Sunday, April 14, 2019

Small business centers collaborate on WS

By Nick Lukasik and Zach Rohde
Buffalo Review West Reporters
             Imagine you have an idea for a small business. You have done a ton of planning and research, and now you’re ready to launch; but where exactly do you start?
            Opening a small business can be a daunting task, but there are resources and experts available to help.
            The West Side is home to two resources for small business development within just blocks of each other. The small business climate in Buffalo is surging and both centers aim to promote and advance ideas.
            The SmallBusiness Development Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave., is one location, and director Susan McCartney plays a vital role in helping small businesses grow from the ground up. She said the relationship the center has with another small business resource, the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, 436 Grant St., is important due to the impact they make on small businesses.
            “We are a very strong resource partner to them.,” McCartney said. “We appreciate their sending many of their members of their incubator, or people they want to provide funding, to us.”

Susan McCartney, on the importance of local small business:           
           The centers are around the corner from one another, and this close proximity encourages a strong partnership between the two. The unique and diverse demographics of the West Side provide a gold mine of entrepreneurial opportunities, and having easily accessible help so close to home is vital to potential and current small business owners.
            Carolynn Welch, interim director of WEDI, echoed McCartney’s sentiments about the importance of WEDI and the Small Business Development Center working together.  
            “I think for a long time in Buffalo’s history a lot of nonprofits and a lot of resources have stayed very siloed, but I think when we talk and we partner up, we can see where we’re really good at something and they’re very good at something and then that business owner is getting the best of both worlds,” Welch said.
            One of the biggest highlights for small businesses on the West Side has been the revitalization of Elmwood Avenue, Grant Street and Allen Street. McCartney said having small businesses pop up on these streets have made people want to buy local.
            “It encourages local ownership and people wanting to do business with people locally, because they know them,” McCartney said. “You don’t know anyone at Amazon when you buy something.”
West Side Bazaar is an initiative of WEDI
            Yanush Sanmugaraja is the economic development director of WEDI. He homes in on how important the role of the West Side Bazaar, 25 Grant St., is in incubating small businesses.
            “The Bazaar incubates businesses primarily by offering them much below market rate rent and other expenses are also subsidized,”  Sanmugaraja said.    
            Welch said that the thriving atmosphere for small businesses on the West Side is beneficial to the entire city and encourages optimism for local business owners and consumers.
            “It brings a sense of pride back to Buffalo,” Welch said. “I think some of the industries that have been developed are somewhat unique to Buffalo.”
            The small business climate in Buffalo is growing and is playing a large part in the resurgence and economic development of the city. Particularly on the West Side, small businesses are a driving force of what makes this community so unique.
            “The small businesses are helping to boost Buffalo’s economy,” Welch said. “I think we lost a lot of large-scale businesses many years ago and I think the small businesses are coming back in and providing that boost and employing people; ultimately putting money back into Buffalo, which is improving the infrastructure.”