Celebrating #ShopSmall — My Best of Berks

As a local business owner, I constantly think about how I can support other local businesses. I have a few favorites that I definitely use to help me personally, and for my company. 

  1. Chamber of Commerce – Women2Women: I have enjoyed being a member of Women2Women. The organization hosts monthly events that I’ve participated in, which have been great for personal and career development. I also participated in their Lean In circle. Through it, I not only met a great group of women, but I learned and thought about things I never would have before. It was an experience that has proven to be invaluable.
  2. Jump Start Incubator – I wrote a BCL article (now on my blog) about why I think the incubator is fabulous! It’s a great place for anyone looking to take his or her business idea to the next level. Through mentorship, guidance and getting a built-in team, it’s a great way to launch your business idea.
  3. Jersey Ink – I have been using Jersey Ink for about three years now. I met the mother and daughter team, Sue and Christina, through a friend of mine. They have been a wonderful help to my business. I use them for promotional products, but love their willingness to work with me on anything. They put up with me when I give short deadlines. Jersey Ink has also been able to design items from concept to product. I love their excitement and desire to work with local businesses. They want to make sure I get the best product at a great price that meets my needs.
  4. Bell Tower – I have loved the Bell Tower boutique for years. But the reason I love it goes beyond the clothing they offer. Samara and Dara are great stylists! I have visited before different meetings, not knowing what to wear or how to put myself together. They’ve helped select the perfect outfit, so I could feel confident and ready to rock my meeting. Samara and Dara know and understand my style and always choose great items. They have helped me create a wardrobe so that I can just grab and go. I’m prepared for any event. I never have to think about what I’m going to wear, because I know I’m going to feel confident and look great!
  5. A Running Start – I was introduced to A Running Start a few years ago when I moved back to Reading. Sorita, the owner, has a friendly and knowledgeable team ready to help. I visited looking to find running shoes and they were very thorough, which I really appreciated since I was dealing with bunion issues. Now that I’ve had surgery, they’ve been equally as helpful getting me back in to the swing of things. I found a pair of running shoes that helped me not hate running! Their friendly staff, weekly runs and sponsored events definitely bring the community together to live healthy, active lives!
  6. Corpsfitness – Along the line of fitness, I’ve loved having a place like Corpsfitness at my disposal. Chris Kaag has developed a great workout program and provides a great experience, all the while developing a sense of community. I know that when I go to a class, I’m greeted by smiling faces, all welcoming, even though we are about to be put through a tough workout! There’s a social piece to Corpsfitness that I’ve really enjoyed. Everyone is there to work out together, but also to connect. It’s a great place for when I need to release some stress.
  7. Café Bold – I work from home or the incubator for the most part, but sometimes I need something different. I love stopping in at Café Bold for a change of scenery. It’s a lovely place to meet with people and with off street parking in the back, it’s super easy. They have great food, so I definitely don’t mind scheduling a lunch meeting there.

With these places in mind, take a few minutes to reflect on those local businesses that help with your everyday. Consider sharing your favorites and frequenting them over the holiday season with friends and family. One thing I’ve learned is the importance of small business and local organizations and the hardworking people that are keeping them going.

This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Berks County Living

Why I Joined the Jump Start Incubator

I just recently learned about the business incubators springing up in big cities around the country. This concept has actually been around for years, and I had no idea that one exists here in Reading! I met with Jump Start Incubator in the fall and was invited to apply and was accepted in January. Here’s why I think every start-up business should spend some time in a business incubator:

Katie Kozloff of Katie K Active at Jump Start Incubator

Katie Kozloff of Katie K Active at Jump Start Incubator

  1. Mentors. I am a big believer in mentors. They have encountered things in their careers and lives that have imparted valuable lessons that can only be learned through experience. Having them share their knowledge and life lessons is not only interesting, but a great way to learn. I’ve learned how to handle certain situations and look at issues differently as well as get new ideas.
  2. Community Connections. Through the incubator, I’ve had the opportunity to be introduced to and to connect with individuals in our community that may be able to provide help and insight into my business. I’ve also been introduced to local companies that provide services that may help grow my business. When I have expressed an issue that I’m facing, the incubator’s staff has been able to introduce me to local businesses or people in the community who have the expertise in those areas that I’m struggling in. I have talked with people in positions at companies that I would not have had the opportunity to meet with at this point in my career. It’s amazing to be able to meet with successful people who are willing to help me.
  3. Finance. As a member of the Incubator, I have the opportunity to work closely with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). They have someone there to answer any accounting questions I may have, to make sure I know how to use QuickBooks, and to help me make sure my business is financially healthy. They can help when you are ready to talk to the bank about a loan or when you’re looking to take on investors. Overall, it’s great to have a group of financial experts at your fingertips.
  4. Expanded Team. I’m not sure about all incubators, but the Berks Jump Start Incubator has employees and interns. Immediately, my team was expanded without me having to actually hire anyone. I’ve used the Incubator’s staff for a variety of tasks such as creating marketing pieces, compiling targeted media lists and researching industry topics. As a small business owner, I wear many hats, and it’s great when there is help to complete all the tasks that need to be done so I can feel less overwhelmed and actually get to everything I want to and need to accomplish to keep growing my business.
  5. Goal Setting/Accountability. As with anything, planning and staying focused is important. As a member of the Incubator, I have signed on to be a part of their program for two years. At the end of the two years I graduate, but I am responsible for deciding what that means. I must create my two-year goal for what I want to get out of the Incubator, what I want to accomplish and where I want to be. This is the point at which I “graduate” and would consider the program a success. I must lie out my goals, break them down into smaller goals, and create deadlines in order to figure out how to complete my overall larger goals. I meet with Ray Melcher to measure where I am and to discuss how it’s going and to make sure I stay on track. Being accountable to someone more than myself as well as having some input on how to accomplish my goals has been a great way to stay focused on the big picture while working on the steps to get there.

For more info on the Jump Start Incubator, visit jumpstartberks.org.