Chamber Gears up for 2017 Farmers Market

Kylie Peck

Mark your calendar on May 24 as the Greater Watertown Farm & Craft Market prepares for its 40th consecutive year. As we are busy securing vendors for this year’s market, it is important to recognize the history and benefits surrounding this annual event.

    Farmer’s markets have been a part of the national landscape since the mid-1700s and have since become woven into our culture, increasing in number and popularity. Year after year these markets continue to be a welcomed event, encouraging healthy shopping selections, social opportunities and increased business visibility.

    A farmer’s market acts as a source of fresh, nutritious foods from local producers. With farm- fresh options, the farmers are adept at providing an abundance of items at reasonable pricing to local consumers. Partnering with nutrition programs can increase the health and wellness of these area residents by offering the Farmers Market Nutrition Program, Farmers Market Wireless EBT Program and Nutrition Education, resulting in fresh options available to everyone.

    There is a growing trend among consumers to support local farmers and local economies. A farmer’s market is a perfect venue for this trend. Bringing these options to the center of our downtown creates a direct connection with the growers of the foods and creates the opportunity for consumers to ask questions, learn about how their food is produced and get to know the people who are providing the food they feed their families. This centers conversation on healthy cooking options and interest in fresh foods.

    Each week the Farm & Craft Market draws thousands of local shoppers and community members to downtown Watertown with a broad mix of diverse cultural backgrounds, a variety of ages and all levels of economic scale.  Throughout the season, local organizations use the market as a venue to educate the public about their mission, publicize their services and highlight opportunities to become involved.

    Hosting a farmers market also helps build the local economy. Not only does this provide an opportunity for farmers, crafters and food vendors to highlight their offerings and skills, it is also a benefit for local businesses. Customers spill into the surrounding area, bringing foot traffic and sales to downtown shops and eateries. Business owners are encouraged to create incentives to draw customers in to generate commerce in the local community.

    Creating an atmosphere with local entertainment, educational opportunities and local food and product sources transforms our downtown into a vibrant public space, which nurtures the sense of community among residents and visitors alike. Adding local shops to the mix creates the ideal opportunity for downtown visitors to make the most of their outing and truly get a sense of what the city of Watertown has to offer.

    With the opening of the market comes excitement and anticipation that summer is truly on its way and we are able to celebrate the offerings of our local farmers and crafters. Year after year we bring 50 to 60 local producers, crafters and food vendors to the community, creating a unique opportunity in Watertown that is met with much anticipation. If you are a farm or craft vendor, please contact our office to learn more about getting involved in our market. We encourage downtown business owners to get in contact with our team to learn more about getting the most out of our downtown market days.

    The Watertown Farm & Craft Market is held every Wednesday between May 24 and October 4 on Washington Street in downtown Watertown. For more information on the market or to learn about the GWNC Chamber of Commerce, please visit our website, watertownny.com or call us at (315) 788-4400.

Kylie peck is the president and CEO of the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Clayton with her husband and two young boys. Contact her at kpeck@watertownny.com or 315-788-4400.

The Power of Mentorship

Brooke Rouse

Mentorship in professional development is especially beneficial to women leaders, whether those mentors are male or female.  Some women are hesitant to ask for help, others crave constant feedback;  finding a balanced support system of mentors and mentees allows you to continue learning from other perspectives.

                A circle of mentors should include some diversity in experience, age, gender and other defining characteristics. It should include people within your industry and outside your industry, people you know well, and people who are just acquaintances. In some cases a mentor may be a paid coach, lawyer or advisor of another sort. The key to establishing a truly productive mentorship balance is engaging people who will tell you what you need to hear, and what you want to hear…not always at the same time. Personal, emotional, and professional feedback can come in many forms and it is good to have someone on speed-dial for the variety of scenarios you face as a businesswoman and leader.

                The power of mentorship between women of different ages and experience levels has been gaining momentum in the Canton-Potsdam college towns of St. Lawrence County. In 2014 the Young Women’s Leadership Institute of the North Country (YWLI) formed as a partnership between the four colleges and the local chapter of the American Association for University Women (AAUW) and has quickly recruited a number of active and diverse professionals from the county. According to their website (http://ncywli.weebly.com ), the group notes their vision as being “… a membership institute providing opportunities for women to come together from the area colleges and engage with each other, with mentors and other resources in the community, enhancing the leadership development options for young women”.  Professional women in the area mentor college students and the college students have teamed up with middle and high school women. An annual conference and special speaker and networking events throughout the year have helped the board realize that there is a critical role to be played in developing young women leaders.

                Listening and learning, that is what mentorship is; age does not define a mentor. As many professionals in the YWLI have found, they are learning so much from college students, as well as connecting with each other as mentors. Likewise, college students are finding great value in their conversations with older and younger women. A study by LinkedIn in 2014 found that only one in five women have mentors, yet business success, poverty reduction, fair pay and higher GDP have all been identified as impacts of female mentorship.

                Finding the time to be a mentor or seek out mentors often takes a back seat to being a mom, a business leader, a wife, sister or daughter. Making a goal of one hour per month is a great start. It does not always have to be in person, as Google hangouts, Skype and a variety of online networks allow you to connect at any time of day or night. Mentorship does not have to be formal; it can happen over a cup of coffee or a walk (good self-care!) In addition to making a difference in someone else’s life, leaving a legacy, and helping to shape the next generation, you too will benefit from a growing network, a reduced feeling of isolation, fresh ideas, and the opportunity to further your own leadership skills.

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 brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 315-386-4000.

Take steps to retain young leaders

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Some say leadership is learned, others say leadership is an inherent trait. Either way, if a young leader is identified in your hiring process or in your company, you certainly want to keep them around.

Young leaders have a desire to continue growing and learning, are looking for new opportunities and a feeling of value, and want to enjoy their work environment. Paying attention to and fulfilling these professional desires will help you to keep the best and brightest working for you.

Goals & vision

Keep your young leaders informed of the goals and vision of the company and how their work contributes to moving the company forward. Providing the individual with the guidance to work productively, without micromanaging their work, will ensure they stay motivated. Recognize their efforts in terms of the overall success of the organization, welcome their opinions and allow them to be a part of understanding the risks associated with business.

Face time

I’m not talking about the video function on an iPhone … provide your leaders with the opportunity to represent the company on committees, in presentations, at public charity events — in any way that they know you trust them to be the face of the company in the public eye.

Culture

Young leaders enjoy being on a team, having responsibility to lead people and be led. The people and culture of the workplace are important to keeping them coming back and looking forward to work every day. Hiring people for personality that fits with the team can make or break the long-term possibility of employment. Instilling a culture of hard work balanced with a lighthearted and social atmosphere are important, too.

Community connection

Finally, young leaders who are new to the area will also be seeking a connection to the community. Beyond work life, social life and civic engagement are a big part of what will connect a person to a community. Meeting people, expanding social networks and contributing to a cause or the community at large adds value to a young leader and fulfills other needs outside of the office.

Developing leaders is not an individual event. It must be an ongoing process, which may include casual mentorship, participation on a team and a company culture that is aware and responsive to the role of young leaders.

LinkedIn is a professional nerowrking site that many businesses employ as a means to connect with customers and market services. Later this month, the Potsdam Public Library will offer a free class designed to introduce users to the business networking platform. Here’s some more information:

                Sunday, Dec. 11, LinkedIn, 12:30 p.m., Potsdam Public Library, 2 Parks St. #1, Potsdam. This class will provide information on how to create and effectively use a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is a business-0oriented social networking tool to find useful for anyone seeking work or those looking for employees. The event covers how to connect with people, how to input your information and create a profile. Bring a laptop and a professional photo of yourself saved on the computer. New users welcome. Cost: Free. Information/registration: Potsdam Public Library, (315) 265-7230.

 

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 brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 386-4000.

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 brouse@stlawrencecountychamber.org or 386-4000.

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…]

April 2016: Commerce Corner

Six ways colleges impact local economies

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

The north country is fortunate to be home to many institutions of higher education. Many businesses in college towns feel the ebbs and flows of a “semester-based business cycle” and periods of particular peaks during move in, move out, graduations, family weekends, reunions and sporting events. The influx of students and their families, as well as a constantly revolving pool of faculty and staff, presents challenges and tremendous opportunity for the local economy. Here are six ways that colleges help to drive the local economy: [Read more…]

March 2016: Commerce Corner

North country women ahead of the curve

Kylie Peck

Kylie Peck

Women have been a part of the working class for decades. Today they represent almost 47 percent of the labor force in the United States, according the U.S. Department of Labor. Historically, women have served as secretaries, administrative assistants and receptionists, as well as nurses and teachers, but there has been a radical change in how women in the workplace are perceived. [Read more…]

December 2015: Commerce Corner

Give the gifts of local this season

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

Gift-giving is a traditional part of the holiday season for many. Some are overwhelmed by the shopping experience; others plan throughout the year and carefully select each and every item. In many parts of our rural north country, retail is limited and travel to larger areas or online shopping becomes a necessity. [Read more…]

October 2015: Commerce Corner

Growth opportunities and cautions

Brooke Rouse

Brooke Rouse

At some point in the life of your business you will approach the question: Should we expand? Should we grow our business? The many economic development agencies in the region hope you do get to this point, and hope you will seek us out for assistance. If, or when, that question pops up for you, here are a few things to consider in the way you grow and the strategy and approach to how, when, where and what you end up doing. [Read more…]

September 2015: Commerce Corner

Make a successful seasonal transition

Columnist Brooke James

Columnist Brooke Rouse

Fall brings beautiful colors, holiday preparations and harvest season. It also brings shorter, cooler days that signal it is time to prepare for hibernation. In the north country, we know that hibernation, given our long winters, is not a productive option. Business trends and cycles, as well as time and weather-dependent projects, may help direct fall planning for a successful seasonal transition. Being aware and strategic now may lead to your most successful year yet, whether you are a new entrepreneur or a veteran business owner. [Read more…]