Main Street Resources
In my former career as a commercial real estate underwriter, I learned that location was the key to every deal’s success. So naturally, when I made the plunge into opening my own women’s boutique in 2005, finding the perfect location was my main focus. After driving by every available property in the Cedar Falls area, I knew that downtown was where I wanted to be. In 2007, when I opened my second shop, I chose a similar location in Uptown Marion.
Running a business in a downtown district brings many small shops together in a collaborative way, many times forming a very close-knit community of entrepreneurs. The impact a single business makes with its available budget and skill set can be magnified as these businesses combine resources. Pooling advertising dollars in cooperative marketing campaigns eases the financial burden on individual businesses, while exponentially benefiting the district as a whole. Sharing ideas and experiences with fellow business owners helps, especially brand new business owners, to get through the day to day struggles of small business ownership.
If a Downtown District in Iowa is Main Street Accredited, there’s an extra set of resources available to small businesses that locate in those areas. In Cedar Falls, we have an entire organization, Community Main Street, working toward the success and constant improvement of our district. While this organization is primarily volunteer-driven, the paid staff works tirelessly to plan events, forge relationships throughout the community, and ensure that downtown stakeholders are working together for the best possible outcomes. Other benefits of being located in an accredited district include the availability of grant money for façade improvement, renovation expense and more. I’ve utilized the façade grant on two separate occasions, which allowed me to save several thousand dollars on signage for the exteriors of my shops. Experts at the local and state level also offer training, business consultation and design consultation as free services for businesses in these districts.
During the past ten years in Downtown Cedar Falls, I’ve formed relationships with people and have been part of events that are in great part responsible for the success of my business. It’s like having 100 of your closest friends rallying around you every day!
Jess Marsh, Consultant, University of Northern Iowa SBDC