I have a soft spot for the entrepreneur.
One who takes a leap in life on the uncertain ground of an idea, a dream, is one to be admired.
It takes courage to believe in something so much to the point you gamble your livelihood on it.
My grandfathers and uncles and parents did it. My husband also took that leap.
But as business owners consistently tell us at this newspaper, doing business is tough these days for many reasons, from taxes and rising costs, to the recession and government regulation.
And the force of the Web — that same technological advancement that benefits both shoppers and business owners — can also be a big hindrance.
With it, local business owners have a reach they never did before, but it’s costly to keep up, and it can eat away at consumer loyalty on the local level.
Dr. Thomas Marquardt owner of General Optometry in Granby for 33 years, said the force of the Internet makes clientele “distracted,” less loyal. The pitter-patter of consumer keyboards is the search for alternatives — such as big-box deals for vision care.
But folks like Marquardt have something “Inter-Web” competition doesn’t have, and that is one-on-one customer service. Marquardt has the experience, the wisdom, the time and the personalized care to spend longer than 45 minutes with each of his clients. And 20-years Granby auto dealer Michael Garrett, featured in this edition (page 12), offers the benefit of convenience to his clients. He works to price-match in an effort to save vehicle shoppers wasted weekends on the Front Range.
As Garrett says, “Many people have failed here.” But, they “should not feel they are failures. This is a hard place to make it.”
Diverse income opportunities are lacking in the mountains, as Marquardt says, and this area is less “recession resistant” than more populated places.
The Sky-Hi News will continue to gather business owners’ insight. It is my hope questionnaires on the business page represent a fair cross-section of the county with various types of entrepreneurs, and in time, shine light on what it’s really like to do business here — what the challenges are, how we all can help, and what we can learn from veteran business owners. I also hope these features generate enough reader empathy to leave online shopping carts for the goods and services closer to home.
The Deloitte 2013 Annual Survey, conducted in September, states that for the first time in the survey’s history, consumers say the Internet will be the top place they will shop this holiday season.
But the good news for local business owners is that “shopping local” is still on shoppers’ minds.
About 66 percent of respondents will do some shopping locally, the survey found, and the main reasons are to support the local economy and to “find unique gifts.” The “ease of returns” is the main reason shoppers prefer physical stores rather than online, and 73 percent say that coupons and promotions will influence spending. Responding to this particular trend, the Sky-Hi News is coordinating with local businesses to offer electronic coupons that tablet and smart-phone owners can present at local stores.
Interestingly, 54 percent of survey-takers say they would be more likely to purchase in a store this holiday from a retailer offering “knowledgeable sales associates.”
So even as the Internet becomes more a part of our lives, when you boil it down, shoppers still crave human interaction. And that’s what “local” has going for it. Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals may be tempting, but don’t discount Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30. The dollars you spend locally — supporting those who live here and keeping sales-tax dollars here — go a long way to making our communities better.