Reprinted from the Sentinel and Enterprise
By Anna Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org
FITCHBURG — At the NewVue Communities 36th annual meeting on Wednesday, NewVue Executive Director Marc Dohan emphasized the importance of economic success to community success.
Their organization was founded, he said, in response to the closing of many factories in the area.
“Economic development is in our blood,” Dohan said.
NewVue Communities also focuses on housing improvements, health and wellness of local residents, and community involvement, but this year’s annual meeting centered around small businesses.
NewVue accomplishments in the past year include counseling 109 businesses, and assisting 20 businesses to secure $2.1 million in loans.
Owners of four of these businesses — Fitchburg consignment store The Man Cave, Fitchburg and Leominster barber Luxury Cuts, Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, and Fitchburg restaurant Beemers Pub — spoke on a panel at the meeting.
They shared lessons from their experience as business owners. Here are their top three tips:
1. Do your homework before you open.
“You really have to get educated as much as you can,” said The Man Cave owner Marta Albizu.
Beemers owner Pete Cote said to be aware of business regulations ahead of opening.
“I don’t care what business you’re in, the government regulations are going to kill you if you don’t do your homework,” he said.
“And make sure you have a business plan, make sure you have a bank behind you, make sure you have enough money to open.”
Luxury Cuts owner Carlos Rosado said creating a business plan was important for “exposing the challenges” of the business, to better prepare for these challenges.
Albizu agreed, saying having a plan made her “more confident” when opening.
2. Get creative when tackling challenges.
Al Rose, the owner of Red Apple Farm, deals with unpredictable factors like the weather in operating his business. He can’t control the weather, so he has instead tried to diversify the business. This means diversifying location, like selling regularly at a market in Boston, and diversifying product, like making cider doughnuts and other year-round foods.
Albizu said a challenge she has faced in the past year is not generating enough revenue to be able to pay an employee besides herself.
Her creative solution, now in progress, is to work with Fitchburg State University students looking for business internship experience.
3. Use resources in the area.
All four business owners said working with NewVue Small Business Director Ray Belanger was a huge help.
Albizu said he helped her negotiate rent with the landlord, submit a loan application, and do other pre-opening work.
Rose said making a business plan with Belanger gave him “concrete goals and a concrete direction.”
Rosado also said he found North Central Chamber of Commerce a very helpful resource. He attended several of their workshops when he was first opening Luxury Cuts, and said he learned a lot about long-term financial planning for a business.
Rosado, who Dohan said was one of the first NewVue business clients, had one extra piece of advice for would-be business owners: “Pick something you love. If you don’t love it, you’ll quit when things get hard, and that shouldn’t be an option.”
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