You've undoubtedly heard about shopping and buying local as a way to support small businesses. Small, however, doesn't mean it isn't something big. It's quite a big deal to businesses in communities and neighborhoods across the country, let alone globally.
2020 has brought a unique operating environment to doing business. As a young business who was just starting to build relationships with local retailers to carry Pat's Granola, the March stay at home order shuttered our stockists in Northeast Ohio, including Hudson News at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. 2020 was supposed to be a breakout year for growing the business in Northeast Ohio, the midwest and across the country. Well, it didn't quite happen this way.
Can I tell you I never thought for one moment that I was going to go out of business? Call it stubbornness or stupidity, I simply wasn't going to fail in 2020. I've lived a lifetime of figuring things out. Hard things. Without missing a beat, I contacted the team at the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) at Lorain County Community College. Spoke to Beth Gantz and Lindsay Sims about suggested strategies for continuing to do business during the pandemic. The SBDC, Women's Business Center of Northeast Ohio, University Circle, Food Bevy, Jumpstart, Inc., Grow with Google and Shopify have been vital in helping businesses like mine pivot this year. And I learned that I didn't have to reinvent the wheel, just sharpen it. There's nothing small about the work these people and organizations do!
The small businesses throughout Northeast Ohio are fueled by owners who don't think small. I'm always amazed and encouraged by their stories of family, pride, persistence, setbacks and strong work ethic. And community means everything to businesses who've been here years or just months. Having grown up in a small town, I know what a strong community means.
As I listen to how people started their businesses, I was reminded to tell my story. People want to hear how and more importantly why you started a business, and what keeps you going. This may be hard to believe, but I'm a shy person. I've learned, however, by sharing tidbits about me with others, that people are more alike than dissimilar. This food journey has introduced me to a whole new world of people who have inspired me with their skills and experiences (many of which are untraditional). As a lifelong learner, I'm soaking up the teaching, the cooking and the foods that fuel us.
What's given me joy this year are the positive comments and feedback I've received about this encore chapter of my life. A stranger recently shared that "I don't know Pat personally, but we seem to run in the same circle and her social presence is all peace and love." Enough said.
I'm shopping with small local businesses this holiday. If you have a favorite business, give them a shoutout here. We'd love to send them some love.
Pat Bennett is the founder and President of Pat's Granola, a Cleveland based food company. Pat's Granola is sold online at www.patsgranola.com and is also available at several Northeast Ohio businesses including:
Troubadour Coffee Roasters www.troubadourcoffeeroasters.com
Sports and Spine Physical Therapy www.sportspine.com
Local Flavors Shoppe www.localflavors.net
Rittman Orchards and Farm Market www.rittmanorchards.com
Cleveland Hopkins International Airport www.clevelandairport.com
Locle Box www.loclebox.com
Good Foods Brands www.goodfoodbrands.org
Market Wagon Northeast Ohio www.marketwagon.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com