Small Business Summit in Fredericksburg

Looking for a networking or a new professional development opportunity? Keep an eye out for the next time that the Governor’s Small Business Summit is in your area. The Governor’s Economic Development & Tourism Office (EDT) hosts numerous events of this kind throughout the year. Just in the past few months, they went to Beaumont, San Angelo, San Antonio, and I had the opportunity to attend the one on September 21, 2023, in Fredericksburg, which included a pitch competition with a prize of $10,000 for the winning small business, free headshots at a value of $600, lunch, panel discussions, and a hall filled with important contacts and support for small businesses from various industries and organizations. By the way, the winner of the pitch competition was Piccolina, an Italian ice shop, which I had the pleasure of tasting, and you can see a picture I took of a serving of the delicious Fredericksburg Peach flavor in the gallery further below. Also included in the gallery is a photo of a mouthwatering paprika schnitzel dish I enjoyed from Der Lindenbaum, a German restaurant, which happens to be pictured on the back of the event agenda below, and it is not too far from Piccolina! The next time you’re in beautiful Fredericksburg, make sure you stop by these two places, including Clear River Ice Cream and Bakery for their amazing peach cobbler and Mexican Vanilla ice cream—you won’t regret it, and thanks to this EDT event, I had an excellent learning experience during and even after the Summit!

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It was the first EDT event of the year that was specifically for women business owners; the atmosphere was electric from the start, and the assembly hall was packed with business owners from a wide range of enterprises. EDT created a perfect environment where attendees could feel comfortable to ask any questions, exchange ideas, get the information they needed, obtain key contacts, be in the company of likeminded people who want each other and their communities to thrive (some attendees traveled far to be at this event), and so many other benefits of taking part in this gathering. EDT had held a second event for women business owners on December 7, 2023, in Houston, so if you are interested in more events of this kind and other upcoming business events, stay tuned by regularly checking EDT’s events calendar, and remember… as Cecilia Abott said at the Summit in Fredericksburg, “When women in Texas succeed, Texas succeeds.”

Supporting local small businesses pours back into your community, and these types of events are also helpful for library personnel to meet, mingle, and learn from business owners about what their needs are, which can provide insight and new ideas on how library services could be enhanced. Libraries will also get together at these events with local, state, and federal organizations that are aligned with the goal of guiding and assisting business owners to advance and grow successfully, which opens up enormous opportunities for ongoing communication and unified, strategic, collaborative efforts. Below, I have included a gist of each message that the panelists delivered at the Summit in Fredericksburg, including resources from EDT, Texas Woman’s University, and the U.S. Small Business Administration above. Share this information with your patrons, and if you can get to the next business summit, it will be a rewarding experience; these events offer new connections, opportunities, possibilities, and so much more.

Also, don’t miss this related article, written by Kristin Linscott, Plano Public Library’s Library Development Coordinator, which provides libraries with tips on how to engage with the business community: Five Steps to Intentional Business Initiatives.

Workforce Recruitment and Retention

Consider what is good for your operations and bottom line. We are in an employee market; stand out as an employer by first understanding your target demographic and where these employees are coming from to attract and keep them. Have a “one size fits one” mentality; in other words, what works for one may not work for another. Speak with people to ask them what they look for in an employer; again, one size does not fit all. If you want to retain your employees, you must be flexible. Know each of your employees and what drives them to keep working for you. A couple of things employees care about are mutual respect and building something important. Surprisingly, the importance of money came after the aforementioned values. Are you giving your employees autonomy? Think about how you could work around your employees’ schedule. Look at your business model to see which tasks must be performed in person, remotely, delegated, etc., and restructure to meet the employee demand to attract and retain the best talent, and offer opportunities for employees to work remotely. Remote work allows you to access and hire more talent that does not live near you.

If you’re in a location, like Fredericksburg, that is hard to get people to come and work in your city, partnerships are key! High schools, chambers of commerce, and Workforce Solutions offices are partners, among many others, that share your goal. For example, partners like local colleges, the Texas Workforce Commission, and your local Workforce Solutions Office can help you find employees, and you may also find solutions for transportation for your employees to make sure they get to your business through your strategic partnerships.

Have a system to track and find who fits your business best and a mission statement to filter ideas through. Don’t be rigid with just your ideas; take your employees’ feedback as an opportunity to co-create while keeping in line with your business’ mission statement. Incentivize by coaching, acknowledging, and expressing gratitude to your employees as ways to keep the people you find, and last but not least… if, for example, you own a coffee shop, visit other coffee shops to speak to those baristas and to observe their habits while working, and if you see someone that does not cut corners, entice them to work for you by saying something like, “If you want a promotion, here’s my card.”

Business Growth

Don’t just survive; connect and build relationships that are vital to you, and find the support to help you thrive! Learn to say “No” to the things that are a detriment to you, and learn to say, “How can you help me?” By doing this, you will know the steps and the resources to be where you want your business to be in 10 years, through reaching out to the organizations that can help make that happen. Additionally, you have to be masterfully adaptable as a business owner. “Get ready to be ready to stay ready,” was a reminder from panelist Margaret Wilson-Anaglia, Director of LiftFund Women’s Business Center.

According to the panelists, the top three things to remember to grow your business are the following:

  • Sustainability: Know who is buying what you’re selling; make sure you are filling a void that’s needed and that you have a buyer base.
  • Capital: How long are you going to eat PB&J sandwiches and not steak? Relationships are critical; ask what it is going to take for you to get what you need from an organization that could help you. For example, if you need funding from a bank, find a bank that “speaks your language.” Is a national, local, or regional bank a better fit for you? Know where those funding opportunities are because you can’t grow without money, and you’ll be able to bid on larger projects and pay your employees to carry out larger projects.
  • Be ready to get ready to stay ready: Do not wait until you need funding; meet with people sooner so that you are always ready. Also, you will need to revamp your business plan to keep growing.

On top of what was previously mentioned, what are you doing and implementing to stay adaptable, thriving, and growing? You must have a plan for growth amidst anything that may come at you that you have to deal with because there’s always a wave coming, so you are always in growth mode. Having said that, know there is help for all stages of business development (e.g., ideation stage, and beyond). Get the support you need from others and get on email lists that are relevant to your industry.  Also remember that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are free organizations (like the ones in attendance at this business summit) that will collect all the information for you that you need, connect you to who you need, find funding opportunities because they know that you, as a business owner, don’t have time to research everything that these organizations already know and do 365 days a year. So, for example, you could collaborate with colleges and universities to get interns to help your business; moreover, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has contracts, and if you want to know how your business can be subcontractor, reach out to the organizations that were present at this summit who will help you “unlock the key to the kingdom”; you could have millions and more in sales by doing business with state agencies, and don’t be afraid to be the only woman at the table. Last but not least, make sure you get certified as a women-owned business so that you get access to other resources, and you get on lists to other networks and opportunities.

Marketing and Social Media

Frequency sells! Post fun stuff regularly, and stay relevant because, as the panelists said, “If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen.” Create a system on where and how frequently to post and be consistent. Find one or two platforms, and post on the same day at the same intervals. If you don’t post frequently, people may think you are no longer in business. Posting once, every other month, is not going to cut it; try scheduling a month’s-worth of posts, and plan when to post them consistently. Further, instead of bombarding the public with only sales stuff, show something different! Tell your story on your social media pages; let the public get to know you and who you are. Post compelling imagery to get customers to imagine and see themselves doing that activity or play around with opportunities to get your audience to engage with you. For example, a weekend getaway raffle will get that initial participatory group retained.

Always invest back in your company and get out and meet people; use your industry resources to get connected to the right people and keep networking, such as staying in tune with your local chamber of commerce that will have connections and resources for you. By getting out, you’ll get to speak with people and build trust faster, and if your budget is tight, inflexible, or you cannot hire a company to run your social media system, get marketing interns. Don’t just get your young relative to post for you; get someone who knows what looks compelling and how to post strategically. Also, Facebook offers free classes on how to do Facebook ads, and there are apps that allow you to post to multiple platforms. Related to letting people know who you are, have your face on your website and your business card. Equally, matter-of-factly tell people, and encourage them, to give you a review. For example, include a link on your thank you note where you ask them directly to submit a review. Regarding public customer complaints, let them know you hear them, and respond with facts and solutions to turn a foe into a fan. Also, the connection you make with your followers will lead to them coming to your defense; the positive responses will outweigh the negative ones.

Finance and Funding

Ask yourself where you want to be in six months and in five years; what is your map going to look like in year 1, 2, 3, etc.? First, make sure you separate your personal finances from your business finances. Second, be mindful of your plan (A, B, C, and D…) or roadmap, including how you leverage your money and the funding or the capital of others. Understand that you might have peaks and dips in cashflow along the way, and you need to make sure you have the cashflow to afford the expenses for your large projects and contracts with big organizations, agencies, etc. Having a line of credit can help with those dips in slow quarters, so find out what it’s going to take for other funding organizations to help you, and understand the different purposes of a line of credit and a term loan, the latter of which could be used if, for example, you need a new van for your business, etc. Third, lenders or banks want to see that you have some type of capital, and you must understand your cashflow if you’re going to ask for a loan. They want to see at least two years of cashflow to make an assessment and a decision, and they want to know that your map will get them paid back. Lastly, your plan to grow and thrive must contain backup plans, including ones on how you’ll pay back all debt with banks and secondary sources of repayment if your first strategy doesn’t work as well as you planned.

Stay up to date with the business development programs and grants of Texas Woman’s University. More information on the opportunities shown below can be found on their website. Also, scroll down in the file to see the possibilities open to service members, veterans, and military spouses with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Boots to Business program.

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