Volunteerism

Posted by on Jun 28, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Volunteering simply requires ideas, passion, and a belief in something larger than yourself. Emporia Main Street, like many organizations, is highly dependent on volunteers to achieve success. We have an endless list of projects and a small staff, so volunteers are a must. Volunteering has many benefits for the people giving their time or talent. The right match can help you to reduce stress, find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. Connecting with an organization can be intimidating, especially if you aren’t sure who to approach. We offer a few tips and tricks to find the best volunteer opportunity for your individual skills and preferences. – Research the causes or issues that are important to you. Look for a group that deals with issues about which you feel strongly. – Consider what you have to offer. If you enjoy outdoor work, or like to teach, you may want to look for a volunteer opportunity in which your special skills can be utilized. Similarly, if you have limitations, don’t let that stop you from giving back. There is more to volunteering that physical labor. Many organizations have projects that can be completed from a desk or over the phone. -There’s no need to wait to be asked. There are many ways to find organizations that are looking for volunteers. Ask your friends or colleagues about their own volunteering activities. If there is an organization that you find interesting, you can typically make a phone call and ask about opportunities or you can visit their website and see what they have posted. Many non profits feature volunteer options on their homepage or under the About Us Section. -When you find an organization that is in line with your interests, request an interview and plan for it in much the same way that you would plan for a job interview. Be prepared to ask your interviewers about their organization and the benefits they offer to their volunteers. Also ask about their on boarding process. The organization you are volunteering at should offer you direction when you get started. If you are not comfortable with the task at hand, just ask for assistance. Training will help both you and your organization in the long run. -Would you like to learn something new? Consider whether the organization offers training or professional development opportunities for their volunteers. – Find the volunteer activity that fits your schedule. Organizations need different levels of commitment for different types of volunteer activities. Serving as a mentor, for example, will require a regular, intensive commitment, while volunteering for a walk-a-thon is...

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Creating Employee Intersections

Posted by on Jun 22, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Most of us have been in the unenviable situation of needing to replace staff- quickly. It always seems like you are heading into the busiest time of the year, or have some sort of massive activity pending, and you are suddenly short staffed. Although some unplanned staffing situations can occur, organizations can proactively create a potential “bullpen” while improving their staff quality and extending their organizational culture. Proactive approaches to employee identification and development require planning, prioritization, and a clear understanding of what you are promoting. Getting off the hamster wheel of “I just need a competent body!” takes some time, but it can also provide you with some peace of mind that comes from a less chaotic work environment. Below are some proactive ways you can generate staff members of the future through some basic techniques. 1. Identify where your ideal employees are coming from, and intersect early in their process in meaningful ways. Some of our local businesses are highly dependent on graduates of certain programs to fulfill employment requirements. It’s a good idea to intersect with those programs early and often. Do classes need a speaker or a guest teacher? Are there opportunities to provide scholarships? Can you offer a job while people are still in their program? Can individuals shadow your business or intern? If you identify potential pipelines for employees, it is important to gain exposure to potential staff early and often. By the time official recruitment activities open up, you are on the same playing field as everyone else in your industry. 2. Your best clients might be a window into potential staff. Do you have people that rave about your products and/or services? Have you ever heard “this would be a great place to work” from clients as they discuss your business? Do you ever follow up with these people to cultivate potential employees? You can’t teach passion, and those that exhibit passion for your business or industry could represent future staff. Have mechanisms to collect information and cultivate relationships for potential future employment. 3. Consider interns, seasonal help, or other short term employment options. Long term employees can start as short term staff members. Many (most) businesses are seasonal in nature. Finding individuals that can serve as help in a defined employment period may provide you the opportunity to gauge their long term employment potential. A lot of people with young children exit the labor force for a time, and short term employment opportunities can serve as a reentry point for their career. Students in a given field may have short term employment windows that revolve around school breaks. Newly retired people looking for short term income to supplement retirement may...

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Incubation- the New(er) Eco Devo

Posted by on May 25, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

A lot of us hear the constant discussion about how the world “should be”, but most of us understand that rhetoric stands in stark comparison to how the world actually “is”. Problems should get solved. Businesses should grow. People should move here. Products and services should be provided. Infrastructure should work perfectly. People should be healthy. Businesses should start up day one with a well defined concept as profitable ventures with a healthy bottom line and loads of well paid employees… The reality is that the world is a little more complex than the “should be” utopia that many have constructed in their minds. In the realm of economic development, the reality is that communities committed to sustainable growth must “grow their own”. It would be great if businesses magically appeared that had twenty employees, millions in product sales, and a low debt to equity ratio as a start up- but that simply doesn’t happen. New business concepts need help, are often strapped for cash, and they require non-monetary resources that can help them establish a foothold that leads to eventual growth. Some of these “startup” businesses will inevitably fail. Actually, if the timeline is long enough ALL business concepts eventually “fail”. The goal is to apply the right types of resources that can generate sustainable growth in our locally owned facilities to extend their profitable life cycle. When communities successfully grow their own, they create wealth and the opportunity to produce a coveted entrepreneurial ecosystem that feeds a positive regional trajectory. Let’s break this incubation strategy down a little further. What is Incubation? The process of incubation typically provides tangible resources to entrepreneurs in startup or growth phases of their operation. The following are successful types of business incubation: 1. Offering mixed space at free or reduced rent- Cash is always short at the beginning of a entrepreneurial venture. When a lot of capital is going out the door without inflows to refill IT based incubation often revolves around making space and basic office amenities available to budding entrepreneurs. coffers, businesses can fold pretty quickly. Some business types take a while to generate a positive cash flow, and without a professional space they can operate from at an affordable rent rate, ventures can fail before they really get started. 2. Providing access to tools for product development purposes- Prototyping products is expensive. Even before you get into the legal aspects of protecting a product, the establishment of a functional “thing” that you can show to potential investors or customers requires access to expensive equipment. If equipment can be shared through an incubation space, entrepreneurs are more likely to generate successful products and make improvements to existing prototypes. 3....

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How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

Posted by on Apr 16, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

The National Main Street Conference contained several different learning sessions for attendees. Each year, Emporia Main Street distills the sessions attended by our members and relays the information attained to our general readership. Every business and organization has “customers”. A focus on the people you serve can allow businesses and organizations to grow. Determining the number of people that fit your projected customer profile can help determine your traffic and sales potential. Creating a profile of your ideal customer or customers can aid entities in their marketing decisions. Projecting the type of person that makes up your clientele, and utilizing those profiles in your decision making, can simplify the decision making process. Creating an effective customer profile starts with asking a series of questions, and the answers to these questions can help guide your business or organization in its efforts to attract more of your target clientele. These questions include: 1. Where do my customers work? Determining your customers employment habits can help you format your hours of operation, seasonal promotions, and special marketing strategies. For example, if you determined that your local customers were accountants that worked 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and you were a retailer, you would probably need to make sure that your hours extended well past 5:00 p.m. You might want to schedule promotions after “tax day”, and your specialty marketing strategies might focus on the specific wants and needs of that particular profession. 2. What is the income of our customer? The basic rule of thumb for spending is that 40% of a persons income is “disposable”. Knowing the income levels of your average and ideal customer can help you determine how much they can potentially spend on your products and/or services. Obviously, people won’t spend all their income on a singular product or service, so allocations are required to determine realistic spending thresholds. If you are wondering how much the average consumer dedicates to spending within their budget, CLICK HERE. If you need to know the average salary for different professions, CLICK HERE. 3. What type of vehicle do they drive? This is kind of a sneaky way to “parking lot shop” your customers. Vehicle information can also be used to determine the psychographics and hobbies of your potential customers. 4. How old are they? Age for different businesses or organizations can inform entities about the types of products/services to offer, how to reach out to potential customers (communication platforms), and generational expectations for interaction. Realize that most consumers want to “act younger” than they actually are, so make sure your marketing strategies intersect consumers where they exist psychologically, not just demographically. 5. Where do they live? Identification of where customers are...

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New Retail Trends

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

During the National Main Street Conference, attendees are often exposed to “future trends” that allow us to better prepare businesses to take advantage of emerging opportunities and to avoid emerging threats. Instead of focusing on ethereal “leadership” or “positivity” sessions, Main Street staff and volunteers are exposed to more nuts and bolts approaches to creating positive change through business enhancement, design, promotion, and organization. One of the sessions staff attended dealt with emerging trends in the world of retail. Some emerging trends include: Disruption- This word is getting thrown around a lot, but it essentially means giving the customer a better experience by eliminating barriers between the product/service producer and the actual consumer. The old multi-tiered inefficient hierarchical supply chain for retail, or in the service industry “paying someone, who pays someone, that pays someone that actually produces something” has been replaced by a one-to-one relationship. In-store experiences, when coupled with mobile/web technology have allowed more direct consumer contact. Maintaining relationships on-line can form loyal consumers and long term sales conduits. Web Rooming- More consumers are looking to the web to research or “pre-shop” items available at stores, and then visiting a store to finalize their purchase decisions. A well designed retail web site can highlight product availability, sizing, and other information relevant to consumers that can justify a visit. Consumers that regularly “web room” retailers are more susceptible to add on sales. Show Rooming- The opposite of web rooming, show rooming consists of consumers that see items in a store but prefer to make their purchase on-line. Maintaining communication with customers and matching in-store customer service with on-line convenience can ensure that a show rooming customer buys from you. Adjusting your tags/labels so consumers can’t search out the exact product, while maintaining relationships with vendors that emphasize consistent retail pricing (both online and in the store) can make sure your “clicks” and “mortar” sales work in concert. Consumer Wants- A series of national surveys revealed some “wants” that help consumers decide where to spend their disposable dollars, including: 29% want stores to match on-line and in-store prices, 35% make decisions based on who provides better customer service, 14% want staff available and mobile (not stuck behind a counter), 10% want store staff to have access to inventory and special order capabilities, 30% want relevant/convenient/personalized loyalty programs, and 19% want more choices and flexibility within return policies. New Opportunities- Testimonials are still effective for consumers. Sixty percent of shoppers are more likely to buy a product when they find positive online reviews in a mobile format. Fifty-five percent of shoppers are willing to sign up for loyalty programs in a store if they get immediate benefits. Thirty-one percent of...

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Utilization of the Great Outdoors

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Spring is officially here, and although the Kansas weather can be a little unpredictable, we can start counting on warmer weather. As the climate gets a little more comfortable, people’s shopping, dining, and travel habits change. Pedestrian and bike traffic increases. Customers linger outside. Runners on the sidewalk, trail walkers, window shoppers, beer garden aficionados, and outdoor events draw people to business areas. But, if commercial locations don’t take advantage of spaces outside their four walls, they aren’t fully capitalizing on the weather. Here are some things that may help in your quest to utilize the “great outdoors” to lure traffic: 1. Remember not to block entrances or sidewalk traffic. You need a six foot clearance to allow for traffic on the exterior of your building. Hindering traffic can generate pedestrian complaints. 2. Communicate your plans. There are sign ordinances that prevent certain sign types on sidewalk areas, and exterior events can cause additional logistical issues. Communicate with your neighbors and the city prior to making the investment for long term exterior additions. 3. Remember the wind. Kansas is the second windiest state in the United States. Things that work in other areas may not work here. A Main Street director in the western part of the state saw hanging baskets on a vacation, for example, and decided to add them to her downtown. The baskets couldn’t handle the wind, and they became rolling street art. So, plan for Kansas elements when creating outdoor interest. If your plan can’t handle the Kansas wind, make your addition temporary, and pull in items at night and during unfavorable weather. 4. Make sure it’s legal. It would be great to have a beer in a breezeway on occasion, but if the area isn’t a legally established drinking area you are asking for trouble. A “noodle guy” whipping in the wind on a downtown sidewalk sounds like a recipe for a lawsuit (and would violate local sign ordinances). Piping external music can set the mood for customers passing by, if you have the appropriate license to broadcast the music, and stay within noise ordinance allowances. When in doubt, check it out. 5. Frame it. Utilize plants and lighting to frame your doorway and act as a colorful addition to draw your eye to a particular area. A word of caution- outdoor floral displays will inevitably get damaged, so plan on maintenance and watering. Broken displays and dead plants can give a worse impression than no displays at all. 6. Have a (temporary) seat. Exterior tables and chairs can allow people to sit and enjoy what your business has to offer. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and specialty food retailers should naturally look at exterior...

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