HOW TO: Introducing Entrepreneurship

Posted by on Feb 26, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

The Main Street staff works with a lot of entrepreneurs. Our close contact with start up and locally owned ventures stems from the facts that most small businesses look to locate around other small businesses, most economic development initiatives simply focus on “big guys”, and entrepreneurs have a wide range of needs that are unique to the entrepreneur and business type that can only be “solved” through an entrepreneurial agency. Because of our close work with entrepreneurs, Emporia Main Street staff judges a lot of entrepreneurial competitions. A LOT. These competitions are well intentioned efforts to introduce potential small business owners to entrepreneurial concepts that can benefit them in the “real world”. Yes, we harp on entrepreneurial development a lot, because the development of quality businesses that meet local needs and create community create growth is important. For businesses, developing an entrepreneurial mind set within staff can allow entities to quickly take advantage of opportunities or mitigate threats. For organizations, an entrepreneurial focus can create solvency for base issues, improve cash flow, or mitigate expenses. Appropriate entrepreneurship techniques in education can mean the difference between students simply doing a “class project” and students learning the basic skills of entrepreneurship. To recap Entrepreneurship 101: businesses are designed to make a profit. The profit produced emanates from a market consisting of individuals that are willing to pay for goods or services produced. Goods and services represent a want or a need that customers are willing to pay for, at a price point that allows a business to create profit. Business expansions (start ups or existing business expansions) respond to opportunities or mitigate threats within a market. This definition creates an issue with most entrepreneurial competitions. Contestants are generally asked to pick a business type and then research it in the hopes that there are sufficient market opportunities and a profit potential. If they pick incorrectly, students generally stay with their original concept because of time constraints. The educational realm should take a page from the business and organizational world in the creation of entrepreneurial foundations. When entrepreneurs within business and organizations are presented opportunities or threats, they are generally asked to create a plan that takes advantage of opportunities or mitigates threats. The plans produced can create profitability for businesses, operating capital for organizations, or can decrease expenses for any entity. Presenting students with opportunities within a market area, or threats that an area is facing as a function of the entrepreneurial process can force them to find business solutions to stated problems. Offering students a singular threat or opportunity in a case statement can provide them with a chance to creatively address one opportunity or threat via the entrepreneurial process....

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Entrepreneurship through Disruption

Posted by on Feb 12, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Every few years a new buzzword emerges within entrepreneurship. The current iteration of fashionable language is “disruption”. Disruptive entrepreneurship takes on established industries and economic models and disrupts the status quo by offering products or services in a new way. Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Blue Apron disrupted grocers. Amazon disrupted traditional retailers. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go disrupted traditional network television. These disruptive startups don’t necessarily have to be startups. Entrepreneurial businesses have the capacity to evolve their business models to improve on their industry norms. When individuals look at emerging disruptive entrepreneurial concepts, they often concentrate on technology. The businesses listed above as examples of newer entrepreneurial efforts all utilize advances in technology to challenge existing business models. Technology may act as the conveyance mechanism for the entrepreneurial activity, but at its core, disruptors are simplifying structures. Newer technology may enable entrepreneurs, but it is not the cause of the aforementioned entrepreneurial ventures. Businesses and organizations can take advantage of a “disruptive” mindset to offer better services, create margins, add value to the consumer, and shorten cash cycles if they ask themselves some basic questions: 1. What annoys you in your industry? As a business person, are there supply chain issues that bother you? Are there products or product portals that don’t exist? Can your consumers influence products and services? When you identify things that frustrate you within your industry, you may have stumbled upon an opportunity you can monetize. 2. What is the purpose behind your procedures? A lot of businesses and organizations will get stuck in a routine, even when outside advancements make parts of the routine irrelevant. I think we’ve all been a part of a meeting that consisted of people talking at each other with no interactive dialogue (i.e.- a meeting that should have been an email). By looking at your internal procedures and asking “why?”, you may find ways to improve efficiency, or replace tasks with something that represents a new market model. Why do we need to go through a traditional taxi service when we can order an Uber? 3. Is your business meeting the needs of the modern consumer? The “value proposition” is something that we talk a lot about at Main Street. Sometimes people emphasize portions of a business that mean a lot to them, but those same business elements mean very little to the consumer. Sometimes, the consumer base really wants a particular product or service from a business, but the business doesn’t offer the category. By talking to your consumers and recording their “wish list” of products or services, you may find new ways to draw consumer traffic and sales. You can conduct a...

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External Communication

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

A couple of editions ago, the e-news focused on internal customer communications. Multiple businesses/organizations reached out with positive comments and additional communications questions, one of those being the consumption of external communication. The “we just need to get everyone together”, or “we just need to communicate” within specific business/organizational categories seemed to be a specific comment from a singular demographic group. The ability to reach a specific group or individual quickly through newer media platforms has changed communication strategy. The problem isn’t a lack of information, or lack of access to communication. You can typically find out “what’s going on” through web sites, newsletters (like these), social media, traditional media updates, or by directly contacting the business/organization that you want information from. The prevailing issue in modern communication is that we have now become consumers in an information marketplace, and consumers seek out information when they find value in it. Some consumers will listen to our local radio stations for sports entertainment, read the newspaper for human interest stories, and go online to watch cat videos. A consumer based communication economy means that people absorb information when they find value in it. Businesses and organizations create content with value in mind. When businesses or organizations communicate, they are trying to strengthen their brand, drive sales, increase traffic, or achieve some other metric goal. The days of “lets just sit around and talk for the sake of talking” are going away. Don’t get me wrong, people still “get together” for purely social reasons, but communicating within the world of business is meant to generate action. So, how do you “add value” to communication that encourages the public to absorb your message? The basics for adding value really revolves around answering four questions: 1. Efficiency: Does the content make life easier for the consumer? 2. Effectiveness: Does the content make life better for the consumer? 3. Innovation: Does the content allow the consumer to do new things? 4. Capacity: Does the communication effort increase the assets available to the business/organization? When you are communicating to the public, which of these goals are you attempting to achieve? If you read your content and your answer is “none of the above”, you probably won’t consistently convince the public to consume your information. If you are a business or organization communicating with other businesses and organizations and you don’t build capacity, you probably won’t consistently engage your audience. Instead of the statement “we simply need to communicate”, try asking yourself this question: “how can I make my communication more valuable?”. By answering the value proposition, you can ensure that people want to engage in your communication strategy. The content produced, the forum that supports...

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Customer Communication

Posted by on Jan 29, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

I like attending conferences that are outside of my direct field of expertise. Gathering information from a different perspective encourages innovation. Main Street has always been an entrepreneurial or organic structure, and gaining some perspective can act as a catalyst for changes within our outreach and implementation strategies. At a recent convention, a communications expert was brought in during a break out class session to emphasize customer communication strategies. The examples revolved around retail and food, but the foundation of the information presented is applicable to any business that deals with the consuming public. The following were some of the recommendations made to create stronger consumer ties that eventually generate loyalty and result in higher sales: 1. Establish a rapport with customers by building trust. At some base level, consumers understand that you are trying to sell them something. By focusing on consumer attitudes, values, and behavior as opposed to simply “buy this”, you can identify yourself as someone the consumer trusts for product or service information. 2. Strengthen the resolve in your customer that your product or service category is “awesome”. It doesn’t matter what you are selling; your clients need reinforcement to remember why they are potentially spending with you on your category of products or services. Rotating scripted statements with your staff should be a part of your training protocols. Someone at a pet store saying “aren’t pets just the best!” to a potential product buyer helps build rapport (you are both on the “we love pets” team). An accountant briefly explaining the importance of the profession to potential clients helps reinforce the reciprocal nature of the professional relationship. A barista engaging customers with a “is there anything better than freshly ground coffee?” question/statement encourages a positive response from an otherwise monotonous transaction. What is your “my category is awesome” statement? 3. Provide interactive testimonials. Conversations with customers that convey testimonials and extract opinions from customers can help drive sales conversations. A bike business can say: “I had a customer come in the other day that said they wanted to convert their bike to tubeless tires because they hate pinch flats more than anything- have you thought about going tubeless?” Such a statement shows that customers are taking a sales action within the store. It introduces a sales based concept to the consumer, it gauges the consumers product knowledge, it establishes expertise through product vernacular, and it encourages further interaction by extending the conversation. That seems a little more effective in creating a sale than “can I help you find anything today?”, doesn’t it? 4. Establish cultural authority. Some cultural authority can be achieved simply by proximity. A person sitting across a desk, on the other...

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Year in Review

Posted by on Jan 29, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Each year we take one e-news and dedicate it towards looking back over the previous year. We don’t want to linger in the past, but we do want to recognize what occurred as we continue to push forward. A lot was accomplished in 2017, and we anticipate a lot of excitement for new initiatives next year. The following is a brief look back: January- Participated in the USDA Funding Workshop Hosted Mix and Match Coordinated multiple “Connect Emporia” events Provided King Liquor with a business transition loan February- Held our first ever “Speak Easy” event Hosted a Social Media Workshop with ESU and EHS Started Spring Semester internships for local businesses Saw 923 Commercial finally sell! Salsa Street Grill (a Start Your Own Business class graduate) opened Produced a marketing table for the Sunflower Gymnastics Tournament March- Held a “How It’s Made” tour Assisted with the Longest Lunch event with EDBL Assisted with the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl Hosted a Quarter Mania Spoke to KSU Architectural Students Sent Glass Blown Open media outreach packages Created special St. Pats Emporia Shirts April- Held “The Taste” Hosted the GBO Block Party indoors (thanks to Mother Nature) Assisted with the Kansas Craft Brew week launch event Helped the Farmers Market with their new outdoor location selection and announcement Produced new downtown vinyl wrap maps Held a downtown cleanup Was one of seven Main Street communities cited in the United States by National Main Street President, Patrice Frey, as part of her #realmainstreet initiative Hosted a “Community Trek” with ESU Participated as a judge in the Entrepreneurial Challenge Worked with local groups on a downtown garden prep for the Adopt a Garden project Created “Welcome Wagon” chalking for the GBO Took Veterans Banners applications Cited by the Brookings Institute as an example of sustainable development May- Launched new “I Heart Emporia” shirts Assisted HOTT with Cinco de Mayo planning and implementation Assisted the Flatland Cruisers with their carshow Conducted Dirty Kanza media outreach Worked with Eat Drink and Be Local on the Plumb Place garden donation and announcement Obtained a Network Kansas grant for a local business Conducted EHS business tours Created new comprehensive event calendars Provided a startup loan to Big Ben’s Auto Gave two presentations at the National Main Street conference Hosted two summer “Work Study” interns with ESU Provided business tours for students at Northern Heights High School June- Created a new conduit for reporting Chronically Vacant Buildings Presented to the City of Emporia during the Appropriations Process Provided assistance to the Comprehensive Land Use plan team Launched the new iteration of the “I’m a Main Streeter” testimonial campaign Hosted the Dirty Kanza Finish Line Party Coordinated the first...

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A New “First”

Posted by on Jan 23, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

The Emporia Main Street staff, and select volunteers, travel to the National Main Street conference every year. The conference covers trends and techniques that are critical for achieving community and business success. On March 26th through March 28th of this year, the National Main Street Conference will be held in Kansas City, MO. The close proximity of the conference will provide our community some unique opportunities. Below is a brief rundown of ways our community can benefit from the conference’s proximity: 1. Before and after travelers- A lot of pre and post conference travelers will drive through our area to experience downtown Emporia. Trained professionals that appreciate entrepreneurial businesses, downtown architecture, and unique community assets will want to stop by Emporia if it is on their way to or from the conference. If you are a restaurant, retailer or entrepreneur- this is an opportunity for your business. 2. Training for locals- The conference represents an opportunity to learn from national experts on a series of different topics. Development funding, business recruitment, event development, marketing techniques, design standards, volunteer recruitment/retention, and many more subjects will be covered in a “Four Point Approach” format. CLICK HERE for a list of some of the topics covered. 3. The Tour- Typically, tours are conducted within the state hosting the conference. Emporia, Kansas is an exception to that rule, and we will host a walking tour on Sunday, March 25th during the morning and early afternoon. This is a great opportunity for local businesses to cater to a captive audience. We know it is a Sunday, but this is a great opportunity to open your doors to potential customers! Click HERE for tour opportunities. 4. Presentation exposure- Beyond the tour, Emporia Main Street staff will present twice at the National Main Street conference. One presentation will focus on planning and implementation of promotional events/activities within the community. The second presentation will cover the Start Your Own Business Class. Each presentation will highlight unique businesses and community anchors within Emporia. The exposure generated can pay dividends for our community in both the short and long term. I doubt we will see a National Conference this close to Emporia again in the relatively near future, so this represents an opportunity to get involved (CLICK HERE for conference registration information). Due to your volunteerism, innovation, and hard work- communities all over the nation want to know more about Emporia, Kansas. If you would like to get involved with activities associated with the conference (the tour, for example) or you would like to attend the conference, please let us know! We will remind you as the conference approaches, but you may want to plan on remaining open on...

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