By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Four Dearborn business owners discussed the future of local entrepreneurship during a panel discussion at Artspace Sept. 28.
Each owner — Windy Weber of Stormy Records, Katie Merritt of Green Brain Comics, John Rucinski of Dearborn Brewing, and John Rucinski of Yogurtopia and Brome Burgers — answered questions from West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius as part of the Metromode Media On The Ground community series.
“Downtown Dearborn is filled with entrepreneurs finding their place along with existing businesses flourishing,” she said. “Dearborn entrepreneurs are leading the effort to grow out community and are setting the tone for other cities to follow.”
The conversation on the future of Dearborn entrepreneurship began with some insight on the process to start a business. Rucinski, Abbas and Webber chose to open their business in Dearborn while Merritt bought an existing business in the city.
Rucinski said doing research on a business location and working directly with the city departments are important aspects to opening a business.
Abbas said he searched for an industry that was the biggest and then began location searching before approaching the city administration.
Weber started her business in a different manner; she moved into a space without contacting the city and rented from the existing landlord. She did not recommend that method and said when she relocated she contacted the city for advice.
When asked about what some of the biggest hurdles in opening a business were, Merritt cited gaining financial backing and finding a good landlord and rent. She also recommended hiring people for positions, like marketing, to do the job if the owner does not have the skills to do so themselves.
In the changing world of retail, Weber was asked about creating experiences for customers to attract them to the store.
“We started having bands perform in stores, artist exhibits, and events to remind customers what we have to offer,” she said. “Businesses owners have to be willing to modify and adapt our strategies and learn what customers want.”
All four business owners were asked about what they saw as needs in trends for the downtown Dearborn areas. They listed retail stores including clothing boutiques, small shops, arts and crafts, and candy shops which could be coming with the increase in walkability in Dearborn.
As for resources to help new business owners, the city along with both downtowndevopment authorities, University of Michigan-Dearborn, ACCESS and the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce are available.
For more information on the On The Ground community series go to www.secondwavemedia.com/metromode.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)