Big Town Small Business
On Monday, April 1st, the iWebXpert road crew packed a company car to the brim with cameras, laptops and suitcases, and began the 2-month journey across the United States. We call it: Big Town Small Business. Our goal: to interview independent business owners in major US cities to learn about their experiences and struggles, and spread the word to established and aspiring entrepreneurs through a series of webisodes and blogs. We set off from Asheville, NC and arrived in the Mobile, AL area for our first interview with husband and wife Jason and Jennifer Haffner, owners of Loweboy Longboard and Sweet Olive Bakery and Juice Bar, respectively. Jason also owns and operates a successful carpentry and woodworking company. His longboard business is a personal passion, and the majority of his sales, at this point, are generated solely by word of mouth.
Jennifer’s bakery has been open for about a year and is starting to enjoy the sort of success that requires expansion. She has handled this growth by hiring reliable employees and paying them a competitive wage, something both she and Jason feel is extremely important in obtaining hard-working, trustworthy members for their team. The couple stressed that their employees work with them, not for them. We found this attitude very refreshing and we agree that employees should be fairly compensated and treated with respect if they are expected to be reliable, devoted, and in it for the long haul.
On Wednesday we got the chance to talk with Kathy Slater of Gallery 3954 on Magazine Street in NOLA. The gallery contains a variety of fine art, lighting and furniture; Kathy designs beautiful tables and other pieces that are featured here. She gave us a great deal of valuable information about working with business partners, and about the challenges of picking your business back up when it gets knocked down by a crippling disaster like Hurricane Katrina. We also talked a lot about internet marketing and social media; Kathy has lately been getting a good deal of new business from blog exposure. On the whole, it was a pleasant and informative interview with a creative, successful designer who has been doing business in New Orleans for over 20 years.
Next we visited The Milk Bar, a delightful sandwich and milkshake shop that has two locations in NOLA. The co-owners, husband and wife Jason and Inta Phayer, were charming and gracious hosts. Jason is British and Inta is Australian. Their partnership must have been fate because they met each other in New Orleans on their first night in town. Their sandwiches and shakes were inventive, their ingredients were fresh, and everything tasted heavenly. Like Kathy Slater, their business also suffered due to Katrina, but they came back strong. They gave great insight about the difficulties of running a small business, particularly a restaurant, and offered reassurance of the value of a long, hard day’s work when you’re working for yourself. This final New Orleans interview was an inspiring end to our visit of a culturally rich and historical city fighting to rebuild its economy in the face of disastrous misfortune.
Want to ask us about our trip, or tell us about a super-secret awesome place we absolutely must see on our travels? Leave us a comment below!
For more words of wisdom from the Haffners, Kathy Slater, and the Phayers check out our first Big Town Small Business Webisode, HERE!
-Next stop: Austin, TX!