As a small business owner myself, I’m always inspired after reading the stories of other business owners: their tales of triumph over adversity, of risk taking and hard work, of resilience. In an age of faceless corporations, big-box stores and automated “help lines,” they have made a real commitment to quality customer service.
They also support their local communities. You see them around town—mingling at special events, buying groceries, dining out. With their personal reputations at stake, they take pride in providing the best products and services. They’re motivated not just for the quick sale, but for a long-standing relationship. They know my name, and I know they care about doing business with me.
“We’re not here [just] to take your money,” declares Nate Dobbins of Peoria Camera. That’s where we buy our cameras and related equipment: because we know we can go back, ask questions and get support. While I might be able to find a product cheaper online, what do I lose in that equation? Low cost is not the only value proposition; an online experience is simply not the same as the face-to-face connection.
“We are not salespeople,” adds Dawn Fortner-Alwan of Fortner Insurance. “We are consultants and advisors.” As trust develops between the customer and the business, other opportunities often arise. Being open to customer needs and willing to adapt to changing behaviors is quite often a forte of small businesses.
I personally know just about every business owner profiled in this issue, and yes, I trust and do business with them. I’ve been going to Paparazzi’s forever. Prairie Home Alliance installed a sliding glass door in my home—and checked in afterward to see how it was working. Connie Randall of A Matter of Taste has offered her “simply yum” catering services in my own home, and Michele Birkner’s floral arrangements are always outstanding.
Many small business owners do not set out to start their own businesses, but a variety of circumstances have directed them to this station in life. I’ve chatted with fellow business owners whose comment is often: “Livin’ the dream.” But we acknowledge that this dream is getting harder and harder to catch… and then maintain. What they lack for in financial resources, small businesses make up in service. Here’s another salute to our region’s small businesses! Visit them often, and let’s help keep each other in business! iBi