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Across the country, and right here in Newtown, the first week of May was dedicated to celebrating small businesses.
The Newtown Chamber and its partners produced a number of well attended sessions from the global impact of several new advertising and promotional tools being touted by Facebook, to hyper-local advice on capitalizing small business start ups from an expert source at Newtown Savings Bank.
According to the US Small Business Administration, small businesses create two out of every three net new jobs in the private sector. What’s more, over half of all Americans own or work for a small business.
Quint Studer, author of Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America, believes that, “Communities need to invest in their small businesses in a meaningful way as they are the key to economic revitalization.”
Mr Studer, also founder of Pensacola, Florida’s Studer Community Institute, says the best way to celebrate and honor small businesses and local entrepreneurs during Small Business Week — and all year long — is to do business with them.
Shopping locally gives small businesses a chance to showcase how good they are, he said. They get face time with customers who might not regularly be in their stores and shops, and it shows consumers what they might be missing — the personal connections and experiences they crave but most likely won’t get from online or big box retailers.
Ideally, he says, this is more than making a few purchases one week, but instead, turns into a long-term relationship, whereby consumers begin to “shop local” on a regular basis.
The local chamber offered four programs that kicked off Monday, April 30, with a visit from Facebook’s Josh Abah who reviewed the social network’s most up-to-date tools, insights, and best practices for growing a business presence on Facebook and Instagram.
His hourlong presentation covered new tools available for a company’s Business Pages, how to bridge outreach and promotions along with customer and prospect interaction via Facebook Messenger and Instagram, and how to utilize Facebook tools to drive more people into retail locations while boosting brand awareness.
The next day, in partnership with the Cyrenius H. Booth Library, the chamber welcomed Whit Holden of Newtown Savings Bank, who reviewed various financing programs and strategies, whether attendees were starting a new business, or seeking to expand an existing enterprise.
On May 2, the chamber and library featured Jean Hebert and Rosemary Bove discussing available marketing programs and partnership opportunities with the Connecticut Office of Tourism.
Attendees learned how the office partners with the Connecticut business community and three regional tourism districts to position the state as a prime destination for leisure and business travelers and encourage strategic investment. They also learned about a broad range of services, including marketing, research, hospitality services, and direct sales offered by the Office of Tourism, which operates Connecticut’s six welcome centers, the state’s official tourism website and social media sites.
Julie Davis Friend of Newtown’s eFriend Marketing closed out the week’s programs Thursday, educating business owners about reputation management. She helped attendees recognize the first impressions they are making both physically and virtually, and to be fully aware of what their “virtual doorway” looks like. Attendees also discovered why even local businesses need to be concerned about reputation management.
Chamber staffer Jill Dalessandro attended Mr Holden’s presentation and came away with a better understanding of how new business owners can become so consumed with the details of getting things going, that they don’t take the time to prepare a business plan.
“The session noted the importance of a business plan, as well as financial statements for your business,” she said. “Owners learned that these items will be required by a bank when applying for a loan.”
Ms Dalessandro said the workshop helped aspiring business owners with resources to help prepare them, including the CT Small Business Development Center that was represented by Nelson Merchan.
“SBA (Small Business Administration) qualifying loans were also discussed,” she said, “as well as possible equity financing where a small business can give partial ownership to another party to obtain financing.”
Dennis Daugherty, chairman of Western Connecticut SCORE said Newtown’s Small Business events were very successful in providing education for the many entrepreneurs that attended.
“The Newtown Chamber and Booth Library are to be congratulated for organizing these programs,” Mr Daugherty said. “Starting this Fall, Western Connecticut SCORE is joining the chamber and library to present a series of small business workshops.”
This program will be announced shortly. SCORE also plans to assist the library and chamber in presenting another series of impactful workshops during Small Business Week next May.
“We all hope that events like this provide regional entrepreneurs with knowledge that helps grow their businesses,” he said.
Judith Miller said that after attending the informative Facebook event, “I believe a lot of us felt inspired to make social media marketing more of a priority. I have used ad posts and ad boosting some but was not getting the results from them I would like. I realized during this event I was not using the ad setups to best reach the target audiences I needed to reach. I started working on the Facebook Blueprint Certification we were shown immediately after this event.”
Ms Miller said she and friends Janice Butler and Andy Forsyth discussed “how helpful the presentation was, and how we should form a group to meet occasionally at the Booth Library to help one another with our social media advertising.”
She feels such a group will be a great way for various entrepreneurs and professionals to come together and share social media marketing strategies and how to implement them online.
“This group will be a great spin-off to the Newtown Chambers efforts in bringing Facebook to Newtown and continue the momentum of supporting Newtown’s business community,” she said.
Newtown financial adviser W. Scott Anders said the local Small Business Week activities showcased what the chamber’s essential purpose is – businesses supporting other businesses.
“More successful businesses in Newtown will help others grow as well,” he said. “Ultimately, this is about increasing awareness of the practical value of membership — not simply a ribbon cutting photo — but beyond that a concentrated effort by many fellow business owners to develop and deliver programs that will make a difference to the bottom line.”
Mr Anders also was inspired to form a peer to peer group of individuals interested in applying the lessons learned from the Facebook presentation in a lunch and learn format.
“Individuals can share what they have learned to make their use of this marketing tool more effective,” he said.
“The fact that the chamber hosted successful events with over 100 participants over a three day period (Martini Madness and Small Business Week) is a testament to its growing ability to deliver value to its members,” Mr Anders said. “It is also in no small measure a testament to our marketing director, Helen Brickfield, who has gone above and beyond to help the chamber grow and become a more vital resource to this community.”
Chamber member Bryan Roth, a financial advisor with the Edward Jones offices on Church Hill Road concurred.
“Martini madness, Destination Newtown, and the chamber golf tournament are chamber social events where local business owners can showcase their businesses, network and have a good time,” Mr Roth observed. “Small business week is an opportunity to continue the momentum. After that, it’s important for our members to shop local and continue to be active with the chambers. Givers gain!”
Mr Studer pointed out the symbiotic relationship between residents and small business owners.
They really need each other,” the author noted. “Small businesses provide jobs and keep the dollars circulating locally. Their owners have an active and personal interest in the well-being of the community. They live there. Their kids go to school there. They care about what happens. And when wealth is created, business owners are more likely to turn around and reinvest in the community.”
Learn more about Newtown Chamber membership and activities by visiting newtown-ct.com, or the chamber’s Facebook site.