Why I’m so Vocal About “Local”

Written by guest author, Heatherleigh Navarre
Owner of Boston Tea Room

Years ago, when I was a child out running errands with my father, I noticed that everyone we met knew him by name. The woman who got him his coffee at the donut shop on the corner, the man at the dry cleaner where we picked up Dad’s shirts, and even the gas station attendant who filled our tank (it was THAT long ago), all called him “Pete” and chatted amiably with him for a bit. When I asked him that day how all those people knew him so well, I got my first lesson in the importance of shopping local.

Dad explained that these were all small locally owned businesses that made it a point to get to know their customers, which meant that he always got better service there than at other places where he wasn’t known. As dad put it, “This winter if there’s a cold morning when my car won’t start, I can call Ed at the station here, and he’ll come help me out, because he knows I always fill up my tank at his place. It pays to know folks, kiddo.” It was a lesson I never forgot.

The Boston Tea Room
Boston Tea Room, located on 9 Mile in Downtown Ferndale

It’s more than thirty years since then, and that lesson has proven true over and over again. Now that I’m a small business owner myself, I remember that day, and I try to follow that example of getting to know everyone who visits my shop. It’s fun, because in case you haven’t noticed, people are fascinating creatures. It helps that I am an extrovert by nature, and I really do believe that everyone has a story to share. But getting to know my own patrons isn’t where it stops for me. I also strive to get to know my neighbor businesses, and lend them my support whenever possible, in order to help nurture and grow a thriving environment for my own shop.

When my not-so-local clients come in to visit, I need to be able to suggest a great lunch spot nearby, along with which restaurant has the most vegetarian options, which shop has great gifts for men, or who hosts the best happy hour in town, or nearby places that may have what they need when my place does not – and that means getting to know as many other local businesses as I can. And that’s not just good for my business; it’s good for my community, too.

Many of my customers are also my neighbors, living in the same town, and by trying to ensure that the local business community thrives, I am doing my part to co-create a vibrant place for all of us to live, work, and play. So there’s a component of good business practice, and there’s an altruistic component, as well. I want to live in a place where there is a diverse, creative, and unique vibe, where small businesses are able to succeed, and where individuality is valued and encouraged.

MBrew, located on Vester Street in Ferndale

Of course, there’s a selfish motivation, too. The night before Thanksgiving, my staff and I were hard at work, and getting a bit ravenous. We called one of our favorite local eateries to get some food delivered, and were told that they had already closed for the holiday (darn it), but that since we were regular customers, he would make an exception and bring us whatever we needed (hooray!). I doubt any of the corporate chains would’ve been so accommodating (thank you Felix and the whole crew at M-Brew!)

Small business owners are my heroes and heroines. They are scrappy, industrious risk-takers. The owner of that donut shop I mentioned earlier gave me my very first job, and taught me the value of a good work ethic and that there is dignity in every task. “To feed people is to bless them,” he told me once.

Jacki Smith and Patty Shaw, Owners of Coventry Creations
Jacki Smith and Patty Shaw, Owners of Coventry Creations in Downtown Ferndale

The owner of a record store where I worked in the nineties taught me that to complain about ‘the public’ is nonsensical. People are individuals, and lumping them together robs them of their humanity, so don’t do it.” Six years ago, it was Jacki Smith and Patty Shaw, local owners of Coventry Creations, who actually invited me to open a shop here in Ferndale, right next to their business, for which I am eternally grateful.

More recently, another local business owner, Cheryl Tucker, of Rouge Makeup and Nails, sat down with me over coffee and spreadsheets and helped chart a course for making some big changes for my little shop in the New Year. We had a great time brainstorming and accomplished so much – far more than I could have done on my own.

Rouge Makeup and Nails, located on Woodward in Ferndale
Rouge Makeup and Nails, located on Woodward in Ferndale

Local businesses are always on the front lines: they are hit hardest in recessionary times, and they are the drivers of any economic recovery, not to mention being the sole economic support of so many of our friends, families, and neighbors, so when I spend my money with them, I know it’s going into the pockets of the people in my community. I learn far more from them than from any class I’ve ever taken, or business book I’ve ever read.

So, support your local small business owner. Get to know them, and your life will be better for it, and if you dare, BE one. The world needs more courageous fools living their dreams.

Boston Tea Room Collage

Heatherleigh Navarre is the owner of Boston Tea Room, a family business in downtown Ferndale. Boston Tea Room is an award-winning independent book store, gourmet tea shop, and psychic reading salon. She loves reading, road trips, and long conversations with other small business owners over piping-hot cups of tea. More information at bostontearoom.com


The Community Spirit of Ferndale

Photo credit: SoPlat Media
Photo credit: SoPlat Media

Written by guest author Jay McMillan, President of Royal Services

I believe that Ferndale, perhaps more than other communities that I have lived, played, and been a part of, is one of the most giving communities. This is just one of the unique ways Ferndale adds to our lives.

As the Chair for the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, and a business owner and president of Royal Services, I know this to be true:  Giving to the community creates a sense of belonging, a sense of pride, and a sense of caring.

Giving to the community, whether it be through contributions, offering a helping hand to our neighbors, or through taking part in community activities, gives back to me that feeling of “WOW, I am proud to be a part of Ferndale!”  Sharing the joy of successes of ourselves and others makes me stick my chest out a little further, adding to the pride of being part of Ferndale.

If I ask myself, where do I belong and where does Royal Services belong, there is only one logical choice – we belong in Ferndale.  Through Royal Services logomy activities with organizations, volunteer efforts, or just by  sitting and speaking with new business owners, I realize that I do these things because I really want to! Never an expectation of getting anything in return, but from the pure joy of giving.  The payback, if you will, is that the community has reached back and offered a strong sense of belonging.  I am PROUD to say I am from Ferndale Michigan – look at what we have become and where we are going!

The last component is that Ferndale is a caring community. Plain and simple, we care about each other and for many of us, we are there to offer that helping hand when we are needed most. Those business neighbors who are most successful give to the community without a second thought. Not because it’s good business, but because they care.

Jack Aronson receives "Special Service Award" at the 2014 Ferndale Area Chamber Gala.
Jack Aronson receives “Special Service Award” at the 2014 Ferndale Area Chamber Gala.

With the floods of 2014, those that cared most stepped up and took the lead in offering support to those that were devastated. I look at Jack Aronson, owner of Garden Fresh Salsa, and his efforts through flood relief and the Ferndale location for The Boys and Girls Club. I watch Jim Pool, Pastor of Renaissance Vineyard Church, and know that he genuinely cares  about our city, offering a helping hand to those in need of help.  I look at Kyle Van Buren, owner of Biggby Coffee – Ferndale. He is one of the newer members of our community, and has already embraced Ferndale and the Ferndale Public Schools, taking part wherever he can.  I can look at any number of individuals in our community who have similar stories.

It’s what we’re all about – helping one another succeed. Thank you Ferndale for letting myself and Royal Services make this our community home.


So…Why Small Business Saturday?

Cristina DDAWritten by guest author Cristina Sheppard-Decius, CMSM
Ferndale DDA Executive Director

I do not “do” Black Friday. Never have. So when American Express came out with Small Business Saturday a few years back, I thought, “Well finally, someone gets it.” I always thought I was alone in feeling this way, which come to find out, I am not. This is not to disparage those who have made Black Friday a family tradition nor to change that habit either. There is obviously room for both, I just secretly hope to play an active role in swinging more folks around to my kind of thinking.

Jerry's at Rust Belt
Jerry’s Shirts original space in Ferndale,  at The Rust Belt Market

I know some of you may think that Small Business Saturday is just an American Express marketing gimmick or made-up holiday. To me, Small Business Saturday is so much more than that, and there are many other small busines advocates who agree. While American Express my have coined the term and are spending thousands on marketing it to earn a greater return, what they have really done is help strengthen the voice of small businesses everywhere and bring greater awareness as to the why you should shop on Small Business Saturday.

DDA Modern Natural Baby
Modern Natural Baby

So why Small Business Saturday?

Location, Location, Location. Small businesses keep it local. Did you know that small businesses reinvest 70% of every dollar earned back into their local community? It is two times more than any national chain or online business. Downtown Ferndale is also pretty easy to get to, we love biking (even in the winter), and we are completely walkable to over 350 businesses.

It’s About the People. Small local businesses are about the people who run them; your neighbors, your friends, your children’s friends or their parents, your family—the person willing to put everything on the line to go against the corporate grain and take a chance on themselves. It’s a big risk running a small business, but usually comes with a great reward—and it’s not money, it’s gratification. Gratification that you are doing what you love. (Although being able to cover your expenses, support your employees and family is really important, too!).

DDA Christmas
“Downtown Ferndale is overflowing in originality, and that is what makes our city the place people want to be.”

Many of our Downtown Ferndale business owners are Ferndale residents, and the same holds true for a significant majority of their employees. They not only invest in their downtown, but also in the people who live here.

Genuine Service. No where else will get you a more genuine experience, the best customer service and full appreciation from shop owners than when you shop at a small business. Small businesses work harder to make sure you’re happy.

Originality. Small businesses are born from the idea of one or sometimes a small group of individuals, whose individuality shines through in what they do, how they do it and what they provide. Downtown Ferndale is overflowing with originality, and that is what makes our city the place people want to be. Downtown Ferndale has a whole host of creative gift buying options – you are sure to be the hit of the party or make your loved ones’ holiday special. There is also comfort in knowing that the dollars you spend on Small Business Saturday will directly impact your community.

More Fun Than Not. I’m just going to say it. Shopping in a downtown is just a heck of Leave Your Printa lot more fun than being stuck in a line or being packed in like sardines in a mall or big box. I love being able to have a real conversation with the real owner of the store, and take my time making my shopping decisions. Small business owners know how to help you, even when you don’t know what you’re looking for. We also have over 60 restaurants and entertainment venues to add to that shopping experience, which to me is a winner! Nothing beats a day of shopping than to be able to sit down, kick back and enjoy a meal someone makes for me (and a beverage I might add). Stress be gone!

Found Sound DDA
Found Sound

So what are you doing this Saturday, November 29th? After reading this I hope you are taking it to the streets of Downtown Ferndale for Small Business Saturday. Start your day with brunch, then make sure to pick up the Downtown Ferndale Passport to specials and savings at more than 30 businesses. Every time you make a purchase, get your passport stamped. With each stamp, you will be entered into a raffle of amazing prizes from our merchants. With each stamp you know you are supporting your community! For a list of businesses and all the details, go to www.downtownferndale.com.

#ShopSmall #ShopLocal #DowntownFerndale

Seeking the Success of our City

Jim Pool Bio Photo
“Wherever I am, I try to support the community, love people, encouraging all that is good that is happening in the city.”

Written by guest author, Jim Pool

When we opened our doors as the Renaissance Vineyard Church nearly three years ago, one of our values was to be a great friend to the city. We wanted to serve and support our local community, to not only love the people but to actually like the place that where we were at! For us, the church is not the building. The church is the people. So every Sunday, at the conclusion of our service, I encourage people to “go out and be the church.” To go love people and seek the success of our city.

We support our local community in a number of ways. We actively participate in Chamber activities, building relationships, helping network, and hosting connection opportunities in our building for small businesses that may not have a space of their own. We empower the small business owners in our church community. We championRenaissanve Vineyard Inside local events like the DIY, including them alongside our church events on our calendar. We advocate for our great school district. And we care for hungry area families and our homeless neighbors. Our food pantry (including our new garden providing desperately needed healthy vegetables) feeds 80-100 families a month, and our Warming Center sleeps about 75 homeless women and men for 12 days at the start of each new year.

The following story embodies the essence of the posture we’re trying to take. As Ferndale continues to grow, one of the really cool things that’s developed are the many charitable 5K runs. As the City has continued to work on the intricacies of the standardized route for these runs, many of them have gone right by our church building (at 9 & Pinecrest). Which is awesome. On one such occasion, the bulk of the runners raRenaissance Vineyard Front Shotn by from 10-11am on a bright blue Sunday morning. When the start of our 10:30am service came, less than half our group was present. Rather than complain, we happily went outside and started cheering the runners on with gusto, encouraging them to finish strong, waiting for the rest of our community to be released from traffic. I loved it! I was so proud of our church.

I’ve lived in Ferndale for 13 years now and I walk around town every chance I get. I love being in the schools and parks and businesses and bars. Wherever I am, I try to support the community, love people, encouraging all that is good that is happening in the city.

I was in the Army for a short time before becoming a pastor. During that time, the rule of thumb was that for every infantryman on the front lines, there were seven heroic women and men making what that soldier did possible. You might say the Renaissance Vineyard Church is a little like that. Our church is filled with heroic women and men and kids caring for people on the frontlines in need, serving and supporting the great business, educational and civic leaders we have in our community.

The Renaissance Vineyard Church is so thankful to be part of our community and we are happy to #SupportLocal.

What are you getting yourself into? Gauging company culture

A lot of companies seem to be talking about their culture lately, and what it means for employees to be “engaged” in that culture. It’s pretty widely recognized that the environment you work in can be just as important as the work you do, so understanding what company is really like is a key part of the job search.

Who does the company think they are?culture gauge 1

Company culture is deeper than the taglines on a website or poster – but those taglines will tell you a lot about what the company *wants* to think is important. Knowing “who you want other to think you are” is an important part of the culture puzzle. Look at the official website, social media sites, and other media published by the company. What is their self-image? Are the company’s actions consistent with their stated values?

Internal expectations are a big deal. The way that employees dress, for instance, can send a lot of messages about what’s expected. How do people communicate – it is OK to drop into the boss’s office for a brainstorming session, or do you need to schedule a meeting in advance? Norms like this can help you understand more about your day-to-day environment so you can decide if it’s a fit.

Be an online detective.

Tap into your network of contacts. Thanks to the power of social media, it’s easier than ever to tap into friends of friends with a direct line to the company. Check your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts; do you know someone who works (or worked) at the company? If not, do you have 2nd or 3rd degree connections that could provide some insight.

Look at sites like Glassdoor, Jobitorial, Indeed,  or similar to see what people who work at the company have to say. Is it a match for the “official” culture? If a company’s site talks about work/life balance and employees are talking about their 60-hour work weeks, you need to dig deeper.

If you have specific requirements such as flexibility or telecommuting options, niche sites like FlexJobs.com can provide a starting point. If you’re using a large national job board to look for leads, use “telecommuting” or “work at home” as part of your search terms. Concerned about balancing work and family commitments? Check out the list of 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers from Working Mother.  Want to stay local? Use the Michigan Business and Professional Association’s list of Michigan’s 101 Best & Brightest Companies to Work to identify local companies with values and priorities that align with yours.

Ask great questions in the interview.

One of the hardest things to remember as a job seeker is that this is a two-way process. You should be evaluating the company just as much as they’re evaluating you; after all, you’re about to spend a lot of time with these people, and you want to make sure the setting is one that lets you be the best possible version of yourself.

Check out these links for some suggestions about great interview questions that get to the heart of culture:

11 Ways to Gauge Your Next Employer’s Culture

7 Interview Questions Uncover Corporate Culture

4 Sneaky Ways to Determine Company Culture in an Interview

How to Find Out if a Company is a Cultural Fit for You

Why should you care?culture gauge 2

Having some knowledge of the company culture will help you talk more confidently in your interview about the reasons you’d be a great fit for the job. It shows your sincere interest and helps your interviewer picture how you’ll fit in and do the job. Aside from the boost it can give your interview, there are some very practical considerations: recent research and articles show that people are happier, more productive, and stay longer at companies where they feel comfortable.

On the Road Again

by Jennifer Bowden, Training Facilitator

If you haven’t made it over to the FCC for career search or small business assistance – or one of our (great!) workshops – you’re still likely to run into the FCC staff around town. (Like Visa, we’re everywhere you want to be…)

Pam 2Our fearless leader, FCC Supervisor Pam Bellaver, is an active member of the  Board of Directors for the Ferndale Area Chamber and FernCare. She’s also a tireless cheerleader for everything Ferndale-related, from the schools to the local businesses to the many annual events that take place locally – in fact, you’ve probably already met her somewhere. She’s an uber-networker and always ready to get you connected to someone you need to know. Keep an eye out. Say hi next time – she’s a friendly gal.

Heather Headshot

The local business community and anyone active in social media have probably already met Heather Coleman-Voss, our Business Services Coordinator and resident social media super-genius.  She has Ferndale running through her veins – which is why you’ll catch her at local business events and hanging out at the Ferndale Chamber  for Marketing Mondays.  A local and regional speaker,  Heather also runs social media business workshops right here at the Ferndale Career Center.  One of her favorite things is recruiting talent for area businesses.

Michele Relay for LifeOur Administrative Assistant extraordinaire, Michele Sibula, keeps everything running smoothly here at the FCC.  Michele also chairs the Relay for Life of Ferndale.  She’s an amazing advocate for this event – even if you’ve never thought about getting involved in Relay, Michele can find a way for you to be a part of  things! From kick-starting our fundraisers and finding donations to recruiting walkers and supervising the setup, Michele is at the heart of this incredible event (and she drives one heck of a golf cart).

my picture

You’ll find my colleague Gerard Baltrusaitis at all kinds of networking and business events, since he’s an Ambassador for the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce. He’s a fixture at libraries throughout the area, where he runs career clubs for job seekers, and he’s a featured speaker at the Hazel Park and Ferndale Adult Education programs. Gerard is the Workshop and Training Coordinator at the FCC, and we work together to bring career-oriented workshops and events to our community.

kyrsten-rueKyrsten Rue, our Youth Coordinator, is always out and about in the community. You’ll see her presenting at our Ferndale Public Schools and local colleges, educating youth on how to begin taking the first steps into the working world.  Kyrsten works directly with many area businesses, and has had a tremendous positive impact on the youth of our community and their employers. Kyrsten is also a writer and a contributor to our blog.

When I’m not busy writing blog posts and running in-house workshops, I get out and about as well. I’m a regular guest presenter, teaching career classes at Ferndale Adult Education – one of my favorite projects! – and I lead the career club at Affirmations in Ferndale, leading up to the 2nd Annual LGBT Midwest Job Expo in July. Jennifer Bowden Headshot

It’s great to be part of the Ferndale community! We’re really grateful for the local businesses that have supported our events, been guest speakers, promoted our services, referred (and hired!) our clients, attended business workshops, and generally made this an outstanding place to live and work. While there are all kinds of great things going on at the center, we love to get out into the community and help people get back to work. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates – and be sure to let us know how we can support you in your job search and business endeavours.

Give us a call – 248.586.8930.

Is “Work-Life Balance” Doomed?

There have been plenty of heated conversations sparked by the recent publication of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, which takes a look at how women’s career progress has stalled and offers suggestions for helping women take charge of their careers.

work life balance

Work-life balance seems to loom large in the mind of many, and often is used as a euphemism for flexible work arrangements like telecommuting or staggered work hours. The winners in lists such as “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For,” “Best Companies for Working Moms,” and Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” are consistently lauded for flexible workplace arrangements that help employees balance personal and professional commitments. But what if the whole idea is wrong?

Are flexible arrangements available or offered equally to men and women? To parents vs. non-parents? Or is the idea of work-life balance inherently discriminatory?

Work-life balance is a priority for many employees, and a recent survey by Accenture indicates that more than half of respondents turned down a job due to concern about this balance. In a recent USA Today article, a workplace survey showed that “nearly 75% of people believe that flexibility is possible only if their employer and/or boss provide it.” Is work-life balance something that you have control over? Or does it depend on your employer, leading job seekers to hold out hope that there is some kind of “perfect” job out there?

Technology is a huge driver in our ability to get work done outside of regular business hours, but respondents in the Accenture survey also felt that technology makes it harder to “turn off” work. Many reported checking email and doing other work during paid time off. In the 24/7/365 world, is it actually possible to disconnect from work? Or does technology keep us tethered regardless of our desire for balance?

If we put work and life on opposite sides of scale in a zero-sum game, it looks like work will always lose out. But the statistics about work-related stress and its significant health consequences would seem to contradict that.  Is it realistic to think that we can fit in all the things we want in our lifetimes? Is it an employer’s obligation to care about these things, or are we on our own?

The conversation around work-life balance began in earnest in the 1980s, when women started to enter the workforce in larger numbers. As the Boomers start retiring in larger numbers, GenX is caught between aging parents and growing children, and the Millenials enter the workforce in larger numbers, the conversation about the tensions between work and life will continue to evolve.

Sandberg’s world seems to be limited to degreed, career-oriented, corporate achievers – but this conversation matters to everyone. What do you think? Is the idea of work-life balance doomed? And if so, how to we reframe the conversation so that we all are headed in the direction of the lives we truly wish to lead?