Small Business Startup: The Great Escape, Mind Body and Soul

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
Terrie LaLone is the owner of the Great Escape in downtown Watertown. This is a business that helps with light and sound meditation and healing including a Brain Tap.

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Branding for Success

Sarah O’Connell

In April, Jefferson Community College presented its annual Jefferson Business Symposium for high school and college students and members of the community.  This year’s theme was “Build Brand U” and featured a variety of presentations during the day about developing yourself a brand as a student, a job seeker, a leader or a businessperson.   Keynote speakers for the event were Jody and Doreen Garrett, founders of several successful local businesses.

    During the day, I gave a presentation called “Building a Winning Brand for Your North Country Business.”  I talked about what it means to be an entrepreneur as well as how to choose what kind of business you might want to start here in Northern New York.   Besides the usual “how to start a business” information, I also highlighted determining what local business opportunities exist in our area and then making sure it suits your passion, your personality and your pocketbook. 

    For example, are you the type of person who would be happy with someone else giving you a blueprint for your business model? In other words, would you be a better fit as a franchisee, or as an independent business that creates your own path?  

    Maybe you’re a fan of the emerging disruptor or collaborative/sharing economy.   Uber, Lyft and AirBnB are examples of this, and they are turning many traditional industries upside down (mass transportation and accommodations) and requiring municipal entities to figure out how to capture licensing and taxation revenues from these new models.

    Again, in a broader sense, there are opportunities in the technology fields as the need for new products and services changes rapidly – software, ecommerce, cybersecurity, digital marketing, games, apps and so on.    The retiring Baby Boomers need services in property maintenance, senior care, etc.  The mobile Fort Drum community and young professionals are markets looking for upcoming trends they would like to see here, such as niche clothing shops and different dining experiences. The resurgence of Watertown’s downtown also offers a refreshing assortment of shopping – fashion eyewear, yoga studios, juice bars, an art gallery, craft brewpubs, wine lounges, spas, thrift and vinyl record shops.  Some of these have been around for quite a while but are seeing an uptick because of increased foot traffic from the new businesses and events designed to bring people to downtown.

    Last but not least, take a look at the distinctive enterprises that make our own north country marketable, whether it’s locally sourced foods (meats, cheese, honey) and beverages (wine, beer, cider, liquors), crafts made by artisans (wood items, candles), tourism and agri-tourism venues and winter/summer sports.

    Still not sure what business to start?  Each year Jefferson Community College’s Center for Community Studies undertakes a Survey of the Community for Jefferson and Lewis counties (available on the JCC website).   Viewing the responses to the survey questions on what people feel is missing may just give you an idea of a need waiting to be filled.

    What’s the next step?   Do a target market analysis, come up with a business plan and then develop a sense of the startup costs.  This is where your purse or wallet comes into play, because it needs to be a concept that you can afford to invest in with or without the assistance of a commercial bank and/or a public lender. (Check out what funds might be available through jcida.com under “Financing Assistance Applications.”)  The SBDC can assist you in developing the business plan and creating financial forecasts for your loan package.  Building a strong business brand will point you on the way to success.

    Note: Planning is underway for our 14th annual Business of Women networking conference in June.  Watch facebook.com/BusinessofWomen/ for more information.

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties.  For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu.   St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu.

SARAH O’CONNELL is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu.

The Business of Small Business

KRISTEN AUCTER

President Calvin Coolidge stated that “the business of America is business” and although the statement was made in the 1920’s it still rings true today. The encouragement of entrepreneurship across the country idealizes our willingness to take risks and reach for the stars. The successful businesses that run through our small towns and communities provide the nourishment to keep that enthusiasm and those dreams alive.

    Small businesses create a strong middle class, give back exponentially to the community and have been, throughout the nation’s history, the primary source of job creation in the country. It is our job as consumers to continuously provide support to perpetuate the cycle of success to the business owner and the communities we live in.

    According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses make up 99.7% of US employer firms. Since the last recession they have accounted for 67% of the new jobs created! Those statistics alone should make people want to identify how to continue our small business revolution. Here are some ideas on how you, as a consumer or business, can do just that:

  1. Shop there! This one shouldn’t need much of an explanation. Visit their businesses. Use their services. Make it a habit to check what they have available before going to larger box stores.
  2. Participate in “Small Business Saturday”. Since 2010 American Express has been encouraging consumers to skip Black Friday shopping and support their local small businesses. The campaign was launched in an effort to aid small businesses in gaining exposure and to change the way consumers shop in their own community. Many Chambers of Commerce, including Lewis County’s, open their doors on that day as a welcome station. Providing lists of business open for the day, reusable shopping bags and goodies for kids or pets who may be tagging along!
  3. Encourage your friends and family to shop local. Everyone hates the dreaded question “what do you want for your birthday/Christmas/graduation etc”. Let them know you love what the local shops have to offer. It not only gets you what you want but introduces a new customer to those businesses.
  4. Look into community gift certificates. Many local Chambers offer gift certificates that can be used at multiple participating businesses in the area. Lewis County will have Chamber Ca$h available as of June 1st. It is a dollar for dollar match that will allow the recipient to purchase goods and services locally!
  5. Organize a community event. Small Business Saturday doesn’t have to be the only day of the year to step foot in the doors of these businesses. Be creative and host an event that encourages people to become aware of what hidden treasures your community has.
  6. If you enjoy your experience provide a good review. Yelp, Google and Foursquare are all review sites that other people use when making decisions where to shop. It is the new “word of mouth”. It will increase their visibility in search results and continues to foster that sense of trust in small businesses.
  7. Network. Network. Network. Business After Hours are a great way to know what is new in the community. Most small businesses start out of someone’s home. While these businesses might not have a store front to visit this doesn’t mean they aren’t exactly what you are looking for and you can help them grow. As a Chamber we encourage these new, up and coming businesses to come to Chamber events to let people know what they have to offer.
  8. Collaboration. Do you own a small business? Do you have skills or insight that might be a benefit to someone just starting out? Reach out to your Chamber to host a speaking event in a local speaker series at a free or discounted price.

   Beyond creating jobs, investing in locally owned small businesses keeps money in your community to support other important initiatives through the local sales tax earned. Education, law enforcement and emergency services, parks, and other publically funded programs all benefit immensely.

And, of course, shopping at local small businesses creates a unique experience you can’t have online. Small businesses tend to provide a more personal customer experience and offer special things you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

Kristen Aucter is the president and CEO of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. Contact her by emailing kristen@lewiscountychamber.org.

20 Questions: Professionals Joining Together

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY MAGAZINES

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Opportunities Found

Sarah O’Connell

The federal government and New York state are committed to ensuring that economically or socially disadvantaged businesses have an opportunity to participate in direct contracts or subcontracts with government agencies and/or prime contractors. They have instituted specific programs to give these firms an opportunity to certify and register. For some contracts, there is even a specific percentage goal that must include small businesses from these designations (called set-asides).  These designations may include women, minority or service-disabled veteran firms.

    For specific federal programs, the SBA.gov website is an excellent resource. Specifically for women-owned businesses, the federal government offers the Women-Owned Small Business designation (WOSB). Doing any business with the government requires registration in the System for Award Management (SAM), and women can self-certify their company as women-owned. However, to get access to what are considered “underserved” industries, women must apply specifically to be a WOSB company. These industries are identified in the WOSB section of the Small Business Association’s website. If the company is determined to be eligible (more on that later) it can work its way through the process at certify.sba.gov.

    In the New York State MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises) program, the woman-owned business must already have been in operation for a minimum of one year. The process is fairly rigorous and calls for uploading of a number of documents as part of the application process, followed by an interview by the agency to confirm the business is truly woman-owned and operated. (Note: the OGS – Office of Government Services – oversees the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business program.)

    How is a business determined to be woman-owned? Some of the basic requirements include at least 51% ownership (where one partner is not female) and meeting the benchmarks that determine that a company is considered a “small business.” These may include reporting that annual sales fall below a certain mark and that personal assets also fall below a certain mark.

    The business must also prove that the business is truly woman-owned and operated, so that a male owner can’t just designate or add a female owner to take advantage of the system.  It must show that the female owner had financial investment in the start-up and continues to have an integral role in the operation of the business. Being the “keeper of the books” is not enough – the woman owner has to have knowledge of and show control over all facets of the business which may include bid estimating, contract writing, control over ordering, etc.  The female owner must spend the majority if not all work hours involved in the business; employment in another workplace is a red flag and may result in rejection of the application.

    The advisors at the Small Business Development Center can help steer companies through the certification processes for both WOSB and MWBE.  Once the requirements are met, opportunities open up for the woman-owned small business. In Jefferson County, 31 companies are certified in the federal WOSB program (according to the Dynamic Small Business Search at sba.gov). The New York State Contract System identifies 108 women-owned business enterprises (WBEs) in the North country region which covers Plattsburgh to Watertown to Oswego.

    Once a business is certified as woman-owned, it can start exploring opportunities that exist within its service area. Many of our businesses work closely with the local PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center), located at the Greater Watertown-North country Chamber of Commerce to identify potential projects to bid. The north country PTAC will be offering a matchmaker event on April 4 where all small (not just women-owned) businesses interested in government contracts can meet with key people from government agencies and prime contractors to introduce themselves and share their capabilities. Visit http://www.northcountryptac.com

for details.

    Planning is underway for our 14th Annual Business of Women networking conference in May. Watch facebook.com/BusinessofWomen/ for more information.

    The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu.  St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu.

SARAH O’CONNELL is a certified business advisor with the New York State Small Business Development Center at Jefferson Community College. She is a former small business owner and lifelong Northern New York resident. Contact her at soconnell@sunyjefferson.edu. Her column appears bi-monthly in NNY Business.

Women’s Role in Ag Industry Increasing

ALYSSA COUSE

You may have noticed there are more female faces behind the windshield of a tractor and more mascara around the agribusiness roundtable. It is undeniable that the face of agriculture is changing. Exhibit A: I am a living, breathing example. I am a graduate of St. Lawrence University (65 percent female) who went on to do an agricultural research experience at William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, which comprised of a class of 12 female interns, working hand-in-hand with the research director, as well as one of the PhDs who is principal investigator for many of the research trials, both of whom are female. The trend continues as I navigate through my first two years at my current job with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

    The majority of staff in our local office are women and the North country Regional Agriculture team is 5:1. This is evident in the agricultural youth groups CCE caters to as well. Here’s a few examples: The 2016-17 Dairy Prospects class, a group of local high school students exploring careers in the dairy industry, was comprised of seven young women and only one young man. A number of young girls became new 4-H members this year. The Dairy Princess program, facilitated by the Jefferson County Ag Promotion Board, which is also majority farm women, mothers, and young female professionals, is through the American Dairy Association North East. It provides opportunities for girls who are passionate about the industry to educate other youth and spread awareness of the value of dairy products and the people that produce them. If you hadn’t guessed from the name, this is currently an exclusively female group…for now. We hope to acquire some “dairy dudes” to help advocate for dairy locally as many of the girls have brothers, cousins and friends that already help at events.

    To give you a broader perspective, the number of farms operated by women has more than doubled since 1978 according to the USDA 2012 Ag Census. Across the country, nearly 300,000 women serve as principal operators on 62.7 million acres of farm and ranchland, accounting for $12.9 billion in farm products in 2012. There are 18, 750 women farmers in New York State (34% of NY farmers) alone and they represent 2,635,328 acres of NYS land, and have a $215.9 million economic impact (USDA). The USDA supports projects designed to help women in agriculture improve production, develop good business and risk management practices, and transfer knowledge to other women agricultural leaders. To help connect this growing group, the USDA created a Women in Ag mentoring network at AgWomenLEAD@usda.gov and by searching #womeninag on social media you can join the conversation.

    While these alone are some astonishing numbers, this does not include the women who work in the agricultural industry off-farm. Countless more women live, work, and raise families in rural America in addition to being veterinarians, nutritionists, breeders, consultants, researchers, saleswomen, legislators, educators, etc. This trend is due a great deal to the fact that more young women are pursuing animal science, environmental science, sustainability, ag communications, and food science degrees. Between 2004 and 2012, the largest percent increases of bachelor degrees awarded to women included environmental science (128%), food science and technology (98%), animal sciences (52%), agricultural mechanization and engineering (49%), and fisheries and wildlife (45%).                

    “Better representation of women in agriculture means more than just an increase in the amount of food produced on women-owned or women-operated farms and ranches. It means expanded opportunity for today’s women agriculturalists to access credit and grow their operations, assume leadership roles at the local, state, and federal level, and perform cutting-edge research that will help ensure the future food security of our nation and the world.” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

    Interested in joining in? Here are several “women in agriculture” resources:

Dairy girl network
https://dairygirlnetwork.com/
 

Women in Ag mentoring network AgWomenLEAD@usda.gov

Dairy Food Advocacy Network (DairyFAN) http://mail.adadc.com/dairyfan.html

Annie’s Project http://www.anniesproject.org/home/media/AnniesStory.pdf

NYS Senator Patty Ritchie Press Release https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/patty-ritchie/women-sowing-seeds-agriculture

ALYSSA COUSE is an agricultural outreach educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Born and raised in the north country, she feels at home working with Jefferson County residents, both two-legged and four-legged. Contact her at amc557@cornell.edu.

Women in STEM Rising

Judy Drabicki

I have served as the Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Region 6 for more than a decade. In that time, we have doubled the number of female employees in the region, which covers St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Herkimer and Oneida counties. In the five-county region, 50 women are currently employed in professional roles—a significant increase from the past.

    DEC offers excellent careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), careers in high demand that have been traditionally filled by men.

    In Susan S. Silbey’s 2016 article, “Why Do So Many Women Who Study Engineering Leave the Field,” from the online Harvard Business Review, Silbey noted that engineering is the most male-dominated field in STEM, with just 13 percent of women making up the workforce.

    DEC’s Region 6 Environmental Engineering Unit currently employs six women engineers, up from just one a few years ago. While all employees are selected because they are the best qualified for the job, at DEC we actively encourage managers to hire women, particularly in professions such as engineering, law, and biology—all fields where women are traditionally under-represented.

    Yuan Zeng is a professional engineer for DEC’s Division of Material Management in Watertown. Zeng has worked for DEC for more than 20 years. “I like my environmental career for its positive impact on the environment, such as air pollution control and waste reduction,” says Zeng.

    Her advice to younger generations who may also want a similar career path is to do well in school, intern with professionals, and demonstrate a strong work ethic.

    Jennifer Lauzon is a professional engineer in DEC’s Potsdam, St. Lawrence County office. She says, “My job has never been the same and is always adapting to the current environment. I like that the work I am doing will, in some way, benefit the environment and benefit the world that we live in.”

    Her advice for young women that like math and science and see themselves in an engineering career is to get a dual degree in engineering and engineering & management (E&M).

    As regional director, I see multiple benefits in increasing the number of women in all aspects of the DEC workforce. First, having been underrepresented in the past, seeking equity will mean the absolute best people are doing the work of protecting the environment. Second, women often have a different approach to problem-solving and conflict resolution, which benefits our collective decision-making. And third, the role models women present to the hundreds of students we meet through DEC’s outreach efforts benefits all of the young men and women interested in entering the field of environmental protection—they will see for themselves that DEC is a welcoming agency that employs a diverse group of New Yorkers from a variety of backgrounds, genders, in a range of demanding professions.

    Regardless of gender, our day-to-day business is handled by a team of highly skilled professionals. Working together, we are committed to the DEC mission, the health and safety of New York’s environment, and the communities that we call home. 

Judy Drabicki is regional director, Region 6 NYSDEC, with a career that spans three decades of ensuring the natural beauty of the north country is protected and enjoyed for generations to come. She oversees a staff of more than 200 people, including engineers, biologists, permit writers, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation officers, operations staff, and many others.

20 Questions: Success from the Start

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS

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What Exactly Does Your Chamber of Commerce Do?

Kristen Aucter

The number of times I have heard this from business owners in my short time at the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce has been surprising, though, in a way, it shouldn’t be. I found myself asking this question when branching out into the business world and wanting to be more involved in the community as well.

    Previous experience across the country had provided me with the insight that if you were interested in a particular geographical area, that the chamber of commerce was the place to find information. But these experiences did not necessarily delve into the details of what they did.

    Breaking it down to bare bones, it’s all about supporting the business community. Not only should chambers be a spokesperson for local businesses, but they should also provide services and benefits to increase the success of the business community. The combination of these work to create a connected environment in which businesses, and in turn the community, flourish.

    It is true that all businesses go through stages of growth. The plateaus are nice, when a business and its people can rest and enjoy the rewards of a job well done; however, most business owners aren’t willing to sit for long before seeking the next challenge. A primary function of a chamber of commerce is to support and promote businesses regardless of their stage in the game; not only with membership benefits, but with networking opportunities. In small communities like ours, there are other local businesses and experts who can help you to your next stage.

    Finding these connections at a chamber networking event is one of the greatest opportunities that a chamber of commerce offers. Think of it as joining a private club, where all members are willing to help one another. Success for one encourages success for the others. Networking leads to stronger businesses and stronger businesses lead to a more stable economic foundation in the community.

    The most successful business owners are willing to give back, because years ago someone paid it forward to them. Paying it forward is good for business. While many studies show that chamber members rank networking as number one on their list of benefits from the chamber, that is not the only thing of value that they have found.

    According a study done by The Shapiro Group Inc. in 2012, if a customer knows that a small business is a member of the chamber of commerce, they are 44 percent more likely to think positively of it and 80 percent more likely to purchase goods or services from the company in the future. More or less, businesses that are chamber members get more customers simply because of their association with the chamber.

    Getting your information out can be a costly venture for any business. Marketing services offered by chambers provide a great return on investment for your membership fee. In addition to thousands of referrals made by chamber staff each year they also have website, community events, print advertising and last, but not least, social media to assist in your marketing needs.

    In a way, a chamber of commerce works for the population as a whole, encouraging the development of infrastructure, recreational areas, innovations for established and new industries. These advancements also encourage population growth. The increase in residents leads to an increase in demand for services like real estate, insurance companies and construction jobs, improving the economy of an area. And who connects these people with the businesses who can meet their needs? You guessed it: a chamber of commerce.

                While chamber benefits do vary from region to region, I think you will find the advantages of being part of your local chamber community far outweigh the cost. At the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce we are always searching for ways to help our businesses succeed and encourage our members to come talk to us with new ideas. Because at the end of the day the question shouldn’t be “what does a chamber of commerce do?” but “what doesn’t a chamber of commerce do?” 

Kristen Aucter is the president and CEO of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce. Contact her by emailing kristen@lewiscountychamber.org.

Women’s Council of Realtors Honors Area Realtors

Lance Evans

January brought changes and new faces to the leadership of the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors, the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors, and the Tri-County Network of the Women’s Council of Realtors (WCR).

    On December 8, the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors held its annual Holiday Lunch and Installation of Officers and Directors at Ogdensburg’s Gran-View on the River. During this event, the present officers, directors, and committee chairs were recognized and the 2018 Board of Directors was sworn in. The Association will be led by Richard J. Wood (RJ Wood Real Estate) as President. Joining him will be Vice President Brittany Matott (County Seat Realty), Secretary Doug Hawkins (Sandstone Realty), and Treasurer Amanda Kingsbury (Grey Arrow Real Estate). Rounding out the Board will be immediate Past President Debbie Gilson and returning Directors Joel Howie (JC Howie Appraisals) and Gail Abplanalp (Pat Collins Real Estate). Joining them will be new Director Tracy Barnard (Nikki Coates and Associates) and State Director Wendy Smith (Cross Keys Real Estate). There are two members leaving the Board of Directors, Cheryl Yelle (Yelle Realty) and Korleen Spilman (Century 21 Millennium Realty).  Both were thanked for their service.

    The lunch also featured a lively auction with many items donated by attendees. The $2400 raised was split between the Neighborhood Centers in Canton, Gouverneur, Massena, Ogdensburg, Potsdam, and Waddington.

    Several days later, on December 14, the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors held its annual Holiday Party and Installation Dinner at Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn. Similar to St. Lawrence County’s, a new slate of officers and directors were elected and installed. Leading the Association in 2018 will be Vickie Staie (Staie on the Seaway Real Estate Services and Appraisals USA) as President. Also on the Board of Directors will be President-Elect Alfred Netto (Weichert Realtors Thousand Islands Real Estate), Vice President Britt Abbey (Good Morning Realty and Abbey Appraisals), Recording Secretary Nancy Rome (Rome RSA Realty), Corresponding Secretary Lisa Lowe (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices CNY Realty), and Treasurer Mary Adair (Bridgeview Real Estate). Returning directors will include Elizabeth Miller (Century 21 Gentry Realty), Cindy Moyer (Century 21 Millennium Realty), and Randy Raso (Raso Real Estate). Joining them as Directors will be Katharine Dickson (Front Porch Realty) and Desiree Roberts (Lake Ontario Real Estate). Walt Christensen (Howard Hanna Real Estate) will continue in his role as State Director.  Two departing members of the 2017 Board were thanked for their service, Tyler Lago (Homes Realty of Northern New York) and Gwyn Monnat (Howard Hanna Real Estate).

    The dinner also featured both a live and silent auction. The money raised was added to other moneys that were donated for a total of about $3300 which was donated to various area charities.

    During the Jefferson-Lewis event, Vicki Bulger (Howard Hanna Real Estate) was recognized as Realtor of the Year. This honor is bestowed on a Realtor who has been a member for at least five years, is in good standing and to reward the Realtor for effort, time and talent expanded in the interest of their fellow Realtors, their profession, and their community. Vicki was described in the nomination as being honest, having integrity, and as someone who pays attention to details. She was described as knowing the local market, being cheerful, steady, and a competent presence. Vicki has been recognized annually as a Top Producer by the Women’s Council of Realtors. She is a North Country native who has served on the Board of Realtors’ Board of Directors and supported various Association projects like the Community Service Committee, Salvation Army Bell Ringing, and other projects. She is married to John Bulger and has three children, including her daughter Sara who is also a Realtor.  Vicki joined the Association in August 1997.

    The Women’s Council of Realtors installed its Governing Board in October. The group will be led by President Alfred Netto, Vice President Jennifer Bossuot (Humes Realty and Appraisal), Secretary Wendy Smith, Treasurer Kylee Lawrence (Staie on the Seaway Real Estate Services), Membership Director Marsha Gibbons (TLC Real Estate), and Program Director Cheryl Schroy (Key Bank).