Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Hannah Tillett, Owner of Tilly Bagel Shop, located in Chicago, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We are a woman-owned small business. We currently have an online shop specializing in handcrafted sourdough bagels and cream cheeses. The bagels are a 20+ hour process and are each hand-rolled, boiled, topped with MANY toppings (such as everything seasoning, cheddar, and fresh rosemary), and then baked. We work out of shared commercial kitchen space and provide pick up and delivery. Focusing on more of the south side of the city for direct consumers and also catering to downtown offices and businesses.

Tell us about yourself

After growing up in Florida and going to culinary school in Orlando, I moved to Chicago 7 years ago to pursue my dream of becoming a pastry chef. I have since worked at some of the best restaurants in the city (Girl & the Goat, Boka), learning all things pastry and bread! I spent some time back in 2017 at a restaurant working the brunch shift and developed this bagel recipe to put on the menu there and have since had the recipe in my back pocket. When the Covid pandemic hit, I was furloughed from my job and decided to start making my bagels for friends and family. Everyone was raving about them, and I decided to turn this into a legit business and start working for myself. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

When we were featured in the Tribune article for Best Bagels in the city! That’s when we really realized that this was exactly what we needed to be doing.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Take a breather! When you work for yourself, not only do you have to build a reputation for your business, but for yourself as well. That can cause you to always be in work mode when in reality, it’s ok to take a step back and relax.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Have a partner who’s not in the same industry as you. My fiancé is also my business partner, but he’s never made the bagels! He is an architect. It helps to have a partner with different insights so you can compare notes and learn different things from one another. When two people have the same exact thoughts, things can get tricky!
  2. Make a business plan right away. Even if you’re just starting up, making a business plan will motivate you to see how your business grows and be successful.
  3. Relax and have fun. You’re working for yourself now! There’s nothing better and more rewarding than that!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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