Opportunities in the County for New Businesses are on the Rise
National Small Business Week, which spans May 4 though 8, crept up quietly in Saratoga County this year, with small businesses out doing what they do best – raising awareness about the contributions of small businesses to communities.
The annual event is hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and designed to recognize the nation’s top small businesses, entrepreneurs and business advocates.
“Small business is the backbone of all our communities making our towns, cities and villages unique and a destination for many,” Denise Romeo, IOM, vice president of member services, Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said. “Behind every small business there’s an independent owner who has a story worth knowing. We should all take some time to learn what those stories are and how they have impacted the communities in which we live.”
One local businessman said that Saratoga Springs has become a hotbed for up-and-coming businesses.
“About 90 percent of our members are small businesses,” Tim Holmes, president of the Downtown Business Association and principal at Wheatfields Restaurant, said. “There are more areas of development in the downtown corridor, creating more opportunities for small businesses. In the last three-to-five years, we're seeing a lot of new startups, especially in the areas of marketing, technology and retail.”
According to Holmes, small businesses represent 50 percent of the employers in Saratoga County.
Clint Braidwood, owner of Saratoga Olive Oil Company and co-owner of the new Saratoga Tea and Honey Company at 348 Broadway in Saratoga Springs, is not surprised.
“Saratoga is the gem of the area. Minus maybe a few coastal areas, I'd rather be right here than anywhere else inland in New York and New England,” he said.
“This is a real neighborly place to do business,” said Alex Miller, co-owner of Saratoga Tea and Honey. He acknowledged that becoming a small business owner is quite an undertaking. “We didn't do anything the easy way, but it's been fun. We did a lot of the renovations ourselves [on the building]. It's really rewarding to walk on a floor that I laid.”
Miller said that he and the Braidwoods were committed to using local businesses to help them get their new store off the ground.
“We worked with local craftspeople and small business owners for our cabinetry, rough cut wood, electrical, things like that,” Miller said. “We've been working with TC Paris on Henry Street – they are helping us out with the complimentary shortbreads we offer when people buy a pot of tea. We're really grateful for everyone's support here.”
More than 90 percent of the shop’s items cost less than $20. They hope to provide the region with a wonderful and affordable gift-giving option. The store serves mainly as a retail operation but offers iced and hot cups of tea to go. Guests are also encouraged to sample the wide variety of teas at their eight-seated tea bar.
Kari McEntee is currently working on opening a bed and breakfast in Stillwater. She said she was kick-started by her family and passion for the town.
“When my brother become mayor of Stillwater, he spoke passionately about the importance of bringing small businesses to the village,” she said. “It inspired me to come home to Stillwater, get a plan together, and see my Newland House Bed and Breakfast dream come to fruition.”
“It's great to experience the process working, from funding to starting a business to touching so many people in the community,” said Amber Chaves, owner of The Bundle Store in Ballston Spa, a natural parenting store that offers natural products, classes and other resources to families and expectant parents. She began her business with a loan from the Community Loan Fund, and plans to hire additional staff soon.
“Non-traditional lending opportunities like ours help people make their dreams come true using their natural abilities to build a business and contribute to local economies,” said Linda Chandler, director of development of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region.
“It's important to support small businesses,” said Matthew Hosek, business development officer at Ballston Spa National Bank. “The owners are your neighbors. Their children are on the same sports teams as your children. The are clearly an invaluable part of communities, and we are fortunate to have two strong chambers of commerce to support their efforts.”
Susan Farnsworth, director of promotion and marketing at Saratoga's Downtown Business Association, agrees.
“It's unbelievable how much they give back to the community,” she said. “Their presence creates a warm, friendly place here, a safe and vibrant region that attracts conventions to the Saratoga Springs City Center, which in turn attracts business for our local entrepreneurs and small businesses. It's quite a partnership.”