Growing up, my family was big on two sports. Football and baseball. Fall and winter was filled with college and pro football, then spring training and the baseball season would take us right through the summer and back into fall and football again.
I spent a lot of time at Turner Field with my dad. It was a decade of great baseball, and we were pretty sad that they decided to move the team. There were a lot of memories at that ballpark and it was hard to imagine seeing Braves baseball somewhere else.
However, we certainly were very happy about the new stadium being built closer to the house, right here in Cobb County (a fact that helped my dad take this move better than when the Braves moved out of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium). While I do love baseball, I also love the perks that come with a modern ballpark. Suntrust Field promised new amenities and would actually be designed for baseball instead of a repurposed (but still great) Olympic stadium.
And because it was being built in Cobb County, I knew they would do it right. Public transportation is easy to use to get yourself to the stadium. There are places to eat and shop even when the Braves aren’t playing at The Battery Atlanta. There are hotels for people who are coming in from out of town to enjoy the area and catch a game. There’s also the Coca-Cola Roxy, where you can see performances and concerts. The area around the stadium has become a social and economic hub of the county, which is fantastic.
The new stadium has a bunch of things that Turner field did not. The best thing, of course, is the parking. It has doubled! There’s still not enough, obviously – 14,000 spaces – but there is always “unofficial” spots that are available in the neighborhood thanks to some creative Cobb residents. There’s also more bathrooms and stalls. That probably doesn’t mean much to guys, but us gals don’t miss as much of the game as we used to when waiting for a stall to free up. And who doesn’t love the Lego tomahawk at the main entrance? I love watching games here just as much as I did as a kid back at Turner.
I do like the fact that Turner Field is still standing and has been renovated. It shows that Atlanta has a real commitment to the area around the old stadium. I am happy to see that the businesses in the surrounding area haven’t been abandoned now that the Braves have moved 20 minutes away. Turner Field has been rechristened as Parker H. Petit Field, and is now home to the Georgia State Panthers. It should also be home to Alliance Atlanta, an Alliance of American Football team, in the next year or so. It’s just an excellent use of resources and makes me appreciate my home state even more! I can’t wait to see what they do next.
If you run a business, you know that having connections within your community can really help things along. Whether you need suppliers, information, or other services, working with other businesses and the people who run them is just smart. However, it can be difficult for you to make these sort of connections. Especially if you live in a larger area or somewhere that businesses are more spread out, it can be a lot of legwork and time consuming to really network effectively. You’re probably thinking there has to be a smarter way to do things, and you would be right.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce. While membership fees and benefits vary from place to place, one thing that you will definitely find is support. Your local Chamber is very active within the community and will advocate for your business when necessary with local, state, and federal officials. That’s a huge help, especially when you are the little guy and being taken advantage of. Some Chambers host luncheons or receptions with speakers to give you information or education, or simply provide a way to network.
Another great benefit is that you can expand your visibility. Your local Chamber likely has a website with a searchable company database. People will be able to look online to find any type of service they’re looking for. If you are not part of the Chamber, you’re not going to be listed. And this site will provide a level of comfort to the consumer, as they know there are operating standards all members should follow. In addition, the larger the organization, the more likely you will receive special pricing on goods and services through specific companies that are either part of the Chamber themselves or through bulk-business accounts. Your business may also be listed in Welcome or Newcomer kits that are disseminated to people who move to the area.
Our local Chamber also has a Board of Directors and a Board of Advisors, which help to promote a business-friendly agenda and makes decisions for the organization as a whole. They are also the ones who handle the voting for the Chamber Awards – great categories like Small Business of the Year, Next Generation Award, and all kinds of other things that will look great framed and on your wall where everyone can see it.
So, I hope that you can see what sort of benefits are in store for you. I joined as soon as I could afford to and I have never regretted it! You get to meet other people and exchange ideas. You get discounts on services and advertising. You get to be more of a part of the community and have advocates on your side when you need it. Your business and employees are recognized for doing well, and you are also supporting economic development in your area. Check out what your local Chamber can offer you and decide for yourself.
I’ve owned my own business since I was 18 years old. It has grown and evolved over time, and going to college to get a degree in Business slowed me down at first but has paid off tremendously. I don’t regret it for a second! If you’re interested in starting a small business, I’m going to give you a few things to think about. I’m sure you can find lots of materials about how to run a business successfully that gives you great pointers. This is not that. This post just contains thoughts I had that have helped me and could help you too.
First, if you are going to be a small business owner, do something that you love. You are going to be working long hours and handling a significant amount of challenges. If you don’t love and believe in what you are doing, you will not make it. It is so much easier to find that second (or third, or fourth) wind to get yourself back up and going when you actually care about what you do.
Second, you’re going to need help to get established, so choose somewhere that is pro-small business. I’ve been really lucky that I get to work and live in a place that is as business-friendly as Cobb County has been. If you aren’t sure about what your area has to offer, visit your local Chamber of Commerce to find out more. Another great way to learn about businesses are to talk to other storefront owners in the area and listen to what they have to say – ask about neighborhood safety, commercial or industrial space landlords, and about resources.
Third, location matters. Now, you may think that isn’t the most original tip, but you need to include all aspects of your business. I am not just talking foot traffic. I am also talking parking for customers and employees, visibility of signage and accessible routes to your location, outdoor lighting, your ability to customize your space, alarm systems, crime rates, as well as EMS response times. There are a ton of other things to consider as well. Depending on your business, being near certain types of transportation can also be beneficial. For example, if you import lots of goods, being near an airport like Hartsfield-Jackson will make life easier. If you do huge mailings or do a lot of your sales online, being near a post office or a shipping company will cut down on the time it takes to get orders out.
Being your own boss can be really rewarding but it is also extremely difficult. Learning all you can before you get started about the market, your target customer, and the area will definitely help you on your way. I wish you all the best, and please consider being a neighbor here in Cobb County.