Small Biz – Pay Attention to the Revolution!

Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank – biggest takeaway:

One thing I’ve learned is… just because you come from a small town, doesn’t mean you should think small.

Amanda Brinkman of Deluxe Corporation – biggest takeaway:

Biggest piece of advice is to not let that flame flicker. (in reference to when they leave, continue the projects)

EVERY small business should be paying attention to Small Business Revolution

It is available online (with more individual stories) and the Main Street series is also on Hulu. Talk about having consultants in your living room. Even more powerful is watching each of the business owners face the challenges presented to them so that they can move from surviving to thriving. Another take-away is that they didn’t tell one single business to be “Like Someone Else”…. but how to capitalize on who you are. And finally, there was very little commiserating over the WalMart down the road, online competition, etc. They found their uniqueness and built on it, adding excitement and getting the word out – to their own customers and as a group!

So, to my Havre de Grace community, you got this!

Let’s quit waiting for someone to fix it. Let’s quit looking elsewhere and copying what works there. Instead, let’s start listening to the folks who are creative and especially those who are presently successful. It starts with being more honest about your own business. Each of these owners had to wrestle the demons of cash flow, profit – or lack thereof, and marketing, etc that they may not be comfortable doing.

… meet Wabash, Indiana

Notes for every town and small business:

  • “Our goal is NOT to make it like it used to be, our goal is to make it better than it is.” (Steve Downes)
  • Sustainability piece that is missing: small businesses that might have a passion for what they’re doing, but maybe not have the business training to run a business.
  • They (business owners) banded together and ‘wanted to change’
  • Signs…. Even to the next block, etc
  • Take advantage of e-mail lists and social media – especially those pieces that work for your type of business. You don’t have to do it all. But choose what works and be consistent.
  • Branding

Below I try to re-cap a bit of each of the business sessions. The first few items are what they see good and bad about each business – an overview of sorts. Then they talk about Financial and Marketing, followed by the Solutions. I’m still awed by the courage of these businesses to ’tilt their head and see their business with a slightly different perspective’ and to tackle what they needed to get there! KUDOS to each and every one of them and the community who continued beyond these six in the show!

These are 20 minute videos. So you could actually spend a late evening watching them – or enjoy them in bite-sized pieces. But do watch them! This first series could have ‘fit’ Havre de Grace nearly to a ‘T’. Notice the different take on each of the businesses. Also, they talked about connecting with a younger population. Unbelievable resource!

Harry’s Old Kettle Pub and Grill

  • It’s a ‘staple’ … been in the community a long time
  • Building a business almost always costs more than you expect
  • Not a lot of capital
  • Owners work outside of their business to keep biz afloat
    • Great 1st year… then flat
    • They don’t pay themselves
    • Working to ‘exist’…. Need to start working to ‘live’
    • Lack of correlation between top-line sales and making money
    • Solid plan will help make the plan successful
    • Easily found ONLINE – in directories, etc
    • Over 70% of diners trust online reviews
    • Branding
    • Update signage, menus, etc
      • People In website photos!!!
    • Help them with 101 Accounting

Ellen’s Bridal – Hi-end/hi-class bridal shop

  • Could bring in tourism, people will travel for this service/product
  • Great customer service
  • Plus prom dresses, etc.
  • Needs more customers
  • Needs to overcome slow months
  • Needs more social media
    • Books behind – wearing too many hats
    • Lack of cash flow
    • Doesn’t pay herself
    • Inventory – way high – purchased with loan
    • Must increase sales 4x to get over cash flow issue
    • Know the numbers related to your market – in Ellen’s case, number of wedding applications
    • Maybe change the lines she carries to fit her market
    • What’s the draw?
    • Network / Co-branding
    • Selling pkg – “Plan your wedding here”
    • Matching the front (new door) with her elegant interior
    • Get online reviews
    • Simplified logo – elegant
    • Key – highlighting Ellen’s expertise
    • New logo
    • New door
    • Learned potential target market numbers
    • Bridal network – vendors/customers
    • BOSS group (Bridal Owners Seeking Sustainability)
      • – to come up with solutions to controlling inventory
    • Reviews and updated website

Filament Tattoo

  • ‘ups hipness factor’ to community with an aging population
  • Unique story – pastor to tattoo artist
  • Family oriented business
  • Clean
  • Fairly successful – slow months – hard for his employees and his own large family
  • Listens to stories (like a barber/beautician/bartender)
    • Utilized ‘electric’ history
    • Definitely use advertising – PINTEREST
    • Need to find the ‘hook’ – use him as part of the brand
      • His pastor status is his story and he can reach people that way
    • Sales growth each year – great shape
    • Everyone earning a salary
    • How to GROW?
    • Website – highlighting artists/steps to getting a tattoo
    • Pinterest – Instagram – FB
    • Redo front door/window/awning/painted building
    • Signage
    • Branding inside the shop

Schlemmer Bros – over 100 years of business

  • Metalworks – Hardware Retail – woodstoves/cookstoves/heating appliances
  • Manager of retail needs guidance – marketing especially
  • Need a profit to maintain the original old building
  • Also Service – chimney sweeping, etc
    • Needs to keep his service guys – needs to cover them over the off season
    • Needs to increase retail sales
    • Online strategy
    • Possibly another area the service folks could work during off season
    • Teach retail mgr a display/merchandising/customer conversation bootcamp
    • Change traffic into nice beautiful space – not side door
    • Highlight history
    • Paid search – focusing on customers searching for their product
    • Indoor direction signage
    • Possible wrought iron/fence install in summer for service guys
    • Improve website
    • Photo / category link to direct user to what they’re looking for
    • Expertise – family history
    • Keywords
    • Reviews
    • The spirit of a start-up in a 100 year old company!!!!!!!


  • Operating in a big space in the middle of the main street area – live above – 4 kids
  • Helping a young Wabash family have a chance to thrive
  • No business plan
  • Very young, stressed
  • Their kids are learning about hard work
    • Need to make more money – increase sales or cut costs
    • Retail: sales per square foot
    • Possibly – reduce space and rent out some (see it as an asset – monthly income)
    • “Made money – and stayed in business”
    • “Never be embarrassed about what you don’t know
    • Online Presence
    • Logos in store, etc
    • Help with merchandising, designing flow
    • Pricing strategies, inventory
    • Generate cash flow
    • Lighting
    • Accounting help
    • Theme – changed ‘vintage’ to ‘old school cool’
    • Play area – game room rather than renting out space
    • Membership possible / place for kids to be while mom and dad shop
    • Move video games that customers come in for so that they have to walk into the shop
    • Website
    • Accountant

Eclectic Shop

  • Beautiful curator
  • Helping artists reach their dreams
  • Young shop – only about a year old
  • Invested personal retirement funds
  • Work outside the shop to survive
    • To increase sales so owners can pay themselves
    • Use website to sell all around the country
    • Logo has too many versions throughout usage
    • Branding
    • Owner does a great job on social media but needs an improved website
    • Broke even first year
    • Invested $64,000 in biz
    • Also more money from their jobs
    • Allows artist to determine selling price – not good – because artist is not incurring costs of shop – she charges less than prices she found on line
    • Store takes 25% – Robert says ‘you’ll go out of business if you keep doing this.”
    • Advised she needed to double prices
    • Advised to not compete online – realize her customers are coming in to buy a gift ‘now’…. Not bothering to find it online
    • VERY difficult for the owners – to change her relationship with the artists
    • Decision is theirs
    • Coordinated awning over door
    • E-mail marketing to stay in relationships with current customers
    • New Logo and sign
    • Paint façade
    • Retail packaging – bags, boxes, etc.
    • They already got more artists that they interviewed
    • She’s working on the 100% margin – which works for shop (to stay open) and artist (to sell work)
    • Upgraded website – highlight type of products/feature artists/etc
    • Email sign up on website / also tell owners’ story


  • E-mail marketing is the BEST return on investment
  • Determining “What is your marketing style”
  • Vitally important to understand “Who your customer is.”


  • Coordinated signs to connect to pedestrians
  • Creatively updated the alley walk – wrought iron sign … MARKET walk
    • Parachute fabric triangles attached above first floors windows to add ambiance and color
    • A few benches
  • Changed an empty lot on a major corner where an old building had been razed into an attractive gathering place with benches, plants, etc.
  • The Honeywell Center several blocks away, to tie it into downtown, they created a promo piece
  • They put billboards in areas beyond the city to let folks know that Wabash is only 14 – 20 miles etc away! Folks can ‘google it’ and learn more about it and plan to visit.

In the discussions back and forth, there are some great tips and ‘out of the box thinking’…. especially about half-way through the last video where Robert comes up with a great line in reference to Mexico, IN and tequila! You have to watch it!

There is so much quality information in easily understood conversations. Talk about free advice. Thank you to Robert Herjavek of Shark Tank and Amanda Brinkman of Deluxe Corporation. This show is one of the best I’ve seen for small business America!

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