I’ve been a big fan of the shop local movement for many years. Something about small businesses being so essential to our economy, but often at the cost of security and profit for their owners, got me thinking about how these small business owners make it work.
About 5 years ago I wanted to find out what it was that made these local shops and their owners tick, so I interviewed 30 businesses and featured them on my blog. I’ll admit that the process was exhausting, but I also learned a lot, and had a lot of fun.
A lot of what I learned could likely be applied to other cities and communities, but I’m going to focus on how what I learned can be applied to other businesses in Edmonton. Many of the businesses I interviewed have flourished since then, and a few have moved on to other things, but there seemed to be a few central pieces that contributed to making their ideas a reality. Here are 5 points I learned from these hardworking entrepreneurs that may help other entrepreneurs be more successful:
1. Believing in what you do is important. Edmontonians tend to be a passionate group of people that are interested in knowing why it is you do what you do. They also want to know that you are knowledgeable in your field and know the what, why and how of your product or service down to the tiniest detail.
2. Be honest and straightforward. Educate consumers about the value of the product or service you provide, because they may not automatically understand why your price is a little higher than the big box store with a similar product.
3. Meet people! Edmontonians are not only interested in doing business with knowledgeable people, but they want to get along with them as well. Shoppers want to know that there is a real human being behind a business, and that they are enjoyable to work with; especially if they are going to refer their friends and family to them later. No one wants to refer business to someone if they didn’t have an enjoyable experience working with them or were disappointed in the product or service.
4. Show up on the web. There is a lot of word of mouth marketing that happens in a community like Edmonton, where everyone seems to know half the city and referrals are flying all over the place. The problem with this is that people can sometimes forget a business name or website address, so it’s important for businesses to be found based on information typed into a search engine. Edmonton also has one of the heaviest social media using populations in Canada, especially on Twitter.
5. Shop at other local businesses. Every single owner I talked to had a multitude of other local businesses to praise. This sort of attitude builds a strong community around shopping local and creates a whole host of ambassadors for local businesses.
If you’ve got all of these points covered already, that’s awesome, you’re well on your way.