio of customers now ranges from local Chicago businesses and entrepreneurs to national and international corporations. Their adaptability has helped their annual revenue growth to top 100 percent. JinJa shares her success with the small-business community as well as the creative youth of Chicago. She serves on the boards of the Jewish-Black Business Alliance and Young Chicago Authors. “I often talk with youth about finding their voice, and working on their dreams without fear of failure,” JinJa says. That’s a strategy Birk Creative continues to share with Chicago.

Heritage Bicycles

Location: Chicago, Illinois
23 employees

Few industries have more passionate devotees than artisanal coffee and hand-built bicycles. Individually, they conjure images of a vibrant and modern urban community. Together, they're the magic of Chicago's Heritage Bicycles. Founded by Michael Salvatore in 2011, Heritage combines Chicago's rich and proud manufacturing industry with a hip and contemporary gathering space for lovers of brewed beans. “Both bikes and coffee have very loyal customer bases, and we've been able to capitalize on both in Chicago,” Michael says. Long before becoming an international brand, Heritage knew the Internet would be the tool to help them gear up. “The Internet has always been the foundation of the business.”

Michael leverages a variety of Google tools to make the most of the web. He creates geo-targeted campaigns in AdWords, Google’s advertising program, to drive local traffic to their two brick-and-mortar stores. He expands his reach with global AdWords campaigns to promote e-commerce sales of bikes and accessories. Google Apps for Work facilitates instantaneous collaboration amongst employees and is easy to scale as the business grows. Google Street View takes customers on virtual 360-degree tours of their stores. Google Analytics helps Michael to better understand his customers and make timely, data-driven decisions. “Google Analytics is literally on my screen all day long. Those graphs and trends and real-time data help me determine where to put our energy.” And their results have been a small-business tour de force.

Sales have grown a steady 35% year-over-year and Heritage plans to open three more stores in Chicago in 2016. Michael believes Google has played a significant role in their success. “There are so many little things that these products help us with every day,” he says. “I don’t know that we’d be in the same place without Google.” Their hand-built bicycles may have earned them an international reputation as a mecca for discerning cyclists, but Michael is equally proud of the impact that he’s making closer to home. “We currently have 23 employees, and we'll soon have close to 40,” he says. “It means a lot to me that we’re creating jobs in Chicago.”

Investing in local communities

As our company expands with more than 94,000 employees in the U.S., we’re committed to playing a positive role in each of the communities where we live and work.

$18+ million

in grants

Since 2007, has awarded over $18 million in grants to nonprofits and organizations based in Illinois

$20+ million

in charitable giving

Since 2004, our employees based in Illinois—including matching contributions from Google—have donated over $20 million in charitable giving to nonprofits

$1.75 million

in grants for Chicago Public Schools

Since 2017, Google has awarded over $1.75 million in grants to support computer science education in Chicago Public Schools

Our home in the Land of Lincoln

Google is proud to call Illinois home, with two offices in Chicago, located in the city’s historic West Loop neighborhood

“At Google, we are technology optimists. Not because we believe in technology, but because we believe in people.”

Sundar Pichai

CEO, Alphabet Inc.


Google Chicago opened in the fall of 2000 with a small sales force and expanded to include our engineering team in 2005. In November 2015, we moved  our offices in the Fulton Market Cold Storage building in the West Loop to continue to grow our presence in Chicago. Over the last few years, we’ve doubled the size of our Chicago workforce, and in 2019, opened a second office in the West Loop, home to our growing Google Cloud. 

Google Chicago was one of our first offices outside of Mountain View. Our Chicago teams work on major projects, including large customer sales, Ads, Finance, Cloud, and the technical infrastructure powering Search, DoubleClick advertising technologies, and user-data privacy & security.

Google in the community

Chicago is our home and we’re committed to playing a positive role in the communities in which we live and work. Since 2004, our employees based in Chicago—including matching contributions from Google—have donated over $20 million in charitable giving. Our employees also served over 31,000 hours of volunteer work with nonprofits and schools in areas we’re passionate about, including STEM education, economic opportunity, and access to the Internet.

Explore our impact on businesses in nearby states