Support Small Business, Support Your Community

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Click to go to 09-21-2020 Issue

When you think of a small business you probably think of the mom and pop store you have shopped at for years. They are the backbone of our community. The accepted definition of a small business is a business with 500 or less employees. That is 99.9% of the businesses in this region! Nationally, businesses with fewer than 100 employees account for 98.2% of businesses and those with fewer than 20 account for 89% of all businesses. Past year’s statistics show us that small businesses have always been at the center of our economy and its success. Small businesses are flexible and employ most American workers, and they offer a wide array of products and services.

Why Own a Business?

Being a small business owner is not for everyone. It takes drive, focus and flexibility to be successful. The most common motivation to start one’s own business is to be the boss, to set your own schedule and to go as far as you can. A Salesforce study revealed that the new generation of entrepreneurs is more likely to side-hustle. In fact, Millennials and Gen Zers are 188 percent more likely to create a side business, compared to older generations.
Falconer Electronics has been in business since 1985. According to company representative Curt Anderson, an independent ecommerce consultant, “Owner Roger Hall has maintained the company’s infrastructure and prosperity by staying laser focused and doing what he loves.” The company employs on average 30 workers. A press release from the office of Courtney Curatolo, Executive Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jamestown Community College, “During a virtual ceremony on July 22, Buffalo Business First honored this year’s winners of the 8 th annual Manufacturing Awards. Companies were nominated and selected by an independent panel of judges based on category criteria, and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jamestown Community College was pleased to nominate Falconer Electronics in the category of Innovation.

Falconer Electronics CEO Roger Hall and Chief of Engineering Chris Bartkowiak.
Falconer Electronics CEO Roger Hall and Chief of Engineering Chris Bartkowiak.

Falconer Electronics received the Manufacturing Innovation Award due to their dedication to creativity, innovation, and ecommerce. Falconer Electronics, a manufacturer of ground straps, commercial power strips and wire harness assemblies experienced robust sales growth since engaging with the SBDC at JCC to make an investment in creating a robust software tool to help make the purchasing process much easier for their customers. The SBDC marketing plan delivered to Falconer Electronics increased website traffic by 1000% from November 2017 through Jan 2019.” According to Founder and President Roger Hall, “We have not only converted dozens of these leads into paying customers, we are now also seeing repeat orders from many customers. Without the assistance from the SBDC, this sheer quantity of new customer engagement would have never taken place.”

The Secret of Success During the Pandemic

Mark Giese, Executive Director of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) said, “There have been some winners and some losers during this time. The winners have been able to pivot to an online presence to handle the marketing, sales and communications with their customers. Initially many were really hurting, but now the majority, except the tourism, hospitality and concert venues, are doing OK.” He added, “because we haven’t collected and analyzed the data yet through the occupancy tax information, we are hearing from businesses about this difficult time.” Anecdotally, the businesses that are serving those who are staying home from the workplace, whether they are working or not, and school are doing well; food and beverage manufacturers, office furniture and equipment, etc. Locally Nestle Purina is doing well too. The CCIDA has several targeted low interest funding options available to most businesses to assist them with capital and operating needs. We have a terrific team here in Chautauqua County and we are able to be flexible to assist our local businesses.”

According to a Facebook survey, more than half (51 %) of the businesses say they have increased their interactions with their clients over the Internet. Additionally, 36 % of personal businesses who use online tools are now also doing all their sales online. The local SBDC offers online classes to teach about ecommerce and setting up websites.

Bio Dome Ben Haskin
Bio Dome
Ben Haskin

The Pandemic and the Pivot

Unfortunately, the pandemic has shuttered over 30% of our nation’s small businesses. While over 70% of US small businesses shut down in March, many are starting to open following CDC and State guidelines. The hardest hit locally are tourism, hospitality and entertainment businesses. Restaurants have had to adjust throughout the past six months to keep their doors open for takeout, outside dining, and at this time, half capacity indoor seating.

Another local business that has seen its services shift is Serv Pro of Jamestown/Olean. Owner Bill Uhl said, “Prior to the pandemic most of our customers needed us to help them clean and disinfect after water and fire damage. Since the pandemic, our disinfection business is up 250%. There are a lot less water and fire damage calls because people are home and taking care of the problems when they happen. Initially, our customers did not want to let our technicians into their homes, which is understandable, but over time they are starting to open up their homes.” When asked about the greatest challenges at this time, he said what many owners are saying, “Staffing is the greatest challenge and need. I have some wonderful staff that are now staying home with their families, which I completely support. Luckily, the business and staff are coming back at the same slower rate so we can adjust our services and still keep our customers satisfied. I am seeing a steady growth of 5-10% a month and in six months we should be back where we were prior to March.” Mr. Uhl added, “I’m 63 years old and I have been in business my entire adult life. I am amazed and overwhelmed at how helpful the government has been throughout this crisis. They have been extraordinarily helpful with the PPP loan and other funding options.” When asked how he defined success he said, “I find success when I am helping people; customers, employees, and contributing to the community.”

Crown Roasters Mike Bigney

Another small business that used the Internet for keeping his business going is Crown Roasting Company on West Third St. in Jamestown. When asked to share his thoughts on the current state of the business during this difficult time, owner Michael Bigney said, “The community has really stepped up and we are extremely grateful for their continued support. This is another part of running a business. You have to be flexible and willing to adjust to the market. We moved our menu online and provided takeout service. We never had to shut down. It is an interesting time, no one has done this before. You have to think ahead and have alternate plans for whatever the future brings.”

Fear of Failure

One of the biggest fears that people who start their own business have is the risk of failure. Nationally, 50% of businesses fail in the first five years. However, according to the SBDC, 94.8% of new businesses that make use of the SBDC’s programs, are still open after 5 years. The top reasons businesses fail is not finding customers and being undercapitalized, that is running out of cash. Obviously, one needs to offer a product line and or services customers want. Another challenge for any business is lack of adequate or qualified workers. According to a CNBC survey, 52 % surveyed stated that the most important problem for small businesses was labor quality. Small business owners say that it’s hard to find qualified individuals to hire and for businesses with more than 50 employees, owners believe it’s harder to find qualified workers to hire. Managing finances and cash flow are other top reasons small businesses struggle. Again, the Small Business Development Center at JCC can assist with many of these challenges. The National Small Business Week Virtual Conference “Recovery, Adaptation, and Innovation” is September 22-24. The conference is free and offers full day programming to improve your business expertise. To sign up go to https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week/virtual-conference.

How You can Help Local Businesses

You can do your part to help your favorite businesses by wearing your mask, keeping your distance and of course washing your hands. Many owners have thanked their customers for their loyalty since the pandemic began. Do your part and support the small businesses in your community to help them be here when we are virus free.

Conclusion: Small Business Statistics

Without a doubt, 2020 is going to be a significant year for small businesses. With the competition increasing, these statistics will help guide your way into better decision making if you’re a small business owner, or are interested in starting your own business. And even though you’re likely to face challenges, knowing the current trends will help you tackle difficulties in a more proactive manner. (https://www.oberlo.com/blog/small-business-statistics)