City Snapshot


Victor and Phil chat with Christine Deehring, founder of BumpBoxes. Christine left a career as an accountant with Caterpillar to pursue her entrepreneurial path.

The largest city on the Illinois River, Peoria, Illinois, is the county seat of Peoria County, is halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, and was a two-and-a-half hour drive from our last stop in Iowa.

First settled in 1680, it is the oldest European settlement in Illinois. It was officially named Peoria in 1825 after the Peoria tribe.

Population bloomed in Peoria. It became the fourth largest regional hub in the U.S. railway system serving 15 railroads and 70,000 miles of track. The Rock Island Depot was integral part of Peoria until it closed in 1978—now it is a thriving restaurant complex. The award-winning Peoria Park District boasts 9,000 acres of parks and Peoria’s Grand View Drive was dubbed the “World’s Most Beautiful Drive” by President Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1925, Caterpillar Tractor Co. was formed followed by what would eventually become the Komatsu America Corporation, making Peoria the world leader in earth moving and tractor equipment. Peoria remains Caterpillar’s world headquarters, employing more than 15,000 people.

In the past 80 years, Peoria has been honored with the “All-American City” award four times. Still seen as a microcosm of America, Peoria, with a current population of 116,513, still bears asking the old question: “Does it play in Peoria?” We set out to see if that was true when it comes to entrepreneurship as well, starting our visit at the Peoria Next Innovation Center, a $13 million technology incubator.



Our Peoria Host


Steve ZikaBorn in Peoria, Illinois, Steve Zika left for the corporate world working with Advanced Micro Devices for 16 years. After spending time in Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, he returned to Peoria in 2009 to help launch Attollo, an investment firm that helps social entrepreneurs. He is now a director of Startup Peoria and advises entrepreneurs across the region. Steve's daughter Ellie created KidKnits, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping women living in poverty in Rwanda and Chile.



Who We Talked With


Luke HaverhalsLuke Haverhals grew up on farm in Iowa and went on to achieve a stellar academic record. He settled into Peoria with his family, joining Bradley University where he teaches chemistry and works to develop novel types of energy storage and conversion using renewable, sustainable substrates such as hemp, wood and silk.


Christine DeehringChristine Deehring, founder of BumpBoxes, was inspired by her own pregnancy to create a business to provide expectant mothers products that were safe and natural. Founded in the summer of 2014, BumpBoxes is fast-growing and is poised for continued growth from their offices in Peoria, Illinois.



Fun Facts About Peoria


  • Peoria is the oldest community in Illinois and the biggest city on the Illinois River.
  • No Man’s Land was an unclaimed strip of land between the City of Peoria and South Peoria. It was known as a legally safe haven for law-breakers fleeing from city or village police.
  • The phrase “Will it play in Peoria?” plays in Peoria comes from a popular novelist from the late 1800’s, Horatio Alger, Jr, whose characters repeatedly declared, “We shall be playing in Peoria."
  • Bradley University’s mascot is named Kaboom!
  • Peoria has been awarded the All-America City Award four times (1953, 1966, 1989 and 2013).
  • Abraham Lincoln first proclaimed his stance against slavery in a speech in Peoria.
  • Peoria native Richard Armstrong Whiting wrote "Hooray for Hollywood", "Ain't We Got Fun?" and "On the Good Ship Lollipop."
  • Peoria is the world headquarters of Caterpillar, Inc.
  • Peoria is nearly between two major Midwestern ciies; 165 miles out of Chicago and 168 miles away from St. Louis.
  • Theodore Roosevelt called Grand View Drive “the most beautiful drive in the world.”