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Local Impact Inventory

Every year in December, I stay off Facebook as much as possible. And by "stay off Facebook" I mean I don't post on my personal or business page during that time. I look after several client accounts year-round so I am still scheduling and checking social media, but Facebook stresses me out more than the other networks, so it's always a nice break at the end of the year. But I digress. What I really want to tell you about is what I came up with during my last Facebook break: I decided to create the Merritt Small Business Centre. 

 

2017 saw a big shift in my business. I mostly worked online from 2013-2017, and I really felt the need to connect with more clients and fellow entrepreneurs in person, face to face. Part of my business will likely always be online because the potential client base in Merritt is not big enough to sustain my business, but I really want to have a meaningful local component in my work. I decided to make #localimpact my word for 2018 and started a Facebook group {the irony, I know}.

 

The goal of the group and the small business centre is to spearhead collaborations among small businesses in Merritt and the Nicola Valley, as a way to help everyone grow their business. Collaborations are a win-win! It's been four months since I started the group and I feel it's a good time to take inventory of what we've accomplished so far and make plans for the next four months.

 

Merritt Small Business Centre Stats

Current Membership: 70 {up from 0 in January 2018}

I approved a total of 70 members to join the group, and have declined a total of 43 people. There are two reasons people get declined: they don't answer the three questions that pop up when they click "join", or they are not business owners. 

Of the 70 members, about 45 are active in the group and regularly interact on posts with each other.

 

Meetings so far: three discussion and networking meetings {two lunch and one evening} and one social media workshop; attendance between 8-14 people each time, except for the evening meeting, where only one person showed up {it happens}. 

 

Collaborations so far: Shop Local - Shop Merritt - Spring 2018 Coupon Book

 

Collaborations in progress:

  • Adventure Travel website with member highlights and advertising opportunities
  • Window Dressing of empty downtown store fronts
  • Member Spotlights {bi-weekly}

Collaborations discontinued:

  • Member Directory on this website {too much work for me}

Planned collaborations:

  • Map of Merritt with a Bike Tour and ads of our members around the perimeter
  • Active Collaboration Idea Bank within the Facebook Group

Resources available:

  • Collaboration Idea Bank
  • 2018 Holiday Marketing Calendar
  • Skills and Equipment Inventory
  • Collaboration mailing list
  • Resources for starting and growing a business

Hours invested: about 200 so far 

 

Money invested: $350 {social media ads, print-outs for social media workshop, rental fee for evening meeting venue}

 

Plans for May - August 2018

The plan for the next four months is to move the collaborations in progress forward. The adventure travel website will be completed and launched by the end of May. The group has received permission from the owner of an empty double storefront on Quilchena Avenue to move forward with window dressing {planned is a display to promote the adventure travel website}, and the bi-weekly member spotlights will continue. 

 

Bringing the map of Merritt with a bike tour and ads for the Small Business Centre members to life will depend on cost and participation.

 

After calls for evening meetings and virtually a zero turnout it does not make sense to continue the meetings, at least over the summer. It's unfortunate, because planning and networking in the summer ensures that your business won't flatline in the winter, but I am not a friend of wasting anyone's time {especially mine}, so I've cancelled the planned lunch and evening meetings and will re-evaluate for the Fall. 

For members of the group my offer to meet for coffee and talk business, stands. 

 

I've also decided to shut down the Business Directory on this website, which had close to 20 listings in it, but turned out to be too much of a time investment for me. I'm putting this on the back burner for a potential paid membership feature.

 

The Facebook group will continue as it has, with resources and collaboration opportunities for members.

 

Midterm plans and viability

When I started this venture, my plan was to give it one year to build local relationships, show local business owners that collaborations {and having access to them} are a valuable tool for growing a business, and to determine whether this will have a long-term income potential {like a premium membership for some features and collaborations}.

 

I feel that I've made progress in building relationships {and I love connecting with fellow local business owners!}, there is still a lot of work to be done to show just how well collaborations can work, and the long-term income potential at this point is about the equivalent to a freelance contract with about 2-3 hours of work per week {so nothing to write home about yet}.

 

How I feel about all this

I have strong feelings about certain aspects of this venture, and mixed feelings about others. Let's start with the mixed feelings: I met with our MLA Jackie Tegart a few weeks ago, and one of the things I asked her was what she thought is holding business and tourism in Merritt back. She told me that in her opinion there are a lot of individual non-profit associations who work alongside each other, but could be bundling their forces to really move things forward. She feels it would be beneficial to have one organization to spearhead the efforts. I have mixed feelings about this, because I am not a fan of following others, but I am also not a fan of doing other people's work for them {and that's often the effect of someone getting shit done - that person becomes the designated go-getter and everyone else forgets that they could do the exact same thing if they got off their asses}.

 

I have strong feelings about the Merritt Small Business Centre staying a for-profit venture, because member-funded groups are not dependent on government or public funding, and therefore don't have to answer to anyone but their members. I also feel strongly that I don't want this venture to contribute to a paralyzed business community by getting involved in opportunities others are already working on. I feel strongly about keeping this venture lean, efficient, and valuable to its members by being selective with the type of collaborations we pursue, setting high standards, and raising the bar for participating and being a member over time. 

 

Onward and upward!

 

Write a comment

Comments: 4
  • #1

    Julia Smith (Thursday, 26 April 2018 19:54)

    Wow you are a powerhouse Kerstin! Thanks so much for sharing your energy and enthusiasm... it is contagious!

  • #2

    Sue Thomas (Thursday, 26 April 2018 21:47)

    Thank you Kerstin! You truly are amazing! Looking forward to getting back to our meetings in the fall!

  • #3

    dotjordan@gmail.com (Friday, 27 April 2018 14:28)

    Kerstin, I admire your willingness, energy, and organizational abilities. You are amazing. I have nothing but respect for you and your role in this group.
    Onward and upward! :)

  • #4

    Valerie McDonald (Saturday, 28 April 2018 09:10)

    I am in complete agreement with the other comments on your amazing progress and attitude! I personally have had good response from the coupon book and have enjoyed the member spotlights. Keep up the great work and I will keep trying to contribute to this positive group!