Quaboag Valley CDC helping a small business to recover and grow after tornado.

August 28th, 2013 by

Tibbetts Optical is a 17 year old retail optical shop owned and operated by Brenda Tibbetts, a sole proprietor, for the past two and a half years. She's grown the business from gross sales of $101,055 in 2011 to $130,714 in 2012.  It is now a very attractive retail storefront business in downtown Monson.  Brenda is an active participant in the downtown merchants group.   

Brenda Tibbetts has 15 years of experience as an optician and a passion for “helping others feel good about their eyewear."  She was a manager at Lens Crafters for 10 years and also has two years experience teaching opticians. In late 2010, she purchased an existing practice in Monson that had been in operation for 15 years. Shortly after opening the business, the June 2011 tornado destroyed much of downtown Monson and blew the roof off Brenda’s store. Much of the refurbishing work, equipment, and inventory purchases were financed with two low interest rate credit cards.  However, the credit cards now carry rates as high as 20%.

Adding to the credit card burden, Brenda’s spouse, Raymond, who has his own drywall contracting company, recently injured his back.  This required surgery that will keep him out of work for more than 6 months.

A request for bank financing within the last year was declined due to the business’s high debt to income ratio and length of time in business.

Brenda asked QVCDC for assistance in preparing for another approach to a bank. QVCDC staff, augmented by consulting help from a Certified Public Accountant, completed a financial review and identified several steps Brenda could take to improve her financial position and record keeping. As a result, Brenda made significant changes in order to reduce expenses.  She made improvements to her accounting system and corrected previous errors. She learned what inventory moves and which is more profitable.

With help from Quaboag Valley CDC, Brenda identified that her main competition comes from a business in Palmer, and that she has some competition from WalMart in Ware.  Accordingly, she’s repositioned her business to feature her consultative selling skills, better selection of merchandise and fast and accurate service because she cuts many of her own lenses.

Due to her extensive industry contacts in western and central Massachusetts, Brenda receives many referrals to her shop from colleagues. She has demonstrated her ability to persevere through setbacks, and has the willingness and capacity to become more strategic in her business operations.

The assistance and improved finances helped Brenda obtain the capital for needed equipment.

QVCDC’s next steps with this client are to help her use the more accurate financial information to put together a financing package to refinance her high rate credit card debt.

By Gail Farnsworth French, Quaboag Valley CDC

Commenting Closed

What we can learn from Apple iPhone Commercials

August 19th, 2013 by John Fitterer

I like stories and I find that the best stories, the ones worth reading again, connect with me on a deeper level.  It’s not the hero’s adventure or the amazing experiences the protagonist has going up against their antagonist that catches and holds my attention as much as it is the emotional link that is created somehow between the story and me.  Because we live in a world of commercials and crass advertisements of every kind, it’s hard not to be bitter, cynical and downright irritated at our blatantly overexposed, oversold world.  It’s almost impossible for me to become connected to anything in any commercial.  But on occasion, something will catch my attention and linger with me just a little bit.  This is true with Apple’s recent iPhone commercials where they move away from the tech and just show how their product has changed our lives.  I think that CDC staff engaged in prospecting for new donors through the CITC program can learn from this marketing approach because we can easily get caught up talking about housing units and how we run one program or another, when what really matters, what really catches people’s attention are the people that we work with and help out through our efforts each and every day.

In order to understand a little bit more about what I’m talking about, check out the Apple commercials on their website.  The story here is about music and our lives in one commercial and photographs in another.  We are connecting to our world and sharing it with others in ways that simply didn’t exist six years ago when the iPhone first debuted.  Apple knows how profoundly they’ve changed our world and they’re able to capture that in video collages or thumbnails sketches that glimpse at how significant these changes are to our lives.  But our work in helping transform our communities isn’t any different.  When we build a home or a new store front, when we prevent a family from losing their home through foreclosure, when we work with a small business and help them finance a new location or expand online, we’re helping change the way people live, grow, share and support each other.  This is the message that Apple captures in their commercials, and we shouldn’t shy away from sharing our own stories with the world.

I can hear many of you pushing back that we can’t afford to capture our work this way.  Apple has tons of money to spend on marketing and we don’t.  This is true.  But the stories aren’t any different.  Find the time to collect the stories and the experiences behind your work and learn about the many ways you can share them with people.  Thanks to smartphones, we can capture events and without too much editing publish them to YouTube and then release a notice to the world through Twitter.  Will your end product look as polished as Apple’s?  No, but it doesn’t need to be.  Our stories, told compellingly, will engage very well without a multimillion dollar marketing budget.

We owe it to ourselves and our organizations to take the time to learn how to share with others what it is we do and why.  As we reach out to new donors, we’re going up against other worthy nonprofits with great missions.  We must learn how to connect with people not simply because we do lots of great stuff, but because at the end of the day, we are helping revitalize communities one individual and family at a time.

Commenting Closed

MACDC Members Receive Funding for Small Business Development

August 19th, 2013 by John Fitterer

Thirteen MACDC members will be receiving nearly $450,000 in new funding to support their Small Business Technical Assistance programs thanks to a new round of funding announced by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC).   The funding is part of a larger $700,000 state program administered by MGCC that provides grants to CDCs and other nonprofits working to start and grow small businesses in low- and moderate-income communities across the state.

"This funding will allow us to work with more small businesses that have potential to develop and hire more employees. This award is for Franklin County, Valley and Hilltown CDCs as we continue to work together to better serve businesses in western MA." - John Waite, Franklin County CDC

MACDC members that will receive funding under the program are:

  • Franklin County CDC
  • Valley CDC
  • Hilltown CDC
  • Quaboag Valley CDC
  • Twin Cities CDC
  • Greater Gardner CDC
  • RCAP
  • CTI
  • SMOC/Martin Luther King Center
  • CEDC – Southeastern Mass.
  • Community Development Partnership
  • Jamaica Plain NDC
  • LISC (on behalf of local CDCs in Boston)

MACDC has championed the Small Business Technical Assistance program since we were able to first get it established in 2006. Since 2011, the program has been managed by MGCC which also provides discounted capital to CDCs and CDFIs engaged in small business development lending. MGCC is a quasi-public agency established in 2010 to support small businesses throughout the state. In addition to supporting CDCs and CDFIs, MGCC is a direct lender and technical assistance provider to small firms and makes nearly $20 million in loans per year.

Commenting Closed

Affordable Housing Bond Bill Advances, But Troubling 40B Language Tempers Excitement

August 5th, 2013 by Joe Kriesberg

MACDC and other affordable housing advocates were very pleased to see the State Senate pass a $1.4 billion Affordable Housing Bond Bill on July 30 that will ensure continued funding for state housing programs and also increases the State Low Income Housing Tax Credit from $10 million annually to $20 million. The bill, which has already passed the House, now goes to a Conference Committee to resolve the relatively minor differences between the two bills. It will then go to the Governor for his signature – possibly as soon as this September.

Unfortunately, the Senate included troubling language related to Chapter 40B, the state's affordable housing law, designed to address specific concerns in the towns of Milton and Norwood. This is the first time that the Legislature has enacted legislation that amends Chapter 40B and sets a dangerous precedent that might motivate opponents of 40B projects in other cities and towns to pursue similar legislation. This sort of ad hoc, case-by-case approach to Chapter 40B would dramatically weaken the law, increase the risk to developers and cause chaos in the development community. It is precisely the wrong direction for a state that needs more housing and more affordable housing – not less.

MACDC will be working with CHAPA and others to urge the Governor to veto this language and we are confident that we can sustain such a veto – but only if the entire housing community rallies to the effort.

MACDC thanks those Senators who voted to protect the Affordable Housing Law: Senator Jamie Eldridge (Housing Bond Bill Senate sponsor), Senator Michael Barrett, Senator Gale Candaras, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senator Katherine Clark, Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Senator Sal DiDomenico, Senator Benjamin Downing, Senator Barry Finegold, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Senator Robert Hedlund, Senator Michael Knapik, Senator Richard Ross, Senator Bruce Tarr, and Senator Dan Wolf.

Commenting Closed
Subscribe to News