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7/18/2004

Small businesses bounce around ideas

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Donated cookies, a sign-in sheet, stacks of the “Colorado Business Resource Guide” and sheets of information on the Small Business Administration’s 504 loan program greeted visitors to the D-Barn Thursday afternoon.

It was the second meeting of a group of small businessmen and businesswomen who are seeking to start some sort of a unified organization.

They didn’t know what they wanted that organization to be just yet, other than they wanted it to be by, for and about small business.

By the end of the 90-minute meeting however, the group of about 40 had formulated a plan.

“I would think we’ll probably start with the leadership committee, then that committee will set the agenda for the next meeting,” said Kyle Kirves of The Write Initiative, who took notes at the meeting.

And so it was decided. The group — which has no name — has selected seven volunteers in the next step to becoming a full-fledged organization — however loosely affiliated.

The leadership committee will even be giving the group a name.

Similar in some aspects to the Hispanic Chamber of Boulder County,

this group has come together because they believe they can provide each other with what traditional chambers of commerce cannot.

“I have just not had a lot of luck with the chamber, and it’s not for lack of trying,” said Jennifer Greenwood of The Bloomin’ Buggy florist. “I don’t believe the chamber does a lot for small, independently owned businesses.”

While others in the audience echoed Greenwood’s comments, organizer Maggie Benton of Hard Copy Solutions quickly turned the conversation away from what the chamber is or is not doing.

“Really, this is a different kind of thing,” Benton said. “This is not a competition — this is a totally different kind of thing.

“If you’re a million-dollar business and you’re running it out of your basement, good on you — you get one vote. If you’re a $20,000 business running it out of a storefront, you get a vote.”

But what will the group be voting on?

Training seemed to be a topic of great interest to most of the group.

Networking was also seen as being valuable, although more than one person expressed a desire that the group not simply become a leads group.

Membership dues — if any — cooperative advertising ventures, and putting together a directory of small, independently owned businesses in Longmont will all be topics for the future.

But first things first: Now that the group has a leadership committee, they have to decide where they’ll be led.

With meeting No. 2 having had a much larger turnout than meeting No. 1, organizers of the effort are encouraged so far.

“I find more resources in this room than I have in the 91/2 years I’ve been in business,” said Barbara Douglass, also of Hard Copy Solutions.

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.