“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says an old Chinese proverb. For a fledgling organization, it could be said that even the largest and most influential group begins with only six people. That’s the current size of the membership of the newly-formed Montgomery Township Business Association, but its small size isn’t stopping its members from dreaming big.
“We’re only three weeks old, officially, but we have a lot of plans,” says the organization’s public relations chairwoman, #b#Jennifer Pierce#/b#. Other officers are #b#David Mason#/b# of FastTeks, who serves as chairman; #b#Lorette Pruden#/b# of Team Nimbus, vice chair; #b#Jodi Allessandro#/b# of MG Media, secretary; and #b#Cathy Smiddy#/b#, treasurer.
The purpose of the organization is to promote business to residents and other business owners in the Montgomery area. “The township does have an Economic Development Commission, and we certainly plan to work with it,” says Pierce. “But we felt that there are some types of promotional activities that could best be done by local business owners.”
While certainly not a newcomer to the world of small business, Pierce is a newcomer to Montgomery and the world of small towns. She is the artist’s representative for her husband, #b#Frank Veronsky#/b#, a photographer whose studio is based in their Belle Mead home. The couple moved their family and business from New York City to Montgomery Township about two years ago. “We have family here,” she says. “My husband’s brother, sister, and mother all live nearby and we wanted our boys to grow up with family.”
Her brother-in-law, Paul Veronsky, owns two businesses in the area — Window Accents on Route 206 and Fullam’s Interiors in Hillsborough. “He plans to join the Montgomery Business Association soon,” says Pierce.
Pierce never planned to become an artist’s representative — someone who represents the artist and his work to clients, handles production, and takes care of any other details. She graduated from University of South Alabama with a degree in international relations and after graduation found a job in international shipping. “At 22 I was working in Manhattan,” she says. “Frank and I were dating, he bought a camera and went through a metamorphosis and I just tagged along. After 28 years and two kids, we came to Montgomery to start a new chapter.”
#b#Building relationships#/b#. Pierce is enjoying the differences between working in New York City and Montgomery. Veronsky has always done mostly business photography, particularly work for larger corporations. “Here we find we are focusing on small businesses,” she says. “We find we approach our clients differently here. When you are working in a small community, with small businesses, it is all about building relationships with people. We love meeting the local kitchen designer and the local renovation expert and taking fabulous pictures of their work.”
Her experiences in meeting local business owners and building those relationships sparked her interest in joining the new business association. “In a small community it is even more important to get involved in activities and for businesses to work with each other to build economic strength in the community,” she says.
That can be particularly difficult in a community like Montgomery, though, because it has no clearly defined town center. Instead, there are several different business areas and shopping malls located throughout the township.
#b#Importance of B2B#/b#. In addition to retail businesses, hundreds of service professionals are situated in the township, Pierce says. Many of them have offices located in their homes. In many other communities, the local businesses associations focus on retail, but the Montgomery association sees service professionals and business-to-business companies as playing an equally important role in the group.
“You have the bookkeeper or web designer who works out of her home and focuses on other businesses,” she says. Entrepreneurs like these play just as vital a role in the local economy as the retail stores even though they often aren’t as visible.
One of the goals of the association is to bring these small businesses to the attention of residents and other business owners in the area. “We want people to know about the excellent quality and service they can find by shopping locally for all types of services,” she says.
#b#First steps#/b#. The association has filed to become a 501(c)3 nonprofit and developed a logo. It had a table at the October Economic Development Commission forum where representatives gave out applications for potential members. “We were pleased with the interest we saw from the business owners there,” says Pierce. “We gave out quite a few applications for membership.”
Membership costs $100 per year and anyone who owns or operates a business in Montgomery Township, or owns a business and is a resident of the township is welcome to join.
“Currently the only type of membership we have available is the $100 charter membership,” she says. “In the future we hope to have larger, sponsor memberships available to bigger corporations in the area.”
#b#Subsequent steps#/b#. The next step for the group is to develop a website. It will feature the “Shop Local Montgomery Township” motto and will feature member businesses and links to their web pages, special promotions, and current events in the area.
Once the website is launched, the group plans a variety of promotional activities, including discount cards available in stores throughout the area, offering specials and discounts from member companies. The group also wants to print decals for store windows, make posters or other promotional items for store owners to advertise their affiliation with the group, and consider advertising in area newspapers.
All of these items cost money, and right now, the association has very little. Pierce says the association hopes that as more businesses join they will develop the budget and find members willing to give discounts or donate goods and services. “We’re an all-volunteer organization. Everyone is giving their time freely to help all of the businesses in Montgomery Township,” she says.
Pierce is certain that despite the group’s current status as “just an infant,” big things are ahead. “We are starting small, but if we all work together we can change the world,” she says.