What’s unique about owning and running a business in Murfreesboro?
What’s unique is our clients and the customers we have, because they really are trying to support small business owners. We have big business and it’s great, but we still have people who live here that worked at those businesses. We’ve made it unique, we’ve made these businesses hip and people want to go in there and these businesses have great products.
Making sure there’s a need for your product or service is incredibly important. I’ve seen businesses come in, thinking there’s a need, only to be hit with a “Yeeeeaaah, no, maybe it’s not a great fit for here.”
I think people really want to support our small businesses and those businesses do a great job of making sure they’re known in the community. We have a great relationship with Main Street, the Downtown Business Alliance, and the Smyrna Downtown Business Alliance. We have a good climate for small businesses. We’re still a small enough town that we can do that, but we’re still growing: 350,000 people in the county and it’s only going up.
How do you advertise your business?
I feel like we do a good job. Social Media’s great, but it’s about building relationships and meeting businesses. We’re actually meeting with a new business after this interview. We meet with them, we talk to them, we do networking events, we have volunteers. We have 62 diplomats that serve our community. While those people are in their businesses, they also talk about the Chamber.
It’s very organic.
A lot of people call the Chamber because they want their ribbon cutting, but I want them to know that we are so much more than ribbon-cutting. We are also trying to make sure that we’re giving resources to our small businesses. We did 70 ribbon cuttings last year, even with covid. We’re just trying to make sure all the small businesses are aware of the resources in the area.
A couple of Dos and Don’ts for Networking:
Most of the time, networking is in the hands of a salesperson, and I believe that if they could take the ‘sales’ piece out of it and focus just on learning, they could begin to understand their people a lot better. It’s a lot like what you’re doing right now.
I tell people to go on informational interviews all the time. You don’t have to talk about yourself, just come and learn about who that person is. It’s so important because I’m more an educator about the resources at the Chamber than I am a salesperson.
Always take business cards with you wherever you go.
Always follow up. Especially with a hand-written thank-you letter. It works.
Really listen to the people you’re in front of. Understand who they are.
Think you’re going to close the deal right then and there. There are members that have taken me years to get in the Chamber. Even if they don’t want to join the Chamber, I’ll still give some great resources and information, because that shows I’m in it for the right reasons.
Go in thinking people are going to be your friend right off the bat. Try to connect with them. If you’re not doing that on a personal level, it’s a lot harder to do it on a professional level. Questions like, “Business aside, how are YOU doing, emotionally speaking.”
The introvert’s guide to networking:
Find someone who’s not an introvert and just roll with them.
Find someone that allows you to be you, but also pushes you out of your comfort zone a little bit.
As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?
It’s the ability to support ALL of our local businesses. If I shopped at every store in the community, I’d be overwhelmed, and there’d no way I could get to everyone. There’s no one like me in the community, and I like just being the ‘me.’ I’m just the ‘Kelly,’ but I can’t be that for every business.
For the people I work with, owning a small business is the loneliest relationship you will ever have. You are providing a product or service, but you are expecting other people to come out and support you. When they don’t, it hurts and it’s emotionally draining.
How do the businesses in town deal with competition?
The best way that I’ve seen businesses in Murfreesboro handle competition is by finding a business that’s similar, but different from your own, and working with them.
Let’s say I run a clothing store that works well for a certain price point. Not everyone that comes into my store is going to want that. If I’m aware of the other clothing stores in town, I can say, “If my store doesn’t have what you’re looking for, then try _____ down the street,” and those other stores will do the same for me.
If you really try to help market your fellow businesses, it will come back to you twofold.
For more information on The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, click here.