Tapping the Family Tree

CHRISTOPHER LENNEY / NNY BUSINESS
Entrepreneur Josh Parker with wife Alessandra and son Rhett at the Parker’s Real Maple road side stand in front of his County Route 21 business in Canton.

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July Small Business Startup: Stitches & Pics

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
Stephanie Shively is the owner of Stitches & Pics in Sackets Harbor.

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April Small Business Startup: St. Larry’s

JUSTIN SORENSEN / NNY BUSINESS
Laura Cerow stands in her kitchen where she makes organic creams, lotions, and potions.

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Building the North Country Economy

Sarah O’Connell

The American economy has changed greatly over the last half century, and we’ve seen a lot of those changes right here in the north country.  Most of our paper manufacturers have closed down, national chains have changed the faces of our downtowns and our many small dairy farms have merged into just a handful of large agricultural enterprises.   Our largest employers now are the military, the hospitals, the various levels of government and educational facilities.

                So what happens when someone doesn’t fit into one of those types of businesses?  Maybe they decide to start their own business.   Every year we at the Watertown SBDC talk to around 700 would-be entrepreneurs.  Of those, many just want to kick around an idea or need some basic assistance with getting the business set up. Others decide to go forward and obtain a startup or expansion loan. 

                Many of the small businesses we work with are what the U.S. Small Business Administration calls “nonemployer” firms, meaning they are a one-person operation with no employees.  We could call them “starter businesses” – usually they are quicker and less costly to start, and also to close.  The median age of a nonemployer business is six years, about four years less than an employer business.

                Furthermore, startups are less likely than established businesses to create jobs, again because during those crucial first five years, the new business may be just struggling to find its place in the market, much less adding employees.  Less than half the jobs created by startups still exist after five years, while expanding, older businesses account for 60 percent of small business job creation.   The share of employment that microbusinesses (those with fewer than 10 employees upon start up) contribute has declined over the past 30 years – from 15% in 1978 to 11.6 per cent in 2011.  (SBA.gov).

                With all that being said, small businesses are very important to the local economy.  Besides providing employment for a local resident, new businesses may bring new ideas to the area.  They can provide support services or products that free up larger employers to do what they do best.    Small businesses also generate tax income through self-employment, payroll taxes and sales tax collection.  They can also be more reactive and flexible to market trends. Just look at the rise of the craft beverage industry in our area,  or ethnic restaurants and small niche shops; I think they make our community a more interesting and enjoyable place to live than large metropolitan areas that are just lines of chain store after chain store.  

                How about lawn care providers, plumbers, small contractors, or snow plow operators (shout out here to my guy Mike!)?    Small hardware stores, bakeries, crafters, web designers, our local news sources, and professionals like lawyers, insurance agents and accountants are here to provide us with their goods and services; they know their community and may even be our neighbors.

                So sure, you may find the Internet is quick and easy to search for something, order and pay for it electronically; it might even offer a cheaper deal than what you’d pay locally, and hey! – free shipping!    But at the end of the day, what is that doing to help your local economy?  If you want to support the north country economy, it starts with spending your money right here and creating growth and job creation, one local purchase at a time.

                For fiscal year 2015-16, the advisors at the Watertown SBDC serving Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties saw 735 clients, spent 5,174 hours counseling, helped them create 167 new jobs and retain 53 jobs and assisted 51 clients in obtaining financing for business startup or expansion in the amount of $15,166,933.

                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.

Don’t forget Facebook in media mix

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

As you are planning out your business’s advertising budget for next year, you may want to consider adding targeted Facebook ads if you have not done so already.

Being able to be very specific in defining a target audience is one of the reasons many businesses are turning to Facebook for advertising in addition to their more traditional advertising methods. For example, you can set up an audience of men ages 18 to 22 who like snowmobiling and live within either a 10 mile radius of Gouverneur or a 20-mile radius of Watertown. You can be as specific or as broad as you like, depending on the certain type of customer you are trying to reach.

If you’ve never set up a targeted audience for your Facebook ads before, here’s how you do it. At the lower-left corner of your Facebook page, there should be a blue button that says “Promote.” Facebook likes to move stuff around regularly, so if it’s not there, it will be somewhere on the page. Click it, click “see all promotions,” go to the bottom of the screen and click “Go to Ads Manager.” The dropdown menu in the upper left hand corner of your Ads Manager should give you a link to set up an audience. If it does not, click “Create Ad,” and choose an objective to be able to see the audience creator.

There are several ways to develop an audience. One way is to upload information about customers, and Facebook will match that to other people who share the same demographics and interest. Alternatively, you can create an audience of people who have interacted with your Facebook page, mobile app, or visited your website. Beyond those criteria, you can target customers based on their age, gender, and location. You can also use the detailed targeting search bar to find people that match certain interests. This is where the fun part begins. Start typing a phrase and see what comes up. Some examples are parents of teenagers age 13 to 18, people who are interested in magnum ice cream, people who are interested in handmade jewelry, people whose home value is more than $200,000, and people who are credit card “high spenders.” Yes, it is pretty scary how much information Facebook has about us. The list goes on and on, so you can craft an audience that is detailed as much as you want.

You can also choose to include or exclude people who like your page, or send the ad to friends of people who like your page. You can choose to have your ad or boosted post come up within your audience’s newsfeed (it will say “sponsored” above the ad) or in the sidebar. Ads in the newsfeed are a little more subtle, but it might be worth trying both to see which is most effective. You can also choose to have your ads show up on Instagram as well.

Once you have created an audience you can save it for future use. It can be useful to test several different audiences to see which works best to meet your goal. Continue to add audiences for variety, so you won’t be showing the ad to the same people every time.

Finally, and most importantly, you want to make sure you have a measurable goal to know if your marketing is effective. Your goal may be to get more clicks through to your website, to get more emails or calls from customers, and of course to make more sales. You will want to track the results from your ad campaign. Facebook has some insights in the ads manager, but you can also use website analyzers like Google Analytics to track clicks to your website from Facebook. You can also include a coupon code with your ad so that you will know how many actual customers come in because of it. It is also good to test two different ads, audiences, etc. to find out what works the best to bring in more customers.

Feel free to get in touch with us at the SBDC if you want help designing your Facebook ads or if you want any other assistance for your business. We are always here to help. The Small Business Development Center has offices at SUNY Canton (315) 386-7312 and at JCC in Watertown (315) 782-9262.

Breaking the rules of writing with style

Joleene Moody

Joleene Moody

I’ve been writing professionally and as a journalist for 15 years.

My accolades include three published books, hundreds of published news and human interest stories, a successful blog, two award-winning investigative television series and a comedic stage play that made its debut in 2014.

I have learned how to write from the best and the worst.

I have been told to write at least 1,500 words a day.

Or 3,000 a day.

Or whatever the hell I want every other day.

I’ve been advised not to use semicolons; that they are insignificant.

It has been suggested that I swear by the Associated Press Stylebook.

The next day I’m told to burn that book and worship The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers.

Never use slang.

Use slang whenever I want.

And dammit, Aaron Sorkin says I shouldn’t start a sentence with dammit or and. Ever. (He wrote “Newsroom,” which you should watch.)

Stephen King writes 3,000 words or more every day, even on holidays.

J.K. Rowling writes up to 11 hours most days.

Margaret Atwood writes between 1,000 and 2,000 a day.

Enter contests. Don’t enter contests.

Go to writer’s retreats and workshops. Don’t go.

Take an online course. Don’t take an online course.

I could go on and on with examples that so many offer on the rules of writing. But I won’t because despite all of the rules and suggestions, the best thing you can do for yourself is to DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

Does this mean you should disregard what seasoned writers and screenwriters say? No, not at all. Listen. Implement. But trust your gut, too.

I wrote a screenplay last year that I pitched to a production company in February. They requested it to read, getting back to me 4 weeks later to tell me the screenplay was overwritten and a slog to get through.

At the same time, a producer that thought my script was a hoot asked my permission to pass it on to Cobie Smulders’ agent.

In both instances, my writing had a different impact on two different parties based on their rules of writing.

THAT WILL ALWAYS HAPPEN.

Some will love you, some won’t. We know that. So why do we continue to try and conform to the rules of others, even when our gut screams at us to follow our own?

Look, I love to write. I do it almost every day. There are some days I don’t really want to, but because I make a living with my pen, I kind of have to. For the longest time, I thought the Writing Gods would come down from the Script Heavens and destroy me if I skipped a day.

“You’re never going to be successful if you don’t write every day,” they would say. “Because you skipped Sunday and Monday (and used a semicolon yesterday), we’re going to punish you by seeing to it that that production company doesn’t choose you. Tsk, tsk.”

I worked with a business coach once that said, “You are responsible for the box you put yourself in. If you live by the rules and beliefs of others, you will never experience true freedom. Break the rules. As long as no one gets hurt, break the rules all day long.”

So this post is your permission slip to do just that.

You may be torn on whether or not you should move a scene to the top of your script because someone very seasoned suggested it. You’re allowed to be torn.

You may be torn on whether or not you should change the title of your book because a very seasoned publisher suggested it. Again, you’re allowed to be torn.

What you’re NOT allowed to do is doubt yourself. (I know, I know, we all struggle with this…)

Believe it or not, there is an Inner Knowing within you that really needs to be trusted. That, coupled with the knowledge and experience that seasoned writers offer, is what makes a really good writer an amazing writer.

Having said all of this, make your own rules. Take pieces of what he said and she said and what you feel, and make your own. Want to use a semicolon? Use it. Want to swear and cuss and use big words? Use ‘em. Want to keep that scene intact? Keep it.

In the end, don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously (Quote: Lev Grossman).  Just because you’re “not there” yet doesn’t mean you don’t know well enough to get there. It just means, well, that you’re not there yet. Keep learning, keep growing, keep believing, and you will be.

All my best to you.

 

Joleene moody is a freelance writer, blogger and speaker who lives in Oswego County with her husband and daughter. Learn more at www.takeyourvoiceback.com. Her column appears monthly in NNY Business. Visit nnybizmag.com to read past columns online.

Strengthen your brand with Instagram

Jennifer McCluskey

Jennifer McCluskey

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November 2016 Small Business Startup

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business CAPTION Seth Hill, owner of Tarot Cafe, has been successful at finding a niche market that appeals to the arts community in the north country.

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY Business
Seth Hill, owner of Tarot Cafe, has been successful at finding a niche market that appeals to the arts community in the north country.

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Canton’s Josh Parker to pitch maple syrup business on ‘Shark Tank’

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Josh Parker prepares to test the density of syrup with a hydrometer in his sugar shack at 2591 County Route 21 in Canton in March, 2016.

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
Josh Parker prepares to test the density of syrup with a hydrometer in his sugar shack at 2591 County Route 21 in Canton in March, 2016.

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Study outlines 5-year strategy to boost St. Lawrence County’s economy

Matt Warren, right, a customer support representative for Frazer Computing, Inc. provides phone support Wednesday at Frazer Computing, Inc., 6196 US-11 in Canton. Also pictured is Mike Burnett, left, also a customer support representative. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

Matt Warren, right, and Mike Burnett provide customer phone support Wednesday at Frazer Computing Inc., Route 11, Canton. A five-year plan compiled for the New York Power Authority recommends small business growth among ways to boost St. Lawrence County’s economy. Photo by Jason Hunter, Watertown Daily Times.

CANTON — A $4 million economic development study just released by the New York Power Authority lays out a five-year strategy for reversing St. Lawrence County’s stagnant economy. [Read more…]