Harvey “Chris” Miller has worked hard to build a successful business. He and his colleagues at Cudelo Designs, a consulting agency, offer a range of services to help their clients achieve maximum visibility.
Now, as an active member of the West Oak Lane Business Association, Miller would like to help other business owners, and aspiring business owners achieve that same level of success.
The group will soon launch a new web site at www.westoaklane.biz that Miller expects hopes will be live within the next two weeks.
“We’re looking for businesses from zip codes 19126 and 19138,” he said. “There are a lot of registered businesses in that (19126) zip code but they’re not having a voice. They’re not established, they’re not reaching out to the local community. And that’s what we’re trying to get them to do, to reinvest locally.
“We’d love for them to put ads in the local paper like The Leader. We’d love for them to support some of our festivals the way they used to do with the jazz festival. We want to bring them back and let know there are businesses right here in your backyard. You should support local and not always go to the big box stores for what you need.”
Miller notes that when consumers patronize businesses in their own neighborhoods, it provides their communities with a dose of economic energy. “It’s protecting your property values,” he said, “because you want people to want to move here."
“People love living in neighborhoods like Manayunk and Chestnut Hill because of the strong retail stores and local Mom and Pop shops. There are real intricate things you can find locally and have conversation with the person that might have made it.”
The WOLBA, which has an active membership of about 30, is also working with the business community in Germantown (zip code 19144) to stimulate economic activity there.
“Germantown we’re being a little more aggressive with,” he said, “because there are a lot of open storefronts (in the community); far more than there are in West Oak Lane and we’re trying to get somebody in those storefronts. Having those empty storefronts, the buildings are deteriorating and it’s just a missed opportunity.”
Miller says the association is encouraging realtors who control some of those empty Germantown storefronts to lend a hand to aspiring by offering them reduced rents to help them get their businesses off the ground.
“Instead of looking for your $1,000-1,500 and getting nothing,” he said, “let’s start them off at $250 so they can get their footing and then start increasing it.”
The association also envisions using some of those vacant spaces in Germantown to host what might be described as seminars for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Keep your rent sign up,” Miller says, “and let people get to see what the space is like. We’d come in with a table or two and serve wine and cheese, and educate that group about something.”
‘Something’ might include anything from establishing good business credit to tips on hiring and marketing, to keeping track of tax obligations, to building a good team to stimulate new ideas.”
Miller says the idea behind all this is to not only encourage individuals to launch new businesses but also to give them the tools to successfully do so.
“We love to reach people who are thinking about stating something,” he said. “We try to get people to look at long-term wealth. Not just paying your bills and surviving. But stopping the cycle of poverty, stopping the cycle of having bad credit.
“We want you to understand that if you’re trading time for money, which a lot of us are doing, working nine to five, you can only make so much money. But if you come up with your own vison, you plant that seed and you get other to sow that seed with you, you can create wealth, for your whole generation. And then you can help somebody else do the same.
“We want to teach you to execution, having ideas isn’t good enough you have to be willing to execute on it. You’ve got to take a little risk.”
Miller says efforts like this are designed in part to inspire young people in the community to broaden their horizons and dream dreams of their own.
“We want them to get a snapshot into the rest of the world,” he said. “You’ll never know how to become a doctor if you don’t know a doctor You’ll never know how to become an attorney if you don’t know any attorneys.
“And it’s not that they have to go into those professions. But to have somebody as a resource locally that you can talk to and ask ‘Why did you go into finance, or insurance? Or ‘how did you start making jewelry?,’ or ‘Why did you open this dry cleaner?’"