Small Businesses call Rome ‘home’

Emily Smith, Reporter

Matt Zimerman, Editor

Students look at the baked goods available at Honeymoon bakery.

Student entrepreneurs have partnered with local businesses in the Rome community including Doug’s Deli, Honeymoon Bakery and Harbin Clinic. These partnerships, which developed over the last few years, have greatly increased revenue for the enterprises involved, according to senior Greg Howard, Head of Sales and Marketing for the Student Enterprises Program.

Howard hopes to see a change in the mindset of Rome, accepting locally grown resources as opposed to manufactured products. Doug’s Deli distributes freshly grown products from Berry’s Season’s Harvest. This contributes to the revenues of both businesses and spreads the idea of healthy lifestyles to Doug’s Deli consumers. 

Ben Bowling is the General Manager of Doug’s Deli and has first-hand experience with Season’s Harvest and their products. This summer they featured a BLT sandwich based around the tomatoes grown at Season’s Harvest.

“It was a huge hit,” Bowling said. “We like to be able to say we buy local.”

Season’s Harvest delivers 15 dozen eggs per week, pimento cheese, bushels of wheat, and seasonal produce such as tomatoes to Doug’s Deli. According to Bowling, having a close knit relationship with a local supplier has contributed to the freshness and quality of their products. It reinforces the mindset that Greg Howard hoped to accomplish for the Student Enterprises.

“Small businesses are key,” Howard said. “It’s easier to do business locally and gain experience. It’s not really something student entrepreneurs can do with large corporations.”

Howard says our local businesses play a key role in the success of the Berry Student Enterprises.

“Our students are learning entrepreneurial skills and innovation before they even graduate,” Howard said, “The earlier they obtain these skills the better.”

Small businesses in Rome are succeeding due to community support and local partnerships.

Small businesses thrive on the loyalty of local customers. However, many start-ups lack the appropriate experience to achieve that loyalty and maintain long-term success. Resources such as the Rome Chamber of Commerce and the Rome Small Business Action Council provide gateways to prosperity for local en-trepreneurs.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the United States,” said Angela Devine, former Rome Small Busi-ness and Entrepreneurship Coordinator. 

The Chamber of Commerce creates community between around 900 businesses in the greater Rome area. Networking and exposure are the main goals for the programs hosted by the Chamber.

Through educational programs, such as the Business Expo and Small Business Saturday in November, the Rome Small Business Action Council increases involvement and gives a voice to the owners of start-up businesses. Membership with this community increases experience and lends support from fellow business owners, an essential element in the growth of the Rome business community as a whole.

Rome observed the annual Georgia Small Business Week in February. This week serves as a tool for the Chamber of Commerce and the Rome Small Business Action Council to dive deeper into the community and satisfy the needs of these small businesses, especially those getting settled in the downtown area.

The downtown area is now one of the most appealing aspects of the Rome community, according to Devine, who describes it as Rome’s “showroom.” It is 98 percent occupied by small businesses. When recruiting potential employers, the downtown area is oftentimes used as a main attraction because of its diverse atmosphere. 

However, downtown Rome was not as popular in years past. When Ellie Mahon, the owner of coffee shop Swift & Finch, moved to Rome with her family, the downtown area was mostly vacant. They wanted a place of strong community and involvement, and that’s where their vision for Swift & Finch first began.

“We wanted to create a space in Rome where everyone felt comfortable,” Mahon said. “A cultural center for art.” 

Others also shared this vision with Mahon and her husband. Support from the Rome community is what has contributed most to the success of their now 4-year-old business. 

“Knowing it wasn’t a finished product, (Rome) came alongside us,” Mahon said. “They were willing to grow with us.”

Networking and community involvement continually prove to be the main catalysts for the growth of small businesses, especially in the downtown Rome area. 

Swift & Finch also receives support and promotion from Berry College through business with various student organizations and employees who are past or current Berry students. 

Rome businesses and Berry Student Enterprises are both growing, and the Rome Chamber of Commerce expects the trend to continue in the future.

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