Each year, our Small Business, Big Dreams contest asks small businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to tell us about their hopes and plans for their companies. The winning business owner receives $20,000 to help finance their big dream. We narrowed down the hundreds of submissions from all kinds of businesses to three finalists, and eventually one winner.
This year, small business owners are facing additional challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and need support now more than ever. We got to know each of these finalists and wanted to share what we learned about their inspiring business ownership journeys:
Want To Eat Local? Small Business, Big Dreams 2020 Winner Family Dinner Has You Covered
Family Dinner is a local farmer’s market delivery service. Local meat, fish, cheese, produce and grains are sourced from local farmers and makers each week, and delivered right to customers’ homes. According to CEO and Co-Founder Erin Baumgartner, this “100% woman-owned business hopes to use data and technology to improve the local food supply chain, support farmers and bring delicious food to customers.”
Family Dinner has experienced incredible growth over the last year, which has rendered its current shared kitchen facility as insufficient to service its growing customer base. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for Family Dinner’s services. Before COVID-19, Family Dinners conducted about 250 weekly deliveries. Now they are up to 650 weekly deliveries.
As Erin put it, “We urgently need more space to be able to accommodate our customers. We’re close to acquiring our own space, which has been our dream since the beginning.” Family Dinner plans to use its winning funds toward freezers and refrigeration for the new space to help fulfill this dream.
Family Dinner’s work is made possible by hard-working local farmers, makers and growers. According to Erin, “We had a dream to create a distributed local food supply chain, and the passion to make it happen but there were gaps in our knowledge. They mentored us, taught us the industry and, most importantly, provided us with the best quality local food to offer our customers. We’re proud of what we have built together.”
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Flexibility Is The Name Of The Game For Finalist Flexetail
Flexetail designs and builds flexible spaces that enable small business owners to have a contactless environment.
Founder and CEO Joel Kamm explained, “Our business started with the idea that brick and mortar was too fixed and businesses needed more flexibility in leasing, location, and space. My wife Lucia and I have more than 45 years of combined experience in retail design and [consumer packaged goods] marketing, having helped large and small companies globally.”
Flexetail’s primary goal is to help small businesses. Joel and Lucia hope to eliminate the cost barrier for retail businesses and to allow small, minority-owned local businesses to open pop-up shops in their Flexetail units in the greater Boston area for free. Flexetail will shoulder the costs of permits, location scouting, rental and delivery to help these businesses reach new customers.
“The backbone of our society is small business owners, who are our neighbors, friends and employers,” said Joel. “Our community is made up of small businesses which contribute to the culture, look and feel of our neighborhoods. They are the reason why we move to certain locations and why we decide to raise kids in specific areas.”
As many businesses have needed to adapt to more flexible strategies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Joel and Lucia are helping businesses find more flexible strategies to reach retail customers.
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It’s Not About Vanity For Finalist Maven Hair Company, It’s About Confidence
Owner, Stylist and Dream Maker Vannessa Houlihan could go on all day about her business. While Maven Hair Company does hair well, the focus “is always about helping people to see, feel and believe in the best versions of themselves.”
The salon invites patrons to come in, recharge and become part of the Maven Hair Company community. Creating this vibrant community does not happen alone. Vannessa credits many mentors, coaches, colleagues, team members, friends and family with helping her to achieve her dreams.
For many small businesses, vendors and other business services offer important help. “Evolve Salon Systems are heroes masquerading as a professional beauty products sales company and without them, I’m not sure my business would have survived being shut down for three months,” says Vannessa.
This high-contact industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic. “I think it’s safe to say that COVID-19 had flipped the beauty industry upside down, whipped it around, and flung it across the room,” said Vannessa. “But I happen to think that maybe we needed to be shaken up a bit. Three months of being closed and then having to restructure my entire business in order to open has certainly not been a breezy second quarter. But it has challenged me in ways I’m not sure I ever would have been challenged and it has forced me to look at my business differently.”
Pandemic or not, it is important to Vannessa and Maven Hair Company that customers feel comfortable and safe so that they can relax. Her team is placing even greater emphasis on safety and health within the salon.
Are You Interested In Learning About How to Start a Business Of Your Own?
In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we are lucky to have many companies like Family Dinner, Flexetail and Maven Hair Company that makeup our vibrant local business economies. Our business banking officers at Rockland Trust help business owners like Erin, Joel and Vannessa to reach their business and financial goals. Inspired to start your own small business? Check out our Learning Center for helpful tips and advice to get you started.
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