Starting a business, regardless of size or application, is merely the beginning of the learning process. Independent business owners will agree that the education begins at the point of conception and continues throughout the life of the business.
Sure, you have many questions, beginning with, "Is now a good time to start my business?."
There are many resources out there today for prospective business owners to learn the ABCs of starting a business. With a tip of the hat to the leaps and bounds that technology has made in the last decade alone, there are numerous websites that offer free, online courses for a vast array of business applications, beginning with the basics of how to put a business plan together.
Entrepreneur.com will tell you that there is never really a bad time to launch a business. According to the website, "It's obvious why it's smart to launch in strong economic times. People have money and are looking for ways to spend it. But launching in tough or uncertain economic times can be just as smart. If you do your homework, presumably there's a need for the business you're starting. Because many people are reluctant to launch in tough times, your new business has a better chance of getting noticed."
Whether your interest is leading you to a home-based, online service or a conventional retail endeavor, keep in mind that, generally speaking, more than 600,000 businesses are started each year in the United States. Surprisingly, there are just as many prospective business owners that want to start a business but hesitate to take that first step.
In the five-plus years since we first began spotlighting our local, independent businesses, we have learned much about the sweat and tears involved in both starting and maintaining a small business in NEPA. Even during an uneasy economy, the perseverance of entrepreneurs in NEPA is extraordinary.
Looking back through our past issues, we revisited a number of local businesses whose owners are glad they took that leap of faith. Most are family-owned businesses of varied ages that have established themselves in our communities. They are the faces of independent business.
Children have the ability to learn very quickly, so to teach them the fundamentals of building a business at an early age can provide them with the determination to start their own one day. In the case of eight-year-old philanthropist Richie Kraus, of Kingston, his early business education began with the formation of a nonprofit organization. With the help of his mother, young Richie launched the 2U fund through the Luzerne Foundation (www.luzfdn.org/2u-fund) to help purchase birthday gifts for less fortunate children. Wishing to give instead of receive, Richie even promoted his fund at school, reminding his friends that all children deserve to receive presents on their birthdays– not just for Christmas.
According a report released by the Center for Women's Business Research, "Today, women-owned firms have an economic impact of $3 trillion annually that translates into the creation and/or maintenance of more than 23 million jobs- 16 percent of all US jobs!"
More than 25 years ago, Cathy Duffy, Mary Leeds, and Diane Dreier were just three sisters dreaming of starting their own business. In 1989, 3 Sisters– featuring sterling silver jewelry– opened in Forty Fort. In 1999, the business relocated to Kingston, the current location of the popular local business. As the business grew, 3 Sisters expanded its product offerings to include items like scarves, picture frames, and novelty glassware.
Sandy Seyler once worked as a billing accountant, where feeling stressed was part of her daily routine. She sought relief by attending yoga classes.
Today, she is a Hatha Yoga instructor, a natural intuitive healer and holistic practitioner, and a Reiki master and teacher. In addition to 15 years of private practice, Seyler gained three years of teaching experience at the Center for Health and Wellness, in Bloomsburg, where she received Therapeutic Touch training. She currently teaches Reiki and yoga in various locations throughout the Wyoming Valley.
Undoubtedly the largest demographic of all independent businesses is the family-owned business. Mom-and-pop stores were big around the turn of the century, when corner stores were indeed located at nearly every corner. Although the prevalence of the mom-and-pop businesses has past, the concept is not entirely lost for family businesses that have endured the test of time.
The mother-and-daughter team of Fran and Maryann Ochman has spent the last 30 years at the helm of Ochman’s Coins & Jewelry, 18 Church Street, in Dallas. This coin and jewelry business opened originally as a coin dealership in the Ochman home, in 1968. Despite a waning economy, Fran and Maryann attribute the longevity of their years in business to a balance between coins and jewelry. The Ochmans strive to bring honest and helpful service to the community of Dallas, and way beyond.
Mattern’s Floral and Furnishings, located at 447 Market Street, in Kingston, was started in 1907 by Tom Mattern’s great-grandparents, John and Elizabeth Mattern, who operated from a small storefront in Ashley. The tradition continued with Tom’s parents, Harry and Ann, who ran the floral business in Wilkes-Barre. In 1984, Tom and his wife, Maria, became the third-generation owners, working hard to maintain the classic touch that is a hallmark for the business. In 1995, the couple relocated its business to Kingston and expanded the product line and service to include home decor, gift items, and furnishings.
Another fine aspect of small business education is the entrepreneur who has self-educated himself in his trade. Even though there is no formal education, what aren't missing are the lessons learned along the way.
Something Special is a combination bakery, café, and catering business, located 23 West Walnut St., in Kingston. Owner-proprietor John Clark, a self-taught chef and baker, takes great pride as he prepares his freshly made in-house menu items. Customers experience not only newly made food, but good service and a cozy atmosphere in a clean and elegant dining area. Exquisite art works, produced by local artists, adorn the walls.
Large organization, Local ideals...
Local, independent businesses aren't always small in size or manageability, especially when they offer personalized service to every customer who walks in the door.
Eye Care Specialists, ranked in the top 2% of ophthalmology practices in the United States, is a team of eye-care professionals with training and experience from some of the most prestigious academic centers in the country. The doctors participate in the development and utilization of the most advanced technology available in the world. With 25 doctors and 13 locations in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Eye Care Specialists is a large organization that strives to maintain the care and compassion that frequently comes in a smaller office setting.
In addition to learning about what it takes to run a business, our local, independent businesses educate their communities about owning and operating a small business in NEPA, but also teach the importance of buying locally. Not only are you buying from and helping your neighbors, but you are also boosting your local economy– keeping your money where it belongs. After all, that’s what local businesses do.