The Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce wanted to know first-hand what it take's to be an entrepreneur in the Brookings community. From start-up to what they would have done differently, we asked local business owners to share their experience with us. Check out what they had to say!
Brookings has many resources available for entrepreneurs like the Brookings Economic Development Corporation and Enterprise Institute, as well as an abundance of other entrepreneurs that are willing to answer your questions. I had a lot of support and encouragement from the community as a whole, but especially from the two organizations above.
-Kirsten Gjesdal, Carrot Seed
One of the most helpful parts of opening a start-up in Brookings was how welcoming the community was to our business. Right from the start we had a strong clientele of families who were looking for something positive for the children. Word of mouth advertising and a willingness to try something new and different brought people in our doors and helped us keep them open while we learned the ins and outs of running a business.
-Casie King, KCK Wildfire Cheer
We found a space that was affordable and a month-to-month lease. Our landlord wants to give back to the community that helped support him for many years. This was very encouraging to us.
-Karen Burns, Ugly Duckling
LD: Friends and family. In life there is nothing like a solid support network, and it's the same with starting a business. Both of my parents had owned businesses, and so their advice was invaluable. I also have several friends who work in the restaurant industry, and we're very supportive in the beginning in terms of giving advice and helping is ensure that we provided a quality product.
DS: The support of my wife, Cait. During times of doubt and uncertainty, she was always there to reassure me that things were going to work out. We also had great support from the Brookings community. We received great feedback by participating in 1 Million Cups, as well as suggestions from our restaurant partners on how to make our business concept better.
- Luke Davidson & Daniel Stratton, Zip Dish Delivery
This is a complex question. There isn’t just one pivotal person, event, or group that helped with my start-up. I believe what was most helpful with starting a business in Brookings was the fact that Brookings was and is an amazing community. I met with business leaders in the community while developing my business plan who shared their vision for our community. Knowing great care was being taken to guide our community toward the best future possible was of great comfort. The Vision for Brookings came into focus after the market crash in 2008; this was a vital factor for my staying in Brookings. Ten years later, I couldn’t imagine calling any other place my home!
-Dennis Willert, Willert Wellness & Chiropractic
We began by researching our market, our target audience, and how to set ourselves apart from the competition when creating our business plan for Hitch Studio. Once we had that completed enough to start a bigger conversation, we set up a meeting with Tim Weelborg at the Enterprise Institute to see if our plan was realistic. Tim was great at helping us see the bigger picture. (For example, if our business would be seasonal at all and what would carry us through the off-months, etc.) He really helped us finalize our business plan and encouraged us to move forward and recognize that our idea was worth pursuing.
After that, we sat down with the Brookings Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) team and got a better idea of what doing business in Brookings really looked like. (What resources and grants we should be aware of, what options were available to us for an office or retail space, etc. They really helped us get “the lay of the land.”) Through the BEDC, we also qualified for the Downtown Retail Acceleration Grant, which helped us tremendously as we expanded our business.
Other things that were helpful for Hitch Studio when starting up in Brookings were all the networking opportunities like Connect 2140 and Sub40 Social groups, 1 Million Cups, and both Renee and I are part of Masterminds groups. We both serve on community boards and have met a lot of people through our downtown involvement. We also found affordable rent and retail space in our vibrant downtown Brookings. We slowly stepped up our square footage until we eventually moved into another location on Main Ave., which offered affordable costs as well. If it weren’t for the supportive nature of other businesses in Brookings, we may not be where we are today.
-Carrie Kuhl, Hitch Studio
I worked at Winks Fine Jewelry for four years attending SDSU then spent 5 years elsewhere in this industry when Mr. Wink called and asked me If I was interested in coming back to Brookings to buy his business. I jumped at the chance. Biggest help I got was from Wells Fargo Bank helping me do all the business financing.
-Jerry Miller, Winks Jewelry
I had an unusual start to my store. I opened within another store and worked my way up to my own. Other downtown shop owners were a huge help to me, with their encouragement and advice. The SD Retail Association and the Downtown Business Group were also helpful.
-Jenna Friedrich, FarmHouse Fancy
A sense of place and identity was extremely helpful for us in the beginning. Our business does not rely heavily on Brookings in terms of sales, meaning we travel all over the country. However, Brookings is our home base, our sanctuary. A sense of place can really help define how your business is going to operate. Brookings has a unique culture and we try to express that through our business. We believe giving back is crucial to helping a community thrive, and the community has instilled that in our business.
-Nick Schmeichel, Sideline Productions