A group of about 10 people gathered in the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce conference room for the first meeting of a new organization aimed at providing support for local, home-based and small business owners.
“We’re so new that we don’t even have a name yet,” said one attendee.
The purpose of the group, according to Terri Schulz, chamber president, is to get the owners of home-based and other one-or-two person businesses together to help one another deal with the special challenges of running a micro business.
“These people face problems that larger retail and professional business owners don’t see,” Schulz said. “Nobody is in a better position to help them than other owners who have already had to deal with the same issues.”
Discussion at the first meeting touched on a number of issues faced by stay-at-home workers, but the main topic of discussion was dividing time between working for customers and working on the business.
Robyn Gans, owner of New Direction Embroidery, said, “My real love is actually doing the work. I like creating the products I sell to my clients. But, when I’m busy on production, nobody is making sales calls or doing marketing or keeping the books. It’s very hard to do it all without fear of spreading yourself too thin.”
Others agreed, saying that finding a balance was crucial to being successful. Finding that balance can take some time according to Jim Schulz, owner of Jim King, Ad Venture, an advertising agency that he has operated since 1986.
“When I first started, I had trouble saying ‘No’ to anyone,” Schulz said. “I was afraid to lose business so, often, I would work brutal hours. Then I’d be in a panic because the books weren’t up to date or, worse, I’d finish one job, and there wasn’t anything to do because all my time was invested in working for clients and I didn’t mine any new business for when I was finished. Every month was ‘feast or famine’.”
The group’s consensus was that scheduling and prioritizing time varies among businesses, but each person in the room had ideas that might help someone facing the problem for the first time. That, according to Terri Schulz, is the point of the group.
“This has the potential to be a valuable resource for any small business,” she continued. “It’s very likely that someone else has already faced the same problem you are facing today. Why re-invent the wheel? Learn what others have done to solve the problem and save yourself the time and money.”
It goes a step further, added Giles Bellin, a partner in Northstar Promotions. “There is a social side to this, too,” he explained. “We all need to get out and spend time with other business owners who are facing the same challenges. It tells us we’re not alone. It lets us know that there is support – moral support for us if we get to feeling isolated or overwhelmed.”
The group also talked about if and when to hire help, full-time versus part-time employees, software and professional services for small business and dealing with difficult customers. It was agreed that all these, and many other topics, would provide fuel for future discussions.
The group agreed to schedule another meeting for 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 6, at the Chamber conference room. Terri Schulz finished saying, “They haven’t decided yet how often or where they’ll meet on a regular basis. That will be up to the group. One thing everyone agrees on is that we need a name.”
For more information, call the Waupaca Area Chamber office at 715 258 7343.