Doris Symonds

Founder/Owner, T.A.L.K.

I earned my B.S. in education from Illinois State University in 1973 and went on to complete an M.S. in business education five years later. Upon graduation, I taught business classes for six years at Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Illinois. In 1980, I left teaching to work as the coordinator of employment for Illinois Central College. After 26 years, I retired as the assistant director of Human Resources.

As a retiree, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of women business owners and share all the knowledge I had gained throughout my professional career. With a personal passion to help women create and sustain small businesses, network, make referrals and foster the growth of their businesses, I made it my mission to fulfill that passion as an entrepreneur.

In 2003, I opened my own business, T.A.L.K. (Teaching and Learning for Knowledge). My first goal in business was to self-publish a book on finances entitled How I Saved $10,500 with Only 4 Quarters a Day!  T.A.L.K. is going strong and I am approaching eight years as its president and owner. interviewed me and listed my company as a valuable resource for individuals getting started in Peoria, when launching a small business.

I met my husband, Gary, while I was completing my bachelor’s degree at ISU in 1972. We married eight years later. Gary graduated from Bradley University with an MBA in business administration, and we are now celebrating 31 years together. Gary and I raised two successful daughters, Dawn and Raquel, both graduates of the University of Illinois. Dawn is a chemical engineering major and is employed as a Caterpillar dealer rep in San Diego. Raquel earned her degree in accounting and is employed by 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, as a financial analyst. She recently traveled to China, Taiwan and Korea to lead finance training and visit the 3M offices there.

Major Accomplishments of 2011
Ladies Who “Lunch” Their Business to Success. For a number of years, I received requests from women entrepreneurs asking for additional opportunities to collaborate and resolve business challenges. Each attendee is expected to present a specific and current challenge they are experiencing in their business. I then facilitate a brainstorming session in which all attendees discuss the situation together to find a valuable solution and/or a goal to meet that challenge.

I created and launched Ladies Who Lunch Their Business to Success, and it continues to draw women business owners of all types throughout central Illinois every month. This popular networking venue is the business venture of which I am most proud. It is hosted at Commerce Bank on the third Thursday of every month and is open to any woman business owner. It has benefited more than 350 business women, providing them with real solutions to real challenges.

National Association of Women Business Owners. In 2011, I was elected to sit on the 2011-2012 board of the National Association of Women Business Owners Central Illinois Chapter as the vice president of public relations.

Women in Business Champion of the Year.  In 2011, I was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “Women in Business Champion of the Year” for the State of Illinois and Region Five. I was selected from among dozens of nominees from Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. This qualified me to compete against nine others for the national award to be presented by President Obama. I was nominated by the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship because of my commitment to improving the plight of women-owned businesses. My personal mission is to help women create and sustain small businesses, network, make referrals and foster the growth of existing businesses. A warm reception was given locally in my honor at Commerce Bank by Cindy Hermann, vice president at the Grand Prairie location. The Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University featured me as their cover story for the 2011 spring newsletter. A grand reception in Chicago, hosted by the SBA and SCORE, was held to recognize all the winners.

Women in Business Networking Conferences.
Another major accomplishment is producing two annual back-to back conferences: The Women in Business Networking Conference is held in June and December each year. It is the largest small business women’s conference held in East Peoria at the Embassy Suites. The mission of this conference is to address the pressing issues for women business owners and entrepreneurs by featuring successful, talented, local business owners and high-caliber technology trainers as keynote speakers. Some previous keynote speakers include: Diana Hall of Bard Optical, Mary Ardapple of Apple’s Bakery, Mary Jo Roberts of Jackson Hewitt/Sharp Income Tax Services, Wendi Ramsay of Ramsay and Associates, Amanda Beadles of Graphic Design by Amanda, Ronda Daily of Bremer Jewelry, Gia Jones of Supreme Accounting & Tax Services, Betty Schlacter of Jones Brothers Jewelry, and Paola Hinton of Five Senses Spa and Salon.


What is your secret to maintaining a balance between your work and personal life? The secret to maintaining that balance is realizing the importance of time with my family and time performing my work. I am a very detailed person, with excellent organizational skills. Each month, I make a list of my meetings and tasks. Then I prioritize a list of the urgent goals that I need to accomplish. Then I put a time clock to the daily goals I want to get done. My day starts at 5am and ends at 4pm. I value my time and try hard to maintain control of it. I enjoy annual vacations with my husband, new son-in-law, and daughters. I exercise at least four times a week, and try very hard to stay away from cake, cookies and soda. And finally, I take the time to mail 10 thank-you cards each month to professional and business women with words of encouragement.

Did you have a mentor in the early stages of your career? I have always had good mentors in my life. They were teachers, supervisors, family and girlfriends. Flora Betts and Darlene Davis were my career mentors from the beginning. They were my best friends in college. We mentored each other throughout our lives by coaching, collaborating and teaching one another. We all registered for the same courses and graduated together at ISU. In July, we celebrated 40 years of friendship by taking a trip to Miami, Florida.

My current mentor, Ken Klotz of the Turner Center for Entrepreneurship, is a genius! He comes from a background of Fortune 500 successes and shares that with you. I give a lot of credit to him for my most current successes under his mentoring. Ken is a real down-to-earth, entrepreneurial genius in our community. He helps me focus on the type of speakers and topics for the conferences and gives guidance on how to find the best company sponsors. Ken challenged me to improve my company while sharing his valuable knowledge and time. He made me feel confident and successful when I was a little apprehensive starting out. I appreciate and value all that he provides to me as a woman entrepreneur.

Tips For Up-And-Coming Female Professionals

  1. Set your top goals that you would like to attain in your professional life.
  2. Select a reputable person as a mentor, preferably in your chosen profession.
  3. Network with positive professionals who volunteer in their community.
  4. Build your confidence by surrounding yourself with strong, confident women friends.
  5. Seek guidance from a financial planner as soon as you graduate. Learn how to live within a budget and how to invest your earnings.
  6. Maintain proper balance between your career, family, mind and body. Don’t forget to take time out to pamper yourself.
  7. Travel outside the United States to learn about other cultures and embrace diversity.
  8. Learn a foreign language well and do not let it become obsolete to you.

Once you develop confidence in yourself and a strong sense of what you will accomplish, the rest will fall into place with good decision-making and hard work. iBi