TESTIMONIALS FROM COMMUNITY REINVENTION PROGRAM PARTICIPANT LEADERS
Jon Schallert asked community leaders who sent a group of business owners to his Destination Business BootCamp as part of the Community Reinvention Program two questions. Those questions and their responses are below:
Question #1: What were the advantages you saw of bringing your community’s business owners to our Destination BootCamp?
Question #2: Why should public funds be spent to send a group of independent business owners to our BootCamp? What value was there in spending public funds on the education of private entrepreneurs?
Angie Morelock, CEO/President, Chamber of Commerce of Sandusky County, Ohio
Phone: 419-332-1591 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By attending BootCamp as a group of business owners, it allowed them ample time together which resulted in a camaraderie among them that wasn’t present before. One owner said it best when she said that when they returned, they were no longer her neighbors, they were her family (referring to other attendees).
A paradigm shift happened when they realized that not only were they there to grow their business, but they were strengthening their community too, which would also benefit their business.
Economic Development happens in many different forms, and the Destination BootCamp is just one of them. Small businesses contribute to the local economies in immense ways, so spending public dollars on an initiative like this makes sense. By giving business owners opportunities to develop skills and providing them with resources and tools they need to grow, it ensures they remain a part of the economic health of a community for a long time.
Tom Humphrey, Community Development Director, City of Central Point, Oregon
Phone: 541-664-3321 ext. 230 Email: Tom.Humphrey@centralpointoregon.gov
The advantage in bringing a group of business owners to the BootCamp was having them all hear the same message and then remind one another of key strategies and tactics once they returned to Central Point. There is a certain synergy in traveling together, being exposed to new ideas, discussing business applications and holding one another accountable. The monthly follow-on conference calls have led to regular monthly meetings with most of our business owners and ‘alumni’ from other BootCamps who weren’t part of the Community Reinvention Program. The monthly meetings have enabled us to draw other business owners into the ‘destination fold’ and get them interested in having their own BootCamp experience. I knew something significant had happened when business owners voluntarily shared testimonials during one of Jon’s seminars in our city.
The value of spending public funds in the form of scholarships to send business owners to the Boot Camp is three-fold. It demonstrates the desire of government officials to see their business community be competitive and become successful. It’s just as much an investment in the community as physical infrastructure such as roads, water, power, etc. Finally, it conveys a commitment to, a belief in, and a philanthropy toward citizens that galvanizes the community. If businesses in Central Point become destinations, then the City also becomes a destination and that’s good for everybody!
Katy Korkos, Member Services Coordinator, Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce
Phone: 505-661-4816 Email: KatyK@losalamos.org
Each one of the business owners who attended has been more strategic and thoughtful in their commitment to their businesses since attending the BootCamp. Despite the recession (which was slower to hit New Mexico and has been slower to recede), each one of the businesses is growing and thriving. We returned to Los Alamos after the BootCamp to face a devastating wildfire, which caused each of the businesses to react in some way to a crisis situation. I feel that they reacted better than they would have if we had not just come from BootCamp. For example, The Hill Diner (Denise Lane), in addition to feeding firefighters and volunteers, reached out to the national media which was here for the fire and got featured on Good Morning America. Because of the relationship that had been forged, Denise partnered with the Los Alamos Co-op Market and Steve Watts to have cooler and freezer space for the large volumes of food that was required to feed firefighters and other volunteers. Don Taylor Photography began several new initiatives after attending BootCamp. He began photographing shelter animals free of charge to support the shelter and drive traffic to his services. Bennett’s Jewelry and UPEX have completely remodeled and refocused their store- they’ve made a major investment and commitment to having a successful business.
Jon’s visits to the businesses here in Los Alamos allowed those owners to see their premises with fresh eyes and re-evaluate. The presentation here was extremely helpful to the Chamber, because those in the audience included county officials and politicians who were unfamiliar with what it takes to create a successful business environment.
In our town, at least, it is often said that the County does nothing to support small business. Small business people are the ones who create the gathering spaces and the quality of life that make a community attractive to both residents and additional businesspeople. In our case, the trip was funded by Los Alamos National Bank rather than local government. I believe that sending additional businesses to BootCamp would be an excellent use of the County’s economic development sustainability fund.
Kristie Wert, Program Manager, Main Street Norwalk, Norwalk, Ohio
Phone: 419-660 8696 Email: email@example.com
Destination Business BootCamp has too many advantages to list in one paragraph! The best thing about attending was that our group of 8 from Norwalk had time to bond and learn about each other’s businesses. This added a sense of camaraderie when we returned and still exists for many of them today. The monthly follow up meetings kept the information in the front of everyone’s minds as we completed the homework and had our phone conferences with Jon. The follow up process did not allow owners to come back home, jump back into their old routine, and forget what they had learned. As a Main Street program, we were also able to take Jon’s strategies and apply them to the business District. Many of the strategies were just so simple that they were immediately addressed. The impact was incredible and 3 years later, people still talk about the experience. By the time Jon came to Norwalk, the community was well aware of many changes that attendees had already made in their businesses and full of buzz about the program. We had over 100 attendees at the workshop and we saw changes in businesses right away.
We were fortunate that the Main Street Norwalk program was chosen as a recipient of the Croghan Colonial Bank Business Reinvention Scholarship Program. Their support funded all tuition costs for attendees, with attendees picking up all travel costs. This was a great incentive for business owners to commit to the program. In the almost 3 years since returning from BootCamp, our District has seen incredible growth with over 20 new businesses opening since 2010, including three boutique shops that have quickly become destinations! With the tough economic times facing local governments, there are not a lot of incentives for small business. For a local community to designate public funding to send business owners to BootCamp is a tremendous investment in the business community that will have long lasting impacts on the community as businesses implement Jon’s strategies for becoming destinations.
Jeff Hofaker, former Phillips County Economic Development Director, Phillips County, Kansas
Phone: 785-543-5809 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bringing a business to the BootCamp will positively change the business, involving businesses to attend within the Community Reinvention Program through the BootCamp will aggressively change the thought process of your business leaders attending to become game changers (mentors) for your community’s business atmosphere. Our Phillips County businesses which have attended have become mentors to other entrepreneurial owner. They see themselves as the spark of education and leadership for the next generation of growth in their economy, rather than just (a) business. This mentality creates collaboration, then cooperation to selling their community as a place to discover. They don’t see local businesses as competitors vying for a piece of the money pie, but as fellow community members helping sell their business and the area to recruit more business into the area; thus, more business and growth in the long run.
Today, more than any other time in history, rural towns and economy centers (counties) are trying to figure out ways to stay vibrant and grow. Investing in programs such as the Community Reinvention Program for your local businesses is a specific and guaranteed way to make your economic foundation stronger. If you could invest $1500 dollars to help one business (that is serious about growing) learn how to increase their average yearly sales by $15,000 dollars, would you do it? As a community or public entity you should… Why? Growth in sales, growth in taxes received, growth in people visiting the county, growth in new businesses, growth in continued visitors, and long-term economic growth. Give a person a fish, you will feed him for a day; teach a person to fish; you will feed him for a lifetime… Same applies to educating your businesses and their growth… do you want short term stability or long-term growth?
Ann Mehaffy, former Director of Historic Baker City Inc., Baker City, Oregon
Phone: 541-519-0698 Email: email@example.com
The advantages of bringing my community business owners to Destination BootCamp are clear!
From the onset we were collectively focused on stepping up to the plate to “get the word’ and deliver it back to our community. We knew a concerted effort would be required to take full advantage of the rare opportunity of sending members from the community to the BootCamp. While there at the BootCamp our little community ‘tribe’ soaked up as much information as possible, saw the application of this new rich information to many, many businesses, and got inspired in the “1+ 1 does not equal 2” way. WOW! Afterwards we held meetings, spread the word, and took full advantage of a shared experience, shared knowledge, and a shared mission!
The education of local businesses (private entrepreneurs) becomes a public event or public experience when the businesses contribute to the economic vitality of the community. The Destination BootCamp IS economic development, which is very much in the realm of public service!
Dave Eatwell, former Executive Director, Puyallup Washington Main Street Association, Puyallup, Washington
Phone: 503-665-1128 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting the business owners out of their shops and to the BootCamp allows them to concentrate on the content of the BootCamp. There is so much content offered in three short days that any distraction means missing vital information.
Group dynamics! The owners of diverse unique businesses began to see themselves as affiliates to a larger corporate entity, the downtown business district. They cease being competitive, they begin to depend on and support each other. Then they share what they learned at the BootCamp with other businesses. Once that process takes hold, defining an agreed-on brand and a marketing plan follows in short time.