Open to Business offers resources to bring new business to Farmington
Laurie Crow knows the excitement and the apprehension of opening a new business on her own. She's a two-time business owner herself, and she's got plenty of insight to share through her new role with Open to Business.
Open to Business is a program new to most of Dakota County - it's recently started operating in 10 cities, including Farmington - and it's designed to help potential new business owners realize their dreams.
That's where Crow comes in as business advisor for Open to Business. Starting this week, she'll make her rounds to each of the member cities, spending two hours in each community, on specific days of the month. Here, that means Crow will be at Farmington City Hall on the fourth Tuesday of every month, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. She'll also be available for appointments.
Her job is to answer questions for anyone who is thinking about starting a new business, or to give advice to business owners who want to expand an existing business. With a degree in business management, a minor in marketing and the experience of opening two businesses of her own, Crow knows the challenges new business owners face.
"I have been there, done that," she said. "Licensing, insurance, hiring employees, finding retail space. I've been through it all myself."
As Open to Business is a partnership between the cities, the Dakota County Community Development Agency, the Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers and the Dakota County Regional Chambers of Commerce, Crow has the backing of all of those agencies when it comes to helping potential business owners. She may only be in Farmington for two hours a month, but she'll be available to meet with anyone who wants assistance.
"We try to make it as easy as possible for all of the people to get to me or me to get to them," she said.
With the resources available to her, Crow can help potential business owners fine-tune their direction, whether their plan is only a dream or they're nearing reality.
"We'll talk about first things first, with anyone who has a business idea. Is there a need for it? Is there financial support for it? Do they have the experience necessary for it? We'll talk through the main points of, what does it take to be successful? Sometimes it's a matter of reality," Crow said.
The idea is to encourage new business in Dakota County communities, Farmington city planner Lee Smick said, and the Farmington Economic Development Authority has given its support to the Open to Business program.
Open to Business also opens a path to potential funding sources through the CDA and MCCD, Smick said. The EDA, too, is looking at financial incentives to offer.
"I'm excited. There's great opportunity for new and/or existing business in town. If they want to put up a new awning, or if they want to remodel their store with new walls, if they want to paint their building, or if they need funding for any of the expenses of moving their business into town, or if there's existing businesses that want to expand, there's help now in the community with this MCCD program," Smick said.
An orientation session is set up for the EDA members for Feb. 20, Smick said, and they'll get to meet Crow at their Feb. 25 regular meeting. Crow will be back at Farmington City Hall Feb. 28, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., for her first Open to Business visits.
An official kick-off to the Open to Business program is scheduled from 8 to 9 a.m. Feb. 28, at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center. The event is free and open to the public, though anyone interested in attending should register at opentobusiness.eventbrite.com or by calling 651-675-4465 by Feb. 22.
For more information about Open to Business, visit www.opentobusiness.org. To set up an appointment with Crow, call her at 952-484-3107 or e-mail, lcrow@ mccdmn.org.