Small business owners are staying optimistic almost two years into the pandemic- but the uncertainty brings forward a lot of unforeseen challenges. Supporting small businesses is essential- and that goes far beyond National Small Business Week. After all, with an estimated 32.5 million small businesses in the U.S., small business owners are the backbone of our economy. In the Commonwealth, small businesses account for as many as 99.5% of the state’s businesses, and they need our support.
This blog post features three Massachusetts-based small businesses that received just-in-time training grants from Commonwealth Corporation’s Workforce Training Fund Express Program. As grantees, the three businesses, The Hiccup, FlexProfessionals, and Lisa Dahl Wellnesses, have been working on enhancing their marketing strategies by taking a one-on-one course with Express Program training provider and marketing/ public relations consultant Robin Samora.
Located just 20 minutes outside of Boston in seaside Swampscott, The Hiccup is not your typical gift shop. In honor of Leap Year, Lisa Boemer opened the curated boutique shop on February 29th, 2020, and just as doors opened, they had to close due to the pandemic. Pivoting through the challenges as the storefront closed, Boemer sold merchandise online, even delivering candles and puzzles to local community members amidst the lockdown- until it was safe to reopen.
At The Hiccup, Lisa Boemer wanted to create a place where locals and tourists could find anything they wanted or perhaps something they didn’t know they wanted before coming into the shop. In her own words, she wants to “create the unexpected.”
“The shop has all different kinds of items, from beautiful bags hand-made by local artists to Jelly cat toys from the U.K.,” said Boemer. She created not just a shop but a unique experience that only a local entrepreneur with a passion for its community can provide.
The town of Swampscott, located in Essex County, is known to be a beautiful and tranquil seaside community offering a friendly, welcoming environment to tourists. The Hiccup is conveniently situated in the center of it all, so customers can come to the shop, walk a couple of blocks down to have a nice lunch at a family-owned restaurant, and then take an afternoon walk at the beach.
Boemer says she is beyond grateful for the way both locals and tourists have embraced her business, “Every customer who comes here will always leave with at least one item, or they will always say: ‘I need to come back here!” she said, and that’s the magic of The Hiccup.
Even after reopening her storefront, Lisa faced many challenges, especially with COVID waves and severe winter weather in Massachusetts. But she is hopeful that business will pick up as summer returns and tourists wave through town.
Through the Express Program, Commonwealth Corporation has granted training funds to The Hiccup that have allowed small businesses like Lisa’s to grow. The small business owner is excited to see the grant going into her upcoming project: working with Robin Samora on a map highlighting all the amazing small businesses around town.
Boston based small business, FlexProfessional, matches businesses with talented professionals looking for unconventional employment opportunities. Leanne Rodd leads the recruiting and programming in the Boston Metro area, and she says job seekers come to Flex with ten or more years of experience looking for flexible work.
As season employees, business professionals come to Flex with “top-notch skills” in a wide range of areas, including Finance & Accounting, Administration, Sales & Marketing, Human Resources, Business Development, Project Management, Web Development, Research & Analysis, Technical & Proposal Writing, Training, and Legal.
As organizations reopened, Rodd says FlexProfessionals saw a slow recovery trend in 2021 after the second wave of Covid and is now experiencing strong growth in 2022. Adapting to their customer’s needs, they expanded to not just focus on part-time employment opportunities but also help candidates get into full-time and other flexible positions.
With training funds granted through the Express Program, FlexProfessionals was quickly able to implement fresh marketing strategies to strengthen its recruitment efforts.
Lisa Dahl Wellness
After experiencing the toxic diet and weight-loss culture firsthand, Lisa Dahl started her wellness program hoping to empower women to live joyfully, feel energized, and find freedom in their relationships with food and body. Her Bolton, Mass. home has become a sanctuary for those hoping to break free from dieting and heal their relationship with food and body. Through her business, “Lisa Dahl Wellness,” she offers individual coaching and group coaching on Intuitive Eating and Body Image. Her group program “Body Peace & Food FreedomBody Peace & Food Freedom” is a 6-month program helping participants ditch their diets and cultivate sustainable and healthy practices.
At Lisa Dahl Wellness, programs are community-based, with no more than 10-12 participants in every group coaching program. She says this creates a close-knit community where women find connections, support, and education. In addition, they develop unique friendships that last long after the program ends. Body Peace & Food Freedom “is a one-on-one coaching experience in a small group setting,” said Dahl. “I want to create an environment where women can support each other, changing how women perceive themselves and helping them accept themselves in a positive light.”
She says participants learn to listen, trust and respect their bodies and become happy, healthy, and confident through the journey. Currently, coaching is online through Zoom. Her next Body Peace & Food Freedom program starts on May 25th. Learn more about it here.
Through the Express Program and the training provided by Robin Samora, Lisa Dahl Wellness is going through an exciting marketing overhaul, working on increasing visibility, collaborating with other small businesses, enhancing its social media presence, and increasing its participation in podcasts.