Chase’s Mission Main Street Grants program is offering small businesses the opportunity to compete for a $100,000 grant to improve their business. Florida Farmers Market & Cafe would benefit greatly from this opportunity, and we need your help! Businesses must get at least 250 votes to move on to the next round for consideration, so we need for you to show your support in the form of a vote. Voting is free and can only be done once, so we need at least 250 of you to cast your vote for FFM to move on in the competition. Just so you know exactly what you are voting for, I have published a copy of the grant application questionnaire and my answers. Please support us in our efforts to expand and continue our community efforts in Paxton!
Mission Main Street Grants Questionnaire:
1. Tell us about your business and what makes it unique. Please provide a general description of your product, customers, competitive landscape, and overall performance.
A: We are an oasis to our local community because we offer products and services no one else offers to our rural area. Farmers needed a place to sell produce locally, we built it. There was no restaurant in our town, Paxton, FL; so we created one. (Laurel Hill is actually 10 miles away, but they deliver our mail, so we have Laurel Hill mailing addresses in Paxton.) Locals had to drive 30+ miles to buy someone a decent gift or an educational book or toy for a kid, so we set up a gift shop. Local organizations needed a place to get t-shirts and uniforms printed, so we set up a print shop in the back office. We don’t have any local competitors aside from one gas station in our town, so our customers have to drive quite some distance for competitive products and services. We take advantage of the situation by offering such a wide array under one roof, but we still remain competitively priced for our area. We want to be helpful to our community and our local economy rather than be a drain on it by price gouging as businesses with little to no competition often do.
2. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur? Describe both your greatest achievements and biggest challenges.
A: I have been an entrepreneur since I was first able to buy and sell; it’s in my blood. My wife and I saw a need for farmers to have a place to sell produce. We have farms all around us, but there is nowhere within 30 miles for them to sell their produce. The cafe and gift shop were added to the idea as a way to keep the business more steady due to the seasonal nature of produce. It turns out that those parts of the business are more important to our community than produce selling. We have really positively impacted our community with the cafe and gift shop by becoming a place where people can meet, eat, and shop. It’s a serious achievement to even survive as a business in a small town, so we are proud that we are thriving. Our biggest challenge has been organizing farmers to sell produce to the public. They work hard in the fields all the time, so they have little time to spare for selling produce while the fields await their return. We are working on ways to take the burden of selling away for them. The public wants local produce.
3. How is your business involved with the community you serve? Examples include: giving back to the community, sourcing locally, and/or contributing to economic development via hiring.
A: You can see that any effort in a small rural town is needed and appreciated, so we do what we can every day to serve our community. We are a major supporter and facilitator of a local 501(c)3 non-profit organization called, Cancer Freeze. We help them throughout the year hosting events, selling goods in our store that benefit them 100%, and volunteering our time, supplies, and equipment to help their truly charitable cause. We give locals a free place to gather and have club meetings, play bridge, or just hang out with friends and family. Monthly we host a craft show for local artisans to sell their wares. We also host many free events throughout the year for children like outdoor movie showings, a huge Halloween party, kid craft days, and visits from Santa to name a few. Economically we impact by buying local produce and products when possible, and hiring local people to help us operate day to day. Local artisans can consign their wares in our gift shop keeping money spent in our store here in our community. Our #1 focus is the local economy and our community.
4. What would a $100,000 grant mean to your business and how will you utilize the funds? Please be as specific as possible.
A: A $100,000 grant would allow us to make an even bigger impact in our community. It would allow us to expand our operation by giving us the means to improve our facility, hire more staff, and provide more outreach in getting produce from local farms to local tables. Specifically we are in need of more restrooms which we would add on outdoors to the side of our building to handle all of the extra traffic generated by our events. We also need to run electricity to each stall in our outdoor market. We currently have to run extension cords and discourage the use of electricity unless it is absolutely necessary. A lack of cooler space has always been a problem for us, and we would like to offer betters ways to keep produce cool to reduce spoilage to better serve our farmers as well as customers with the freshest produce possible. An additional employee would also help us tremendously because we are doing so much with so few people. Adding even one employee would increase our productivity and give us the ability to do more with our time spent building our community through our business.
5. What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term growth plans for the business? How will this grant contribute to your plan?
A: As business has increased over the last 2 years, we are starting to see a little profit which will help us to reduce our business debt. Getting this grant would allow us to expand our business and community outreach efforts without incurring more business debt. We are in a position where we are holding steady and recovering from the initial investment involved in opening and developing the business. Being able to do the things specified in question #4 without adding debt would be so helpful to accomplishing our goals faster and more efficiently. In a small town, $100,000 is a lot of money, and we would make the most of it by using it to expand and improve our business, which will improve our community. We’ve already made a major impact in our community just by opening our doors, but a grant like this will help us greatly to continue community support efforts for our town. In a year, we can do all that we have discussed. However, we want to be here for many years to come and not fizzle like so many other businesses around us have done due to poor business support, practices, and/or lack of funds.