Category Archives: small business
Every community, no matter its size has at least eight items it can build on.
Aladdin, Wyoming is a favorite stop on our cutoff from Belle Fourche, SD to Sundance, Wyoming whenever we’re headed to Colorado. This micro-sized community packs a punch with everything from local foods and wine, cowboys and cattle, unique shopping and tourism.
Aladdin easily covers all eight assets- Arts/Culture, Architecture, Cuisine, Customs, History, Geography, People and Commerce
“Everything fits into one of these categories. Every town, even ghost towns, have a story to tell about each one.”- Kansas Sampler Foundation
Here’s my take –
Geography – Aladdin is just to the east of the Bear Lodge Mountains and has covered plateaus and pine and oak covered coulees and draws. Stunning vistas no matter which direction a person looks. Aladdin also had an abundant coal seam, which was mined and sent to smelters near Deadwood. *Bonus- there is an average of 226 sunny days a year!
Arts/Culture – Brand new this year is the inaugural Aladdin Days Country Music and Food Festival on June 16th! (I can hardly wait, since it coincides perfectly with my next trip down!!) In the meantime, when visiting the mercantile there is local artwork – paintings, hand decorated skulls, notecards, etc- available and books from Wyoming authors. Right across from the store is the Centennial Park- with picnic benches and toys for everyone to enjoy.
Architecture– The Aladdin Mercantile store was built in 1896 and is a prime example of early stores. This mercantile has been in continuous operation the entire time! The false front was a common feature during this time period. Just a hop and a skip to the east of town is the Aladdin Tipple. Another prime example of early engineering and one of the last wooden tipples.
Cuisine– Right next door to the mercantile is Cindy-B’s café and hotel. It doesn’t look like much from outside, but don’t let that fool you. The food is good, portions pretty generous and good prices. Not to mention you can sit on the patio and soak up the sun while you have morning coffee!
Inside the mercantile you will find sandwiches, snacks and a small bar. Local whiskeys and wines too! (Chris Ledoux, anybody???)
Customs– Aladdin is in the heart of “Cowboy Country” and that means a certain set of rural values abound. A mans word is his bond and handshake still means something. Men will always treat women like ladies and friendliness is the order of the day.
History– (I could go on and on about local history, but I’ll keep it short!) Aladdin was founded in the late 1800s on coal and logging. The Mercantile was opened in 1896. The coal mined in Aladdin was loaded onto rail cars for use by gold smelters in Lead and Deadwood. In 1874 Colonel Custer was in the Aladdin area during his Black Hills expedition. Population peaked at 200 +/- during it’s coal mining years, but today hovers around 15.
People– The people of Aladdin are a hearty bunch. Deeply committed to the land, their faith, community and country. Always friendly and ready to help in a pinch. Many nearby residents are descendants of local settlers. Want to know how the West really was?? Ask a local. They are usually very happy to share personal stories and local lore.
Visitors to Aladdin are equally as jolly. It’s a popular stop on the way to Devils Tower, Sturgis and for hunters and fishermen.
Commerce– The Aladdin Mercantile has it ALL- Literally. It may be a one-man-band so to speak, but Wow! It carries artwork, clothing, antiques, foods and beverages, jewelry, gifts- truly, everything. And make sure to send home a postcard from the little post office tucked inside and sit a spell on the porch.
The next time you’re road-tripping, make it a point to get off the road at Aladdin and enjoy the sights. You won’t be disappointed!
“Kate’s 8” are a way of showcasing small towns and rural communities. When looking at your own town, get creative and see how many ways you can fit what you have into these categories and get creative with your marketing!
*Katy is part of the dynamic speaking duo Tait and Kate- helping small towns and rural communities grow and thrive.
Many states have raised the minimum wage today. 18 in fact. Several of them to over $10 an hour. Read about it here
Now don’t get me wrong- I don’t begrudge anybody a chance to make a decent living. I would have loved to be on the receiving end as a worker and as an employer would have been ecstatic to be able to pay my employees more.
But I do believe that these states did not really try to take their rural communities into account. In particular isolated rural communities.And if they did, it was only to spare a second to think to themselves ‘they don’t have enough people to matter’..
I’ve lived in several incredibly tiny rural communities in a couple of the states listed. We owned a business in one. A little town of a hundred people, 135 miles from the city (700K ppl), and 45 miles to the nearest ‘urban’ center (3500ppl) . Our nearest communities had 27 and 300 people respectively. Those numbers have not fluctuated all that much in the years since we left.
Many rural businesses cannot sustain a fair sized increase in minimum wage. -Not even if it’s over a number of years.
I know many will say “Oh- What’s a buck or two?” – A couple dollars multiplied by 30 -40 hours a week adds up. On top of that the employer will now pay a higher unemployment tax, FICA and workmans comp. – all of which can hinder the ability to pay an employee a higher wage.
Those same dollars can also spell the difference between whether that rural community continues have a hardware store, market, café etc…
Here are some scenarios– Bobs Hardware is a busy little place servicing several tiny communities. Bob needs help.- he hires Joe to come work and pays him the elevated wage. Joe is happy. For a time. -You see, Bob has to either sell more or cut Joes hours to afford the wage.
Bob can’t really sell any more than he already is because he doesn’t have the same traffic an urban or city business attracts. Bob is 145 miles from people. His customers are the farmers, ranchers and families in his area. And they can only buy so much. So Bob cuts Joes hours.
Or.… Let’s say Bobs Hardware already has several employees. The minimum wage goes up. Bob has to choose. Does he cut everyone’s hours? Or does he let two go and keep Joe? And if he keeps Joe, is Joe going to up and quit because Bob expects him to work harder for the new wage? Even if he pays a little more than the ‘new wage’- Joe may eventually build up resentment of having to do more work.
Or… Bobs Hardware employs Joe. The wages go up. Bob can no longer afford to have even one employee. So Bob, who’s already run his rural business for decades let’s Joe go. Bob can no longer do all the work himself and cuts his business hours which in turn loses some revenue. Eventually Bob just throws in the towel and closes leaving communities without their only hardware store AND an empty/shuttered building on Main Street. That in turn leads to lower property values for the entire community. And potentially lost revenue for the gas station, since the local farmer filled fuel on his way home from Bobs Hardware and grabbed a coffee at the cafe. In the meantime, Joe was let go and job opportunities in a town of a couple hundred are slim. Joe has moved to the city for work taking what disposable income he had with him, and quite possibly his kids out of school and money out of the donation plate at church that helped fund local causes or 4-h etc.
Or… Bob raises his prices significantly in an effort to afford his wage increase and in the process actually loses business. – Many rural folk will save ‘it’ for a trip ‘to town’ when ‘it’ is no longer cost effective to buy locally. At the same time, when those folks go to town they will spend the entire day and do ALL their shopping and stop at the café to boot, bypassing their own community all together.
I have witnesses every one of these scenarios over the years.
**99% of small business owners in rural communities WANT to pay their employees better. They genuinely love their towns and the people within and want them to survive and thrive.
**A huge number of those same employers work tremendous amounts of hours themselves “FOR FREE” so they CAN employ someone from the area. (we did)
**Sometimes in lieu of money they find other creative compensation. We did. If we hadn’t we wouldn’t have been able to be open enough hours to even pay ourselves a meager living.
So while I don’t necessarily think the new wages are bad, I do think they will force some hard decisions in rural communities.
In equal numbers, some businesses will find a way and some will not. Some will close. Some will hang on- for a while, maybe longer. Some will thrive.
Next time we’ll talk about some of the creative ways we’ve seen businesses in tiny communities thrive.
Katy is a rural and small town consultant with Tait and Kate Consulting ~Helping rural communities grow and thrive~
An entryway says so much about a building. It is space that is often overlooked, but sets the tone for what is ahead.
What does yours say about you? It can tell us what type of business is in there. If it is open or closed.
Is yours welcoming? Does it tell a story? Spark the imagination? Tempt you?
An entryway can also be art. It can be so many things!
In Berthoud, Colorado a joint effort between the city, businesses and homeowners produced Entryways of Berthoud to showcase art and their community. They invited folks to submit photos of entryways and these were then turned into notecards and posters.
An entryway for a business has many functions and is an important part of the establishment itself. It may act as the local bulletin board in a rural community, or set the tone of the business.
An entryway can provide a striking entrance with uses of color and architectural details. Or lead into a more formal atmosphere with more subdued touches.
Similar to the beginning a chapter in a book, an entryway establishes a story that has yet to unfold.
An entryway is also a very affordable way to change a businesses dynamic. It is a spot where risks can be taken, and even on a limited budget, have a remarkable effect.
Think about the places you frequent. How do they make you feel? Welcome? Not so much?
We like our homes to be welcoming and inviting. Our businesses should be too.
How can you use your entryway to enhance your business or community?
Katy is a rural and small town /small business speaker, consultant, advocate & writer. She believes many small communities can grow from within using resources already at hand and creative strategies and leverage those to attract new families, businesses and customers. Do you want Tait & Kate to come speak to your community or group? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s what a seamstress/creative and a world class coffee roaster have in common.
“When people talk, community happens” –Becky McCray
(And let me tell you…. Jo and I can TALK!!)
We are a community. A community of entrepreneurs. A community of women. A community of small town advocates. A community of creatives . A community of givers and do-ers~It only takes two to be part of a ‘community’
~The funny thing about our “community” is that we don’t even live in the same town. Not even the same part of the state!~
I met Jo Kahlifa , at a local Pride of Dakota event a number of years ago. We instantly became friends and have since done a number of exciting things jointly both personally and with our businesses. ( check out MoJo Roast and read about her and the coffees)
The fact that we are a “community” was driven home this past week when we attended an OTA conference. (NorthDakOTA,MinnesOTA,SouthDakOTA) Part of the purpose was to bring together creatives from towns across a tri-state area to help transform where we live into great , re-envisioned communities. Places where people once again gather and talk to each other instead of about each other. Communities where roots are put down and dreams are realized.
Community matters. In so many ways. And Community is not always where you live. Often it is what you do.
Cottage food laws in North Dakota need to be updated. – Oh wait… ND doesn’t have a bonafide Cottage Food Law~
Ours are not the most restrictive, but they don’t help much in a predominately rural state.
~Currently we can sell baked goods, jams and jellies, lefse, candies and similar items at Farmers Markets, Country Fairs and Non-profit or charitable events. ~
We cannot (not supposed to) sell at Craft shows, at for profit events, food festivals, online or out of our homes. (interesting- we make it at home, but can’t sell it from our home!)
~I propose the following changes: Allow us to sell from home, sell at shows, sell to retail establishments- as long as they are labeled as such, allow in-state online sales (not to exceed 50,000$ a year) ~
Also I would suggest mandatory insurance of some amount, and have to register as a business (can be done online for a very nominal fee that way you can at least be tracked down if need be)
Why? you ask….
#1 Because North Dakota is a predominately rural state. In spite of big oil and big money, the rest of the state is still the same. It is still mainly small towns and sparse population. Not every one can drive to ‘town’ (meaning the big 8) for a job, and not every small town can employ everybody. And not everybody even lives near a town! (we’re 17 to the nearest village)
#2 It will make a difference. It would bring in more tax money to rural,small and outlying communities. A much needed income stream! It will help us, help ourselves. It can get people off assistance. It can make a difference between keeping a roof over your head, or not. It can help an entrepreneur take those first steps. It can spark hope in a town that may think it’s days are done. It can promote tourism and Agri-tourism. It can do many things for us.
** I can actually give a hundred good reasons, but for sake of space, I won’t**
I also don’t think we need an inspection either. Standard food service rules should be applied and followed along with common sense. Most people who sell at farmers markets, bazaar’s etc have cleaner homes than most restaurants you eat in. Really.
~What about the Nay Sayers? and the “It’s not Fair!” people?…. What about them? No is just a word. And Life isn’t fair. I totally understand where the lady who busted her chops to open a traditional bakery,and spent tons of time and money to do so may be miffed. But realistically it’s apples and oranges. Cookies and Jams are not Kuchen, Cream Puffs or other premium egg or custard based delicacies. The home baker is not a threat to commercial businesses. We are an option.
Arizona allows resale of Home Baked Goods to coffee shops, cafe’s etc as long as they are properly labeled. They also allow for in state internet sales.
Texas has created over ONE THOUSAND NEW JOBS this year through cottage food laws! Think about the tax revenue that brings in! And… in all 25 counties, Not 1 complaint has been filed against any home baker!
California and Utah have very generous CFL’s.
So- start shouting it from your roof tops! Tell your friends, pester your local legislators and city governments to get on the band wagon.