There’s nothing small about small businesses. To a small business owner, everything we do seems BIG, in fact it’s HUGE. Many of us started as solo entrepreneurs with just an idea or a dream. It may take years before that dream manifests into a “real” business.
For me, I’ve probably always been incubating the idea of owning a business. Over the years, I’ve listened and spoken to countless entrepreneurs who’ve shared personal stories of flying by the seat of their pants and often without a net of any kind. Secretly, I envied their passion, courage and the belief they had in their businesses and themselves. The question was did I share those traits?
Watching my Dad operate his own business in Brooklyn, New York was probably my earliest memory of knowing someone who was his own boss. Truth be told, my hometown community of St. Albans, New York was filled with small family businesses. Grocery, hardware, farms, pharmacies, butchers, shoe repair, gift shops, candy stores, delicatessens and specialty stores which catered to the neighborhood. The shopkeepers knew our names, our favorite products and many even delivered. Opening early, staying late and creating exceptional personal service with a smile and thank you. Reflecting back, we were very spoiled!
It took more than 25 years to finally make what is now Pat’s Granola into a business. I’m very grateful to the resources of the Small Business Development Corporation at Lorain Community College who offered a Scratchmade Incubator program as well as ongoing coaching, mentoring and training in the nuances of starting and running a small business.
Early on in 2020 toward the start of the lockdown, I took advantage of SBDCs available programs (most of which were free or low cost) to stay in business. Worked with the advisors to craft a strategy to that would enable me to not have to close up shop. Creating valuable content on my website blog and social media channels fostered a high level of engagement and interest in prospective customers who craved comfort with tasty food that could be shipped right to their door. Advisor Lindsay Sims offered valuable marketing webinars each week to teach new skills and give viewers pep talks about using the time during lockdown to stay focused and not give up! She was right.
Learning to use Zoom and Google Meets was the way we stay engaged during lockdown and beyond. And while I missed in person trainings, it did allow me to take advantage of a wealth of resources I’d probably not been able to do otherwise. The people I've met and interacted with were from all walks of life across the globe. We shared our stories, met each others families (including countless pets), worked through tech glitches, and helped each other over some very rough patches in uncharted waters. P.S. learning to turn off the video also enabled me to eat many a meal while listening in.
The payoff for continuing to do the work, which at times seemed daunting and overwhelming, was being able to walk into a business and see Pat’s Granola prominently displayed on the shelves or featured on social media feeds. What a proud feeling!
The Local Flavors Shoppe, Painesville, Ohio
Made Cleveland pop up shop, Cleveland
Collaboration with Hartzler Dairy
Troubadour Coffee Roasters, Fairview Park, OH
Bottom line, local business generates 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big box retail stores. Whoa!
SBDC helps grow businesses in northeast Ohio. The advisors want entrepreneurs to succeed. What a concept!
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
Market Wagon Northeast Ohio www.marketwagon.com
Made Cleveland www.madecleveland.com
Mister Brisket www.misterbrisket.com
Nature's Oasis Lakewood www.naturesoasis.com
Happy Cows Group Share Happy Cows Group Share
Hear Pat's story on Food Founders Podcast.