tv Your Business MSNBC November 23, 2013 2:30am-3:01am PST
actress turned entrepreneur karen allen turns her passion for knitting into a business. how her store is helping main street in great barrington, massachusetts. a community that's finding unique ways to get customers to shop local on small business saturday. that and more coming up next on "your business." ♪ ♪ >> announcer: small businesses are revitalizing the economy and american express open is here to help. that's why we're proud to
present "your business" on msnbc. hi there everyone. i'm jj ramberg and welcome to your business. the show that champions entrepreneurship by giving you tips and advice to help your small business grow. now, we've all heard of work life balance. for actress and entrepreneur karen allen, finding that balance when her son was growing up was the key to allowing her to cultivate her love of designing knit wear and eventually led to opening her own store. karen allen fiber arts in great barrington, massachusetts. but now that her son is grown, she's had to figure out how to find a work/work balance again as she continues her career as a busy working actress and director, as well as a small business owner.
>> it's been almost six months since karen allen has been in her massachusetts textile design studio, splitting her time between acting, directing and her business, karen allen fiber arts, a bow teak that sells her collection of vibrantly colored knit wear, this has been an unusually long time away. things are set up to run smoothly when she's gone. now that she's back, the never idle allen has a lot of catching up to do. >> i decide when i'm coming to work and i decide when i'm leaving and i decide if i want to take a day off. there's not many jobs like that out there. that's a pretty good gig, actually. >> that kind of freedom is a far cry from the demand of a movie set. with an acting career that took off with her film debut in 1978's animal house. >> is this really what you're going to do for the rest of your life? >> what do you mean?
>> i mean hanging around with a bunch much animals getting drunk every weekend. >> her characters and co-stars are legendary. like playing the original indy girl opposite harrison ford in raiders of the lost ark. >> come back tomorrow. >> why? >> because i said so. that's why. >> the young widow jenny hayden in the sci-fi classic starman with jeff bridges and bill murray's love interest in scrooge. >> people used to make jokes. when i would go to work on a film, i would have a suitcase full of clothing and one full of yarn. i would set up a design studio in my trailers. you have an enormous amount of time to kill often when i work on a film. >> knitting has always been an integral part of her life, leading her to study textile and clothing design at the fashion institute of technology in new york. then the acting bug bit and textile design took a back seat.
>> i began to work professionally fairly quickly, which was quite lucky in some ways. >> so it was a very much learning by the seat of my pants experience. >> and that seat of the pants experience is what prepared her to do something far outside her life as an actor. she became an entrepreneur. >> i always thought at some point when things maybe settled down a little in my life, i would start a little textile company. >> the time to start that company came in 2002 when she decided to take time off from her acting career to raise her son nicholas. >> i would put things in a gallery and people were buying them faster than i could make them. i thought, this is a good sign. the light bulb went on and you know, maybe this is encouraging. i felt encouraged. >> two years after starting her design studio, allen opened up a store now on railroad street in great barrington, massachusetts. >> i actually have to do things like buying trips and i have to
really get into accounting and really look to see. it's important to see like how the store is doing and to make sure that we are able to pay our bills. >> as allen's business became successful, it quickly became more complex. with several employees on the payroll, she soon realized the joy of working and designing her unique knit wear line was being replaced by stress and deadlines. >> we ended up going into the shows, clothing shows in new york which becomes a very, very expensive proposition. so if you're spending that kind of money, then you really are under the pressure that you have to do well at the shows. >> this is what gets to most designers. it takes them right down the tubes. >> after lots of trial and error and tinkering with the formula for making her business work, she got excited a few years ago by the prospect of outsourcing her production, especially since knitting her designs by machine was so physically demanding. >> i'm hand operating this
machine where -- sometimes in the course of a day, i'll move this carriage across the stainless steel needles 4,000 or 5,000 times. at the end of the day, you're like ow. like ouch. and so the idea of somebody taking that off of my shoulders literally off of my shoulders was quite exciting at a certain point. >> when it turned out outsourcing wasn't an option because her designs were too complex for moss production, she decided to take a radically different approach. downsizing her studio and simplifying her business so she could do most of proet ducks herself. >> i have now spared it back down, so it's basically just me and i don't go to the shows anymore. if somebody wants to have my stuff in their store, they have to come to me. it means that, you know, it's sort of at zero growth in a way.
and i've learned to think that that's not such a bad thing. >> her simpler business is now set up so it carries not only her line but a bunch of other unique small batch designers as well. many of them local like herself and with less pressure for constant growth, she's able to step away when she'd like to, to go back to acting. >> i can go off and do a project and come back to this. this will always be here. this is a stable resource. it doesn't belong to anybody else. nobody can take it away from me. nobody can tell me i can't do it or that i didn't get the job or something like that. >> karen allen's business is just one much many on great barrington's main street. a beautiful town tucked away from the berkshires. that busy stretch of road is about to get a major facelift fixing sidewalks, replacing trees and repaving the road. just 2 1/2 hours from boston and
new york, the downtown there as an active shop local movement. their own currency and plans to kick off the holiday season with a bang on small business saturday. >> i think it's a combination of being a rural lifestyle with some cosmopolitan elements. so there's culture here, there's theater, there's music. there are good restaurants. >> when smithsonian magazine named great barrington, massachusetts, the best small town in america, the retailers on main street knew they played a major role in giving their town the top spot on the list. >> when people come to the berkshires, there are hardily chain stores at all. we've managed to hold them off by having a unique and original environment here. >> we have a really great, eclectic group of businesses. a little bit of something for everyone. >> we have a great community in the locals and out of towners appreciate the downtown. >> and that well-loved and
unique downtown, like many main streets around the country, is about to get a facelift. after many years of heated debate, next year will mark the start of a massive reconstruction project. with plans to rip up the roadway and sidewalks and replace the curb, park benches and trees, no doubt business will not go about as usual. >> it's a complicated issue. i think it's going to be really hard for the town in the short term. >> it's the kind of project that people fear a little bit because we're just coming out of a tough recession and businesses are starting to get back on their feet. we've heard that in other towns. projects of this nature cost anywhere between 20% and 40% of sales. it's a little bit of a frightening thing. however, i think it's important to continually invest in your environment, in the house that you live in, in the town that you do business in. >> 30-year main street veteran barbara watkins who owns evergreen, a gift shop that
sells american made craft says she's worried about the impending project. >> people like this town because it's not a cookie cutter town. it has a distinct feeling and it's very kind of organic and a little funky. i don't know what's going to happen when that changes. >> and while sommer chants already have a contingency plan. >> i have really tried to pull our business more on to the internet. so that will help weather the storm. >> some, like adrian cohen of crystal essence, will just play it by ear. >> we'll wing it. that's our usual plan. i guess meditate and ask for help and figure out as we go, day by day. >> during construction, one unconventional idea that might encourage customers is their own circulating currency. berk shares. it was launched in 2006. most small businesses in the area accept berk shares since it keeps money moving locally and
gives customers a 5% discount. >> it behooves you to spend it in the community after someone has spent it at your store. it's a way to pay for your dinner out, for your staff party. it's a way to pay for maybe office supplies or something if it's a local business that accepts them. >> as the town gears up for one last holiday season before construction begins, the merchants on main street are starting to plan for small business saturday. >> this small business saturday, we'll have factory reps coming in to demonstrate. we'll have food tastings which people love. it's fun to come in and taste something good on small business saturday. it gets people in the mood for holiday gift giving season. >> we'll probably do cider and wine in addition to a 10% discount and with area merchants banding together and offering these types of things, it really becomes the black friday for small businesses. >> with such a dynamic and supportive community, merchants like jennifer vanzant and brook
are confident that customers will continue to support their businesses even after construction on main street begins. >> i think that there's a feeling here of taking care of each other. you know, not just look for the cheapest thing i can find in any big box store. i'm willing to pay a little bit more if i can get it locally and support a local business. >> it's a great place to visit. it helps to offer people an all earn tiff to the big city shopping mall environment. great barrington was one example. but they're not alone. small businesses in communities around the country have had to get creative with their marketing to get customers to bypass those big chain stores nearby. in burbank, california, shopping local has taken off in the magnolia park section of the city. once a month, the retail community there comes together to not only revitalize sales but also the neighborhoods.
♪ >> what are the ingredients for a good party? food, check. entertainment. check. discounts. check. it's the last friday of the month in the magnolia park section of burbank, california. normally at this hour, the stores would be closing and the streets would be quiet. but the creative small business owners here have figured out a low cost way of bringing in customers with a huge return. they call it ladies night out! where people are coming out in droves to celebrate and support these unique companies. >> i really like all of the small shops and things. i like all of the owe toe to help the mom and pop kind of businesses and stuff. it really makes me feel like i'm kind of a part of the community. >> magnolia park wasn't always lake this. just a couple of years ago, the area known as antique alley for vintage resale and antique stores, was a ghost town. >> the economy was horrible.
there were no jobs out there. there were -- there was no extra money. >> that's when susan and kathleen of the upscale retail shop, encore nouveau came up with the simple idea of staying up late one friday night every month to have a party for their customers. >> kathy said, what do i do to get more women in? i went friday night, girls night. make it a party. have complimentary wine and offer a discount. >> we have big four red dice that light up. when they come in, they have to roll for their discount. it's funny because they bounce and it's hilarious. >> the idea started to take off when amanda vernon of mindfulness and jennifer hard away of queen spa decided they wanted to participate in ladies night too. >> i jumped right on it. i said absolutely. i'm in. there really were no goals other than to create a night where people would come to the neighborhood and really see how
great it is, how many great stores there are here. >> jennifer, amanda and the other retailers in the area started working together on new ideas to attract more customers on ladies night. one of the best, inviting the food trucks to be part of the festivities and with legions of food trucks, following the whereabouts of their favorite truck with social media, many more new customers are discovering magnolia park on ladies' night every month. >> they use facebook and twitter to post where they're going to be. and so they have a built-in audience already for them. it's a win-win. >> the success of ladies' night is attracting new businesses to the area, like shannon's wine bar, doing free tastings on ladies' night. >> to come in and open my business, if i didn't have the support of the community, it wouldn't happen. >> that feeling of community was never stronger than it was during small business saturday. the day between black friday and cyber monday reserved to support
your local small businesses. >> this sounds cheesy, but i cried a little. i really did. the store was full of people and they picked us as their small business to spend their money. >> except instead of once year, the feeling amanda had happens once a month in magnolia park. >> community is so important. knowing my customers' names and them coming in and seeing their kids, that's what it really is about. >> still to come, carol roth and jean marks join us to answer your questions, including a very timely one about when a small business owner should consider providing health care benefits to its employees. and john katter of bar rescue returns with great tips with getting and retaining customer loyalty through what he calls frequency marketing. ♪ ♪
you get your coffee here. you get your hair cut here. you find that certain thing you were looking for here, but actually you get so much more. when you shop at these small local businesses, you support all the things that make your community great. the money you spend here, stays here. in this place you call your neighborhood. small business saturday is november 30th. get out and shop small. when you can entice people to come back to your business for a third visit and then a fourth visit, then you know that your marketing tactics are working. our next guest says that in most
cases working with existing customers to build a business can be far less expensive than trying to recruit new ones. here with tips on how to create a frequency marketing plan with a direct impact on your company's sales and profits, john tapper. he's the host and executive producer of bar rescue. and also the president of the nightlife and bar media group, john's new book is called raise the bar, an action-based method for maximum customer reaction. great to see you. >> nice to be here. we always do it by satellite. >> congratulations. your book is a best seller. >> it is. i'm thrilled. >> we're very excited for you and happy to have you here. you know this stuff. getting people in and in and keep coming back. let's get into some of the tips. you talk about making promotion schedules. >> you know the whole concept is i don't want to create transactions, i want to create reactions. i want you back. i want a lot of transactions from you. i want to inspire you to come back more often. so when i have promotions that
reoccur every tuesday, wednesday, thursday, there's a predictab predictableabili predictableability. you know you like me on tuesday nights, somebody else might luke me on thursday nights. with that predictability and motivation, i can get more frequency. in the restaurant business, if i can increase visits by one visit a month, that's a 12% increase. that's big. not even just days but special week long things or month long things, right? >> absolutely. the busiest week is lobster fest. when you look at month long festivals, promotions, you can increase revenue by 30% in a month equate to 4 to 5% over a year. >> you're creating this excitement over something you probably would be doing anyhow. >> that's right. excitement creates relevancy. it brings you to the top of the mind and in my business, you want to have energy. >> it's not just restaurants and bars. you could do this with a clothing store. >> no question about it. people need to remember that customers aren't one time. they're multiple transactions. we need to build a relationship
to do that. and four walls marketing promotions, incentive programs, contact between employees and customers when you promote these things aulie kwats to more business. >> you just mentioned incentive programs, bounceback incentive programs, is that incentive for you coming back? >> absolutely. i'm going to give you something today that gets you back soon. a bounceback should get you back soon. >> maybe something to get you to bring people. we're talking about getting repeat customers. but they can also be the ones to recruit new ones for you. >> they can be your best of all. don't make them customers, make them ambassadors for your business. we do something called a guest card. your guest eats for free for the first visit to the restaurant. >> one quick thing. a lot of these incentives or promotions are money off. does it have to be? i mean the lobster fest is not. that's an event. >> that's correct. it doesn't have to be price. it shouldn't be price. it should be in a special event.
a special steak featured, a special menu item you can't normally get. a special entertainer, pairing of wine and food or a special pairing of cell phone services. it could be any collection of products to add value and fun. it doesn't have to reduce price. >> then the last tip that we have is use all four walls. use marketing interestingly. >> think of it as your real estate. i want to get signage on the walls on my tables, in my customers' hands. i want to communicate my messages. inside the four walls of your business is a lot of real estate to do that. you want to use it smart. >> john, so good to see you. >> good to be here. >> great to have you in the studio. i suspect you'll be back again soon. you'll be remotely and talking to you on a screen again. a great way to increase your brand recognition and then turn fans into customers. here are five free tools and resources youtube offers to produce and promote effectively
courtesy of practical e-commerce.com. one creator hub. find education guides and support ee resources that help you have effective branding videos. >> two. analyti analytics. get a summary of count, demographics and audience. see if you need to change your approach. three shall enhance. use this tool to make all of your videos look as if they were professionally shot. you can make tweaks and add effects directly on youtube. four, adding captions is an easy way to expand your audience and improve your search rankings. and five, next creator is designed to help you refine your skills and get training in how to make compelling content. it's time to answer some of your business questions. gene marks is the founder of the marks group, a company that provides technology and consulting services to small and
medium businesses. he also writes for "the new york times" and is author of the new book, the manufacturers' book of lists. carol roth is a best selling author as well. great to see both of you guys. >> carol, we wish you were here. >> me too. >> all right. let's get to the first question. this is about health care. >> when is the right time for a small business owner to provide paid health insurance as a benefit? we are under the amount that's needed in massachusetts to provide it for everyone. so if i don't provide health insurance for myself, at what point should i look at providing it for employees who ask about it? >> it's a good question, right, jim. most of people with small businesses are under that 50 employee minimum. >> once you get over that 50 full-time employee, you're required to do it. that's the way the law is today. it's a benefit. it's nothing more than
compensation. we offer it. the reason why, is our competitors offer it. we're trying to attract good people. for us to say we don't have good health insurance and saying he does, it hurts us. it's getting tougher and tougher to find good people as well. having that as a benefit, i don't think there's one black and white time where you should have it. it really depends on what you're trying to do for your employees and prospective employees. >> carol, is the point at which you offer it, the point at which you have prospective employees and they say i'm not going to come if you don't have it. >> it's the right spirit. can i afford to offer it, but also can i afford to not offer it. it's that balancing of the scales. what is important to your employees, where are your common values. what are the things that are going to keep them there. i think, especially for a small business, sometimes we underestimate how valuable our employees are. if that's going to be the difference maker for them, that's something you want to offer. however, if it's not something
that they highly value, if they're going to value more time off, higher compensation, other kinds of perks and benefits, you really need to listen to what's important to your employees and as gene said, look at what your competitors are doing as well. >> let's move on to the next question. it's about expanding your brand through social media. >> i want to build my customer base. i would like to hire or at some point in the future get someone to help me with social media. where do i start? i'm operating on a shoestring budget. >> all right, carol. let's start with you. does she hire an intern? where does she go? >> i love the shoestring budget. it's always the shoestring budget. we have to understand that a lot of times you get what you pay for. if you cannot pay for somebody who is really going to do a good job, you may want to just do it yourself. there are plenty of tools out there that make social media very easy for you to use. things like tweet deck owned by
twitter, hoot suite that you can manage social media very quickly and efficiently. whether pre-programming your posts or managing all of your interactions in one client area. so i advocate first starting yourself. if you decide to hire someone down the road, there are social media clubs in every city or store that you can go to and ask around. i noticed that this woman owned a day spa. i will tell her barter, barter, barter. i will help you with your social media if you give me a couple massages. >> now do you get somebody who understands the essence of your company. >> maybe i'm oversimplifying this. jj, i have a woman who helps me with my social media. if you look at my social media, i'm tweeting stuff out all the time. i am not doing that all the time. i have help doing that. so i pay her 25 bucks an hour. i found her on craigslist four years ago after interviewing -- >> how does she know what to tweet in your voice?
>> she's smart for starters. i went through an interview process to find the right person and over a period of time, like a six, seven-month period of time. i worked very closely with her. she got moi voice and my thing, got in the pattern. >> both of you, thank you so much. great to see both of you. appreciate it. now we were just talking about social media. and gene and carol usually post great advice on twitter, whether written by them or not. let's see what other small business experts are tweeting about this week. carmen, owner of urban martial arts in brooklyn tweets, the signage in your retail store must have a call to action. david hennessey of all business.com is adamant, never be afraid to raise prices. and frequent your business panelist marketing expert simon with words of wisdom. the employees must love the company before customers ever will. are you connecting with local businesses to get more
customers? if not, check out our website of the week to tap into this resource. alignable.com is a free tool to enable businesses to find, connect with and share with other companies nearby. you can create a profile on the site and receive some suggestions of campaigns and partnerships that could bring new customers in the door. through the site, you can work with other local businesses to support each other's promotions and then team up for community events. to learn more about today's show, click on our website. it's open forum.com/your business. you'll find all of today's segments, plus web exclusive content with more information to help your business grow. we also use a lot of your feedback on twitter. so follow us. it's @msnbc your biz. check out our page on facebook too. next week, with november 30th just around the corner, it's time for our annual small business saturday special. for weeks, small businesses around the country have been
preparing to get customers to bypass the big box stores this holiday season and shop local. we'll come to you from nigh yak, new york, where main street has been working hard through events and discounts and marketing to get people to spend holiday dollars with independent businesses. from new orleans to portland, oregon, loyalty programs and community pride fuels the shop's small movement. plus, advice on how to keep that shop local movement going all year round. until then, i'm jj ramberg and remember, we make your business our business. ♪ ♪ you get your coffee here. you get your hair cut here. you find that certain thing you were looking for here, but actually you get so much more. when you shop at these small local businesses, you support all the things that make your community great.
the money you spend here, stays here. in this place you call your neighborhood. small business saturday is november 30th. get out and shop small. hello. i'm chris matthews. we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of john f. kennedy. when it comes to the issue of guns did the killing of a popular president lead to real change. 50 years of guns, reverend al sharpton reflects on that history and talks to gang members, and victims is of mass shootings. reverend sharpton finds a common loss in the suffering and tighter grasp on the anger surrounding the issue of guns in america.