Akron community receives business suggestions from SaveYour.Town expert

Posted September 15, 2017 at 7:49 pm

j Deb Brown at presentation.tif

By Julie Ann Madden

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series on the visit of SaveYour.Town co-founder Deb Brown to Akron on Sept. 2 – 5.

1. Gather Your Crowd & Plant Your Flag…Decide what you’re going to do.

“We’re going to save our town. Anybody interested come join us. We’re not looking for whiners, complainers and those who don’t do anything,” said SaveYour.Town cofounder Deb Brown at her forum finale Wednesday, Sept. 6.

2. Build Connections…With people who can help save your town.

Develop a long list of contacts who will help you do that — from grant and economic development opportunities to networking with other successful communities, said Brown.

3. Take Small Steps…Which makes progress easier to happen.

Use the Innovative Rural Business Model she told the approximate 60 people present.

These three steps are the Idea-Friendly Method created by Brown and partner, Becky McCray.

It’s the basis for their Innovative Rural Business Models, which is another name for “How To Do Small Things That Nobody Else Is Doing To Make A Difference In Your Community,” said Brown who visited Akron for three days last week as the guest of Akron Mayor Sharon Frerichs.

Take the benefits of living in a small town and put them to work for you, she advised.

One benefit is residents can “have a say in what happens in their town,” and another is they “look out for each other.” Residents also “welcome strangers.”

“Every town also has a few Committee of Negativity members,” said Brown, “and that’s okay, too. We need folks that complain a little bit as well because that’s what kind of stirs the pot.”

At her SaveYour.Town finale forum, Brown summed up her Innovative Rural Business Model as “Tiny, Temporary, Together and Traveling.”

“These are indicators of what works in small communities,” said Brown, giving a list of several business ideas:

• Businesses Inside A Business. Prospective entrepreneurs may not have the financial capital or the time needed to launch a brick-and-mortar business. However, they can open a small area at another business.

One local example is Twin Flames & Wellness Centre, which offers massage therapies and gives other small businesses the opportunity to market their products. Currently available are Lifebrook aronia berry juices and supplements; Entegro’s Flourish probiotics; Destiny handbags, doTERRA essential oils and spa products, Maelle skincare and beauty products; local gifts and jewelry vendors, and a variety of businesses’ non-GMO, organic, fair trade teas and coffees.

“It’s economic development at its finest,” said Brown, giving examples of several towns across America doing the same. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a shelf or a corner in size.

• Tiny Business Villages. Simply take a garden shed or vendor “pop-up tent” and place it on an empty lot.

People rent the sheds for season-long pop-up businesses such as Christmas village shops offering a variety of gifts or events like an artisan craft fair, ladies night out, or junk fest.

• Tiny, Temporary, Together. For example, have local artists temporarily fill empty store fronts with their artwork, said Brown. It not only gives them a sales opportunity but decorates an empty building. It can be student artists, too.

• Beyond Retail: Take an insurance or investment office, decorate reception area with local artists’ artwork with a sign of who to contact for more information and to make purchases.

It not only brings your customers to the artist, it brings the artists’ customers to your office, said Brown.

An audience suggestion was to do an open house for the artist.

• Project Pop-Up Stores: Partner with state officials. It’s a way to fill empty buildings. Do three months free of a year-lease and offer the empty buildings to start-up businesses from across the state. In her example, almost all of the entrepreneurs who tried this are now full-scale brick-and-mortar businesses.

• Traveling trucks & trailers. Whether it’s a line of clothing, coffee or ice cream, entrepreneurs can purchase a panel truck or travel trailer and sell their wares in an empty lot or parking lot. These turn into traveling trucks marketplaces.

Brown suggested hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to catch both daytime and evening shoppers.

These entrepreneurs can also sell at a variety of vendor events and fairs across the state. A couple of ideas were Leo’s Sharpening Services and an ice cream truck business.

• Maker Spaces. These are spaces set up as innovation labs — such as for artists, bakers and welders.

People can use the tools and equipment — either renting the maker space with a monthly membership fee or a one-time fee. Then they can sell their products and services elsewhere.

Akron’s Old Geezer Group has just such a Maker Space available in the basement of the old Care Center building. For information, contact Harold Higman at 712-568-2852.

It’s a way to not only see if there is a market for the products but to see if an entrepreneur really wants to do it — before they invest in opening a full-scale brick-and-mortar business, said Brown, noting it takes five years for the latter to take off in success.

• Co-Working Spaces. This will work for such people as Certified Public Accountants or salespeople, giving them a temporary office space.

The co-working space is set up that anyone can come in, rent a space for a day or two and provide their services to the community.

• Shared Spaces. Break up large building spaces into small little stores — some as small as just a table of goods to sell and as the business grows, they choose a larger space until they are ready to have their own brick-and-mortar facility.

“All of these are small steps,” said Brown, giving plenty examples of each in her presentation. “There are steps for everybody.”

Summarization

“It’s okay to fail, too. When you’re taking little steps and doing little things, it doesn’t hurt as much to fail. Failure doesn’t cost as much and you actually look at failure as a learning curve.”

“You don’t look at it as failure,” she said. “You figure out what you learned by failing and you don’t make fun of each other for failing.”

“You give awards for trying that idea out,” said Brown. “Give awards for the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff.”

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