A few months ago, a group of small business owners north of downtown Colorado Springs decided they needed more business, more attention and more community involvement.
And the North Central Business Partnership was born.
So far, 22 businesses have joined the fledgling group, and organizers hope to attract more — offering them combined marketing plans and ways to reach a larger number of customers.
The brainchild of Pam Clausen, who owns Clausen Books with her husband Doug, the business district considers itself as kind of a “marketing co-op.”
“We’re growing quickly — all this in just a few weeks,” she said. “Twenty-two members — not bad for organizing on March 21.”
She came up with the idea simply because there wasn’t anything available to aid small businesses in the area with their marketing needs.
The Clausens belong to a couple of similar groups, including the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. That group has a five-state flyer showing where antique booksellers are in the area, and giving a description of the inventory.
“We only pay $75 a year to be part of it, and it has been tremendously beneficial,” she says. “So I thought we could do something similar for $50 a year — even the smallest businesses can get involved then.”
Clausen said the businesses were too far away from downtown’s core to be part of the Downtown Partnership.
“And, you know, no other business group has ever contacted us about being members, and we’ve been here 13 years,” she said. “So there was a real need here — to let people know what’s in their own backyards.”
Since Clausen started the group, interest has grown from a handful of stalwarts to nearly two dozen, all wanting to get the word out about the small, locally owned businesses that dot the neighborhoods.
“It’s surprising,” she said. “Even business owners don’t know about the available companies that are in the neighborhood. And that’s one thing that’s been invaluable in just a few short months, how much business has picked up for the members, just from the networking alone.”
Clausen’s excitement over the new project is contagious, and she says businesses are signing on every week to be part of the group. She’s sent out letters to prospective members, inviting them to join the group at its weekly meeting, usually held at Dogtooth Coffee on Corona Street.
The boundaries include Interstate 25 to the west, Fillmore Street to the north, Union Boulevard to the east and Willamette Street to the south. It’s not a large area, but there are many small businesses — some of them very new — in the area that includes the neighborhoods of the Old North End, Middle Shooks Run, Bon, Patty Jewett, Roswell and Divine Redeemer.
“We’re looking for more businesses to join — and then we can do more,” Clausen said. “But we think it’s time to get organized to get the word out about what we want to do.”
The group is starting small. The city of Colorado Springs has printed maps of the boundaries of the district, and the group is adding its members, which range from florists like Twigs & Posies to Stockmens Bank.
Overall, the goal is to raise awareness of the businesses tucked into the neighborhoods north of downtown, which seems to get most of the attention from both politicians and business development groups.
Clausen’s effort is strictly grassroots, and she welcomes more marketing ideas. She has started a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/NCBPofCS. First off, the group plans to print brochures with the map and business descriptions to hand out at two large annual neighborhood events: the Patty Jewett yard sale and the Old North End yard sale.
Their job is a little more challenging than that of the Downtown Partnership or the decades-old Old Colorado City Merchants Association. Both those organizations include businesses that are within walking distance of each other, while the NCBP covers more ground — and more residential areas.
OCC hosts regular events and touts its businesses on a website. Its membership dues are $200 annually to promote the businesses in its area. It provides marketing help and partners with other city attractions to aid membership.
Clausen says they’ll get there, but not for a while.
“It’s early days,” she said. “I can envision this growing into a real marketing tool using social media. If members have special events or bargains, they can promote it through Facebook or through the organization. It’s easy to see where we can go. Right now, we’re encouraging businesses to become part of this. It’s very exciting.”
She says the reception so far shows the deep need for better promotions and marketing in the northern business district.
“We have the support of the Old North End neighborhood,” she said. “That group’s mission is to promote neighborhood businesses, and they were thrilled someone was stepping in to help with that piece.”
Businesses are thrilled with the help as well, Clausen says.
“There’s a real need here,” she said. “And we’re going to see what we can do to help with those marketing needs.”