Thursday, October 15, 2009

Helping Small Businesses Improve Their Bottom Line

By Patricia Blakely

Patricia Blakely is the Executive Director of The Merchants Fund and contributor to this blog. She describes her job as a cross between the Wizard of Oz (“Ignore that Woman behind the curtain.”) and a “Buy Local” advocate on steroids.

How does a small local coffee shop increase food sales by 50% and decrease food costs at the same time? Small

businesses often struggle to get costs under control – and finding ways to finance improvements that ultimately affect the bottom line is what The Merchants Fund, based in Philadelphia, is all about.

The Fund gave Jocie Dye of InFusion Coffee and Tea in the Philly neighborhood of Mt. Airy a grant to take on a variety of investments and improvements to the store. For example, many of you might not be aware, but coffee houses often run air conditioning even during the winter months because of the heat generated by the machines. The Merchants Fund grant allowed Jocie to install operable windows up high so that she could take advantage of cool days and save money. She also got serious about food quality and hired Jill Fink, owner of Mugs Shots Coffee House in Manayunk (also a TMF company) and Angie Vendetti from Fairmount to review all their food sourcing, employee procedures, improve the green profile and basically shake everything up! All of them are members of the Independents Coffee Cooperative which is an area consortium committed to fair trade and a support group for small business.

And Then There was the Hand Dryer…

Together, they found a number of ways in which Jocie could improve her product sourcing and reduce costs from both a price and environmental perspective. In the process, you can’t overlook the small things. Take hand driers, not only are hand driers greener than paper towels, but Jocie’s staff found that it was also impossible to keep the bathroom well stocked. The small staff was always running to the restroom to replace the towels. It happened during my visit just to prove it! They also added a changing table to make the place more family-friendly.

The results of Jocie’s efforts speak for themselves, a 50% increase in food sales and decreased food costs!

The Merchants Fund has helped other small businesses with similar investments. For example, we also helped Dan Thut, the owner of Greenline Café purchase point-of-sale software so that they could get control of supply and demand.

We were excited to have a hand in helping these small businesses, but in the end, what's cool about this is how all these little companies work together and support each other.

No comments:

Post a Comment