“All entrepreneurs and business owners want to make more money with their small business,” Franklin Harp, Weichert Realty, said. “And growing this group can help.”
Amber Resnick, Meadow Farms Bed and Breakfast, said, “We want this group available to give advice and support small business and entrepreneur growth.”
A group of business owners have been meeting over the summer to talk about growing their businesses and wanted to make it available for more people. So the first workshop was held on Wednesday, Sept. 11 to discuss the goals of the group and ask questions to see what other business owners felt like they needed to learn.
Several agreed that the community is great to support local businesses — but could be better. They agreed it is a challenge to shop local first, but also to support and refer customers to each other would also help.
Emily Powers owner of Frenzy said, “It’s definitely a strength of our community — they are welcoming and willing to share information to help each other.”
Don Yarbrough, owner of Dey Gem Jewelry said, “We are the only full-service jewelry store within 60 miles. We’ve been in business 22 years and retail has had its ups and downs. For customers who enjoy shopping online, we encourage them to bring in the photo of what they are looking at. If we don’t have it, we will do what we can to help. In most cases, we have something similar they can actually try on.”
The group agreed the key to winning repeat business is customer service. Several said, “We offer services that online businesses can’t offer. Powers gave the example of free gift wrapping and free delivery to a home or business in the area.”
Joan Bell, Shelter Insurance said, “The referral process in a small town is a great asset.” She continued to explain that 19 years in the corporate banking world is so different than owning your own business. A small business owner has to wear all the hats and does everything. “That’s why this group is going to be so beneficial to our community. We can learn from each other.”
Bell added, “When another local business does a good job at something for you, be sure to mention them on social media. There’s a lot of opportunities to help other businesses.”
Chamber president, Bob Largent said, “This group of business owners came to us. We want all small businesses to be involved. They don’t have to be a Chamber investor to be a part of this group. We have 60 Prime businesses and more than 600 Main Street businesses. Our goal at the Chamber is to engage with all of them.”
Prime businesses make products and provide services mainly used outside the community. Main Street businesses sell products and services primarily locally.
“There’s no reason that together, this group can make a big difference in the economic development of this community, “ Largent said. “Small businesses run this steering committee. Your prosperity is key. We understand that value.”
City of Harrison Mayor, Jerry Jackson said, “This is an amazing group of business owners. Often small business is overlooked. I listened to a talk show in the 90s and the host used to say, “It’s hard for the little guy, but customer service will always trump.”
Jackson recounted the successful business opportunities that happened for the downtown area of Batesville after the community invested in a rec center. “Their downtown was 80 percent empty. Now it’s full,” he said. “We have five vacancies on the Harrison Square right now. I hope the day will come when people shop the square like they shop a mall. Batesville has a 35 mile, 35,000 population market. We have 90,000 in our market area.”
When the audience was invited to participate in the discussion, Layne Ragsdale, The Nest Financial, said, “Find ways to connect with the community by volunteer efforts. When you serve the community, it builds trust and it comes back to help you.”
“Another positive for our community, is that within 15 minutes you can basically drive anywhere. It’s quick and easy to be personable,” Ragsdale added.
Other possibilities the group discussed were benefits a small business owner can offer that makes it attractive to work for a small business rather than a corporation.
The discussion also involved responding to negative comments on social media. —
“‘’I’m so sorry that happened. I’ll message you privately,’” is another good response someone suggested. “It shows you are taking action.”
The positives of the local newspaper were discussed. “We are glad to help you promote your business with good news from our business editor. But I also feel like when it’s bad news — we do it right. It’s our job to be accurate and if it uncovers something or fixes something — that is good. We don’t print news that is running down others, or hurtful,” Jim Holland, Phillips Media executive director said.
Tibitha Freeman from Bank OZK said, “We aren’t a small business, but Bank OZK wants you to know we all stand tall together and we’re a team and community. Harrison does this well.”
Bell also reminded the group there are no dues, or fees planned to participate. “We want to grow each other, not take your money. And we know your time and money is very valuable.”
The group was given a short “social media” introduction to whet their appetite for the next workshop planned.
In closing, Franklin Harp reminded the group, “A rising tide raises all ships.”
The next Small Biz Connection will be on Thursday, Oct. 24, from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at the JPH Center on the main campus of North Arkansas College. The topic is “Marketing with Social Media.” Attendees are encouraged to bring smartphones or laptops to the workshop to use the in depth information in a hands-on format.