Subtle, effective holiday season prep

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Temperatures are dropping, days are getting shorter and before we know it people will be shopping for the holidays. As much as some of us don’t like the early launch of holiday decorations and products, there are some more subtle ways that your business can be prepared to make the most of the season.

Be top of mind

People may start their gift shopping this month or they may wait until the last minute. Now is the time to be sure potential customers know you exist so that when they’re ready or motivated, they think of YOU, not the Internet or the big box store.

Plan to increase your marketing now; don’t wait until the week of Thanksgiving or put it off to December. Be active on social media to feed photos of new products or services (or gift certificates) frequently and at least once a week. You may consider doing sponsored posts to new markets beyond your existing fans so that they will “like your page” and receive your posts over the next couple of months. Informing people of what you have to offer is the first best step.

Get them in the door

Now is the time to schedule an event at your shop. A “do-it yourself” workshop, a tasting of some sort, a ladies night, a book signing, a demonstration — anything you can come up with to get your business on community calendars and in the news. In addition to publicity, you also get people to come to your location, see what you have available and begin a relationship with you and your staff. It is all in the name of fun as well as getting people through the doors and into your shop, browsing and buying.

Entice them

Photos are the best way to share what you have to offer, whether it’s a unique product, a delicious meal or a perfectly detailed car — again, think gift certificates. Now is the time to take high quality photos of your products and services, or invest in a photographer to do an even better job. You will use those photos multiple times over the next few months, in print ads, on social media — Facebook and Instagram — and on your website.

Make shopping easy

Think about the many ways you can get your product to market MORE during the next few months. Perhaps extending your hours or opening an extra day will allow more people to shop after work or in their free time. If you have a website that allows for Internet sales, e-commerce, get your items updated, use those professional photos and make sure your online store is functioning, attractive and easy to use. Link the web address to your email signature and your Facebook page. Did you know you can install a “SHOP” button on your business Facebook page? Promote your online store in your brick and mortar store, too.

Reward your loyal customers

Be proactive about getting your existing customers to shop with you this holiday season. You can create a coupon or postcard to hand to them with their receipt. You can plan a customer appreciation holiday party and pop the VIP invitation into their bag as they check out. Your existing customers provide your best word of mouth advertising and if you continue to treat them well, they will shop with you this holiday season.

If you take these and other simple steps NOW to plan for the holidays, the busy season will be less stressful and more profitable. Good luck and happy holiday planning.

Brooke Rouse is executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Promotion Agent. She is a business owner, holds a master’s degree in tourism and is a former SUNY Canton Small Business Development Center Advisor. Contact her at or 386-4000.

Health: From the voices of vulnerable

Ian Grant WEB

Ian Grant

Are you curious about your blood pressure? There are devices for that and they’re popping up everywhere, even in local grocery stores. Do you need to assess your risk for developing type 2 diabetes? There is a simple test for that here: Want to investigate the burden of chronic disease in our region? There is a website for that —

In our community, we have unprecedented access to a growing variety of personal health data and community health indicators. But suppose you wanted to investigate patients’ attitudes, behaviors, and experiences with health care? For that you must go directly to the patient, which is exactly what we did.

We called community residents on their cell-phones and landlines, and asked them questions about their personal health, lifestyles and socio-economic status. In the end, we talked to 1,800 men and women of the tri-county region from all age groups, income categories and educational backgrounds. From our group of 1,800 respondents, we found more than 230 individuals who live in very fragile economic conditions. This group spoke on behalf of those of us who live in poverty and are most in need of our support.

Census estimates inform us that the most recent 10-year poverty estimates for each of our three counties — 15 percent of the population in Jefferson; 13 percent in Lewis; 18 percent in St. Lawrence — are the highest they’ve been since the early ‘60s and ‘70s. This vulnerable and growing population typically suffers a disproportionate burden of poor health outcomes, low access to health care and insufficient social supports. To alleviate these burdens and develop an equitable health care system, we need a greater understanding of the scope of social and economic factors impacting their health.

Our 2016 Community Health Survey allowed us to explore these social and economic health determinants while confirming the county-level estimates of individuals impacted by poverty. The survey revealed that individuals with limited resources are 67 percent more likely to visit an emergency department and have a 27 percent higher rate of hospitalization than the general population.

Though there are numerous potential explanations for these higher emergency department visits and hospitalizations, the survey data established that these individuals are sicker than the general population. In fact, more than half of Medicaid enrollees reported a diagnosis of at least one of the following chronic conditions: diabetes, prediabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or obesity — while just 38 percent of non-Medicaid enrollees report having one of these illnesses.

In addition to battling the challenges of finding the appropriate level of health care, 43 percent of Medicaid enrollees expressed that they do not always understand the instructions they receive during a clinical appointment. Significantly fewer non-Medicaid enrollees — 31 percent — expressed similar challenges. Health literacy, or the ability to obtain, process, and understand health information to make informed health decisions, affects all economic classes but disproportionately affects impoverished members of our community. Low health literacy is associated with increased risk of mortality, poor overall health and lower rates of preventive screening and immunizations.

Arguably the most startling statistic from the survey indicates that only 29 percent of Medicaid enrollees have five or more close friendships, while 41 percent of non-enrollees enjoy the benefit of large social networks. In other words, more than 70 percent of the individuals living in poverty within our community do so while experiencing low levels of social engagement and isolation. Notably, high levels of positive social engagement are associated with improved physical health and mental well-being.

Documenting the voices of the vulnerable is only half of the battle. Our extensive network of partners — including community coalitions, local health departments, community health centers, hospitals and social services agencies — will leverage these findings to tackle these challenges. These stories will continue to motivate action by all sectors of our community. The data underscore our duty to support our vulnerable brothers and sisters.

To learn more about poverty and health in our community and how you can take control of your own health visit the North Country Health Compass at

-Ian Grant is the population health program manager for Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, Watertown. Contact him at or 755-2020. Visit to learn more. A column from Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization staff appears every other month in NNY Business.

August 2016: Small Business Success

Understand options for crowdfunding

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

Crowdfunding, using various internet platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter to reach multiple investors, has been increasing by leaps and bounds over the last few years. So is crowdfunding a possibility for your business?

Certain types of products or businesses work better for crowdfunding than others. New and exciting businesses and products, nonprofits that can help people connect to a cause, or anything else that could get regular people excited to donate their hard-earned money may do well with crowdfunding. [Read more…]

August 2016: Business Tech Bytes

Health care IT advances across region

Jill Van Hoesen

Jill Van Hoesen

Health care IT is undoubtedly a north country industry that has seen scores of advances. This year, you have most likely found that health care providers have successfully transitioned from a primarily paper-based system to a technology-driven digital one.

Where consumer health care cost savings is questionable, better patient care, which allows patients to be more actively engaged in their own care and ultimately healthier, can be credited to these IT advances. [Read more…]

August 2016: Agribusiness

Come grow with us in the north country

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

If you are driving on Interstate 81 in the Watertown area, you may have noticed two very large Holstein dairy cows watching you drive by. Their faces are almost 11-feet tall and nearly 8-feet wide. That’s a large Holstein by any standard. [Read more…]

August 2016: Commerce Corner

Workplace wellness: It really can be fun

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Many of us spend a long day sitting in front of a computer, eating lunch at our desks, and eventually feeling the negative impacts of this routine on our health and wellness. When you think about it, this daily practice is not normal. Even on your biggest “couch potato” day at home, it is unlikely that you will sit in a chair in front of a screen for eight hours straight, unless of course, there is a great series marathon on Netflix. [Read more…]

August 2016: Nonprofits Today

Embracing the call to ‘Lives Matter’

Bob Gorman

Bob Gorman

In September 1976 my brother, Jim, was shooting baskets with fellow members of the Morgan State University basketball team. It was “open gym” so other students were nearby shooting baskets as well.

No big deal, except for one minor detail: Jim had just shown up on campus as the first white player to receive a basketball scholarship to Baltimore’s “historically black” Morgan State. [Read more…]

August 2016: Entrepreneur’s Edge

How to get your content to go viral

Joleene Moody

Joleene Moody

You need more traffic to your site. More interest in your articles. More reaction to your action. You’ve been told a thousand times that the key to making you a master on the web is to create viral content. And so you attempt to do so. But nothing happens. No one tweets you. No one shares you. Basically, no one loves you. So how do you turn things around so your content is contagious? Easy peasy. [Read more…]

July 2016: Agri-business

One man’s junk is another’s necessity

Jay Matteson

Jay Matteson

It is not unusual to encounter situations where farms keep old equipment and materials that may appear as “junk” to the non-farm public. Old tractors, farm machinery, and building materials may be kept by the farm for later use as replacement parts or building materials. Old tires may be kept for use to hold down plastic film placed on bunk silos storing animal feed. Farmers have always been masters of the three “Rs” of waste reduction: reduce, reuse and recycle. The three Rs apply when they keep old equipment to use for parts or to make devices to help complete daily farm chores. [Read more…]

July 2016: Entrepreneur’s Edge

Don’t give up because it didn’t happen

Joleene Moody

Joleene Moody

Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule?

It’s originally known as the Pareto Principle and it basically says that 20 percent of any input creates 80 percent of the result.

In other words, only 20 percent of you will do whatever it takes to become a self-sustaining entrepreneur. [Read more…]