Support and Mentoring for Small-business Success: A Missouri Example

Success sogm

Photo (CC) Bruce Berrien, on Flickr

There is one truth about the small business segment. They rarely have all of the resources they need.

For them the practice of bootstrapping is an every day occurrence. And one way that many small-business owners use is finding mentors and technical assistance through networking.

In Missouri, one such resource is the University of Missouri Extension and their business development program. In addition to one-on-one assistance they have a monthly newsletter filled with news and alerts for the businesses they support. It also provides a calendar of upcoming events and funding opportunities.

Learning from other business owners is part of their effort as well. They support this by having two success stories in each addition. As you look through the stories, you will come away with tips and ideas used by other business owners; information that you might find helpful in your own business.

These same stories have a dual purpose in that they form a regular posting on the success of their work.

Keeping up with people who have come through their system takes time but the stories help other business owners as well as provide a story for the University of Missouri Extension.

So business owners, tune in and see what people like yourself are doing. And for Extension colleagues, get ideas on what you might try to help grow your small-business community.

Small Farmers Can Make Food Safety Work: The GroupGAP Pilot in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Photo by Lance Cheung.

Photo by Lance Cheung.

As spring arrives, access to local foods will be once again be on the mind of consumers.  And one of the things they will be asking is about food safety. The Michigan State Center for Regional Food Systems shares their report on a food safety pilot project they tried.  Thanks to Mary Zumbrunnen, Richard Pirog, Michelle Walk, Phil Britton, Phil Tocco and Natasha Lantz for their work and for sharing the report.

Those of us working in local food  know how important food safety has become to farmers, food hubs, and food buyers; we all want to have safe food and we also want small farmers to continue to have access to a variety of direct and intermediate food markets.  This case study (link below) provides an overview of the processes, challenges, benefits, and lessons learned from the Group Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) pilot project in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan.

The project goal was to test how a group-based farm-based food safety certification process could benefit small farmers.  The U.P. GroupGAP pilot project and this publication is a cooperative project led by the U.P. Food Exchange, MSU Extension, Marquette Food Coop, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International.  Partial funding to support this pilot project came from the USDA Speciality Crop Block Grant program (administered by MDARD) – provided to MIFFS. Other funding sources include the U.P. Food Exchange, the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Special thanks also goes to Cherry Capital Foods.

Shopping Small, Shopping Local

Shop Small logo

Shop Small



Much is being said and written about Small Business Saturday, Nov 28th. It’s a time to celebrate small businesses and what they mean to our communities and our economies. It’s also a time to recognize how much we, as individuals depend on them.

So on Sat, Nov 28th, head to your small businesses for holiday shopping. As this article from the Small Business Administration notes, an estimated 88 million people did that last year. Let’s go for 100 million or more.

And take the time leading up to then to include it in your social media posts. Post about the unique products others can find or places to eat. And check out the posts from others. Maybe you will find that hidden gem you have always wanted. untitled2

So what are you waiting for???


PS – Remember that shopping small does not need to be just a once a year event.  Make it a daily habit. 

Find Opportunities in Agritourism

Red River trail Vineyard

Red River Trail Vineyard, by Glenn Muske

More and more agritourism businesses are springing up around the U.S. and worldwide.

People are desiring to experience the open spaces, sounds, and sights that you can get on an agritourism adventure. Plus many desire to again see some of the things they experienced or the things they have heard their parents or grandparents discuss. Plus there are the foods. Yum!!

If you are interested in starting such a business, there are many avenues for help. Marketing Agritourism Online is available here at Power of Business as is a past chat with an agritourism operator, Liberty Hill Farm. Recently, Louisiana Agritourism did a blog post on “12 steps to a Successful Agritourism Business.” The LSU Ag Center offers more help on their agritourism website. Other states also offer similar information.

So if you think agritourism is for you, you can find lots of information. And stay tuned to more chats we will be having plus check out our newsletters for more information to help you develop a successful business.

Trends Influencing Your Small Business

It is important to remain aware of and be prepared to respond to trends that may influence your business.

Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild took some time to look at three mega-trends she views as influencing rural, small businesses. Watch the first of her videos that examines the gig-economy.

What’s the gig-economy? It is many things but one element is self-employment, or freelancing in her terminology. Her information shows this is a rapidly growing trend.

So take a look. Read more about it here.

And then take a few moments to think about how this and the two other trends, Living with Purpose and Meaning and The Decentralized Marketplace, are and will continue to influence your business.

Elwood Market Moves Forward with Nebraska Encouragement

Guest Bloggers: Jim Crandall, Cooperative Business Development Specialist – University of Nebraska Extension

Elwood marketTaking a look back at a business our guest bloggers highlighted in May, 2013. Find the original story here.

The Elwood Hometown Cooperative Market was born to meet a community need.  When the local grocery story closed, the citizens were faced with no place to buy milk or a loaf a bread. With the assistance of the UNL Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, a part of Nebraska Extension, a steering committee made plans and then opened a new cooperative grocery store in town.

The store continues to do well.  The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center Extension staff continue to meet with them on a regular basis as they develop and change to meet community needs. With the closing of a local café, they have added a daily lunch special to their offerings.

Inside Elwood MarketThe expertise of the staff is growing. New things are happening. Membership communication has been expanded and includes the use of social media and emails. Check out their Facebook page.

Jim Crandall summed up his comments saying the store is doing well as it grows slowly and deliberately into the future.

And while they work hard, they also have some fun. Check out their video.


Building a Social Media Strategy for an Event

social media channels

Photo (CC) by mkhmarketing, on Flickr

You are having an upcoming event and you want to spread the word. You know that social media should be part of your strategy but it seems like there are so many channels and so little time. How can you approach it?

Amanda Christensen, Extension Assistant Professor for the Utah State University , has developed a Marketing Map to help you map out a plan to reach a number of channels on a regular basis. Her blog post and a link to the map can be found here.

Just like an marketing effort, a one-and-done approach will not create the awareness you want. You need to get the event in front of people several times on various platforms. The Marketing Map includes newspapers but I might suggest that you broaden the traditional media category to include all of those outlets as well.

Getting this done will take time and effort. It would work best if you have a team and if you use scheduling tools such as Hootsuite.

Also use your networks to help you spread the word. And don’t forget to make personal contacts. Connecting directly with people can be very effective. Your direct contacts should include people involved in the media who you have nurtured over time.

The Map also reminds us about the lead time needed. They recommend some marketing being done up to five weeks out. Depending on the event, you may even want to put that out further. For some major conferences, I am getting save-the-date reminders nearly six months ahead. People have busy lives so the longer the notice, the more likely you are to get a good turnout.

Putting together an event takes a great deal of energy. And it offers the audience something they want and can use. So making sure people know about it makes your event a win-win situation. Use all of the tools, like the Social Media Marketing Map, at your disposal.

Good luck.

How Does Your Company Start and End the Day?

Here to Help

Photo (CC) by tracey r, on Flickr

I came across this blog the other day, “Are You Really Ready to Serve” by Paul Larue. He asks a great question about a situation we probably have all been in.

After reading the blog, as an owner you know need to ask yourself about your own business. What is the experience that the first customer in the door or the last customer of the day has?

We have all probably experienced what Paul describes. I certainly have. And I wondered if I, the customer, was the priority? Some times I felt like I was but other times I felt I was simply interrupting the business.

As a business owner, are you and your employees ready to serve from the moment the doors open until they close for the day? You should be.

Evaluating Your Marketing Channels

It is the rare business owner who does not face the decision of what marketing channel may be best for his or her business. As Matt LeRoux, Cornell Cooperative Extension, notes this question is especially relevant to small food and meat producers.

Such producers see lots of opportunities and may not take the time to reflect on that the costs are, especially in terms of time but also in terms of other lost opportunities, additional costs directly attributable to being in a certain channel, labor needed, risks, and life style opportunities.

To help business owners determine what marketing channels are best for the business, Matt developed the MCAT (Market Channel Assessment Tool). The tool, while designed for the small food producer, has been used for a variety of other business types. It requires a short, one week, record keeping effort.

As Matt notes in the video, business owners do have options to control where they market and over the market. They can set minimum orders, determine the best packaging size, best product mix, and, of course, pricing.

The MCAT is one tool to help owners measure and improve their business. Grab a cup of coffee and listen while Matt offers additional insight into how this tool can improve your bottom lime.

Throw a Twitter Party, Have Fun and Grow Your Business!

Yes, it is possible to grow your business while having fun.  One way to do it? Throw a Twitter Party!

A Twitter Party creates an experience to engage your clients and prospective customers. Twitter Parties can build your online presence, market your enterprise and expand your brand.

Use Twitter Parties to connect with your audience, discuss timely topics and present information about your products and services

Join Alyssa Dye, Nebraska Extension Intern and entrepreneur, as she discusses setting up a Twitter Party while providing strategies designed to make your Twitter Party a success!

To learn more about Alyssa, go to

Register for the Twitter Party event at:

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“See you” on later today at 11:15 AM CT!