Jefferson Means Business


​Opportunities Announced for North Florida Agriculture

​By Marcia Elder, Jefferson County Small Business Development Director

January 30, 2016


Agriculture is a vital part of our local economy. Always has been. But farmers and others in agriculture, especially smaller scale operations, face challenges in keeping their businesses vibrant. Help is on the way.


The Jefferson Small Business Development Program (SBDP) took part in an educational forum held at FAMU this month to assist North Florida farmers. Organized by Congresswoman Gwen Graham, the January 19 event featured the Deputy Secretary, US Department of Agriculture, along with a panel of area farmers. The event drew over 100 participants.


Deputy Secretary Harden spoke of her agency’s role to revitalize rural communities. She noted that she’s from Camilla, GA, and was raised on a farm.


Harden stated strongly that “1% of the population feeds the 99% of the rest of us.” Yet, she commented, the 99% doesn’t think about, care about or invest in the future of agriculture. “We’re fortunate to be food-independent as a country”, she said. But she voiced concern about the decline in agriculture as a career path. In that regard, she stressed the need to get young people, women, minorities and veterans more involved in farming.


That USDA has the resources to help was a key message from Harden. Agency staff were on hand after the event to discuss and provide literature on a variety of topics. 


Congresswoman Graham was excited to announce that the agency had just designated North Florida as a “StrikeForce” area.  Harden said Congresswoman Graham was tenacious in pushing for them to do so. 


Launched in 2010, “more than 1,500 StrikeForce partnerships have already helped USDA support nearly 190,000 projects and invest $23.5 billion in high-poverty areas in rural America”, according to the USDA. The agency concentrates support resources in these designated areas.
On January 15, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced expansion of the Department's StrikeForce for Rural Growth & Opportunity Initiative into high-poverty counties in 4 additional states: Florida, Missouri, Montana and Ohio. Further details are here: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=STRIKE_FORCE.


Also announced as part of the event was expansion of a USDA micro-loan program for farmers. It provides loans of up to $50,000. The application process is now easier and collateral requirements have been made easier as well. Land can also now be used for collateral.


Panelists included a women farmer, three minorities, a veteran and a FAMU student who grew up in farming. Each shared insights gained through their experiences in farming along with aspirations for the future. 


The SBDP gathered literature on a range of USDA resources and services and is happy to share further information with Jefferson residents. On March 3, the SBDP will also host a workshop featuring USDA staff on grant and loan opportunities for energy related improvements both to farms and other businesses. Such improvements can save businesses significant money on an annual basis and renewable energy installations can enhance energy security. Stay tuned to the SBDP Website for details!


​How Do You Know If Your Business Is a Success … & How to Make Sure It Is!
November 3, 2015

By Marcia Elder, Jefferson County Small Business Development Director

It’s hard to believe that the close of 2015 is just around the corner. Time is indeed flying … and, from a business perspective, “time is money”. But is there more to the picture?


As the year-end draws near businesses are accustomed to taking stock of their financial status – how are they doing, where are they in relation to financial goals for the year, what steps are needed for tax purposes and the like.


These steps are very important … and the year-end process can be so much more.


Having a Strategic Plan in place to guide the business through the year can be worth its weight in gold. If your business doesn’t have one, now’s a great time to start putting your 2016 Plan together.


Asking yourself strategic questions is a timely step that everyone can take too … questions that go beyond the necessary one of “how much money are we making?”. Questions like:
•    What did the business accomplish in the past year?
•    Have we been “successful”?
•    What are our measures of success (apart from the financial ones)?
•    What can we do to end the year on a higher note?
•    If I could change the business in whatever way I wanted what would it be?
•    How can we improve the business in the year ahead?
•    What year-end steps will help us position for greater success?

And, if you’re a business owner or manager, or plan to be one day, questions like:
•    How does (or how will) this business meet my needs?
•    What are my needs (aside from a “paycheck”)?
•    What about the needs of my employees? My customers & clients? The community?
•    What steps can I (and we) take to get better results?

Understanding our personal needs is integral to business and career success. The options are many: from meeting new people, interacting with others each day, being active and maybe even having fun … to being responsible in supporting loved ones … to learning new things … feeling a sense of freedom … the chance to be creative … feeling capable and accomplished through doing a good or great job … to making a difference by helping others … and the list goes on. 

Think about it: what’s on the list for you? And how can your work be made even more fulfilling of your needs? What specific steps can you take? Consider (specifically) what it means to you to have a successful business, and to be a successful business-person. 

Whether you’re in business or starting a new business, we can help with your business planning, evaluation of your business, marketing needs and more. Our services are available at no charge and support is provided in-person, online and by phone, both during and after standard business hours. We welcome the opportunity to serve you, for your best success this year and beyond!

For further details or to schedule an appointment: smallbusiness@jeffersoncountyfl.gov, 363-3753, www.JeffersonMeansBusiness.com. 


​​The Spirit of Entrepreneurs Fuels Local Economy

By Marcia Elder, Jefferson County Small Business Development Program
April 2015

Without entrepreneurs, where would we be? We each want to be able to go to the store, eat out, shop online, call on professionals and otherwise access a vast assortment of goods and services that today’s “consumers” seek. But how is that made possible? By the actions of entrepreneurs!

Dictionary.com defines Entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk”. Starting a business involves risk, resources and hard work. So does keeping many a business going.

If it weren’t for business people willing to put themselves on the line the rest of us wouldn’t have access to the many products and services that we want, need and enjoy.
When local residents buy goods and services locally they help community-based businesses stay in business for the benefit of all. The results include:

•  Employment of residents – through new jobs & continuation of existing jobs
•  Keeping jobs local – for the convenience of residents plus savings in time, gas and vehicle wear for those who work elsewhere
•  More local spending – by locals & visitors – keeps money flowing for & within the local economy
•  Businesses help generate tax revenues needed to pay for public services & infrastructure (roads, water/sewer systems, etc.)
•  The more local businesses the greater availability of local goods & services

So next time you need to buy something, think about who may offer it within our County before heading out-of-town (or online) for your purchase. And if a particular product or service costs a little bit more here than in Tallahassee or elsewhere (which is generally not the case but “what if”), understand the demands on business people (like those who pay more to stock smaller inventories than a “big box” store would) … and “do the math”: consider what it will cost you in time and money to drive to another city to get what’s available right in our own backyard.

The more that we each support the “spirit of entrepreneurs” in Jefferson County the more that local entrepreneurs will be able to meet everyone’s needs … including expanding their businesses to offer even more goods and services.

THANK a local business person for being ready and able to serve … and the best thanks of all is to do business with them.

BUYING LOCAL: A “WIN-WIN” FOR ALL

When residents of a community do their shopping from businesses in the community everyone wins. Jobs are created, local businesses are sustained, consumer needs are met, dollars are kept in the local economy and community spirit is furthered. With the biggest shopping period of the year underway, now is the perfect time to check out the opportunities for buying local.

Perhaps hard to believe at first blush but Monticello and Jefferson County are home to hundreds of small businesses. In addition to downtown shops, restaurants and other commercial establishments, other businesses are spread throughout the County and many are home-based. Combined, these businesses have much to offer local consumers … for holiday shopping and all year round.

Downtown Monticello has grown in exciting ways and the gift choices are many. Both there and through other venues in the County shoppers can select from a variety of goods as well as other gifting options … from gift certificates to tickets for upcoming events, meal outings, hair and beauty services, yoga class, an overnight stay at a bed & breakfast, local memberships, dance or music lessons, bike rentals, hay ride, massage and a whole lot more. Some establishments will also mail your gift purchase for you, or word on how to claim the gift on-site.

Creativity in gift planning can also bring smiles to recipients, perhaps even more so if they particularly need the gift item or “wouldn’t spend the money on themselves” … a fitness program or gym membership, home cleaning service, handyman repair or home improvement project, day care services, professional pet grooming, car wash or repair, home inspection or appraisal, financial planner … and the list goes on.

Gifts can take the form of volunteer services or monetary donations as well. Jefferson County is home to a variety of worthy non-profit organizations – from Hospice and Refuge House to the Humane Society and Friends of the Library not to mention dozens of other local groups serving seniors, children and youth, veterans, public safety, education and other community needs.  All rely on the contributions of others to continue serving those in need. Such contributions can be made in the name of your gift recipient.

The possibilities, through tapping local merchants, are far more than you may have imagined. Search online, check the yellow pages or peruse the Chamber membership roster for ideas of businesses and the products and services they offer. Spread the word with others, too, as a way of bolstering local businesses and the Jefferson economy, a Win-Win for all.

Article by: Marcia Elder, Director, Jefferson County Small Business Development Program

December 9, 2014 - run as article in Monticello News

According to the American Independent Business Alliance, buying from locally owned, independent businesses generates 2-3 times as much economic activity at the community level than if shoppers had spent their money elsewhere.