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Was it a dream? A chance encounter? A leap of faith?

Whatever path lead you to your journey of owning a business, there’s always a story to tell and lessons to learn along the way.

For Clinton and Laura Gangloff, opening their specialty pet store in Wilmington, Delaware was a dream three years in the making.

“I've owned a few businesses in my life and my wife is coming up on 20 years working at a local school district. We really wanted to come up with something that we could do together and enjoy and not have the same pressures that we've had in the past in our other jobs,” explained Clinton.

The Gangloff household has always been full of dogs. Clinton and Laura loved the services their dog walker was providing and realized…they could do more about their love of animals. So the idea of opening a pet store was born. riverfront

I mean, how can you say no to puppies??

In the first few months of being open, Riverfront Pets is already seeing the positive impact from their community and the owners are using it to their advantage. Here are some tips on how you can do the same.

Why community matters in small business.

1. Businesses helping businesses.

Remember that journey we talked about above? If you look around you, there are tons of other business owners who went through the same thing as you and are working towards a similar goal. It pays to help each other out.

For example, Riverfront Pets paired up with a local brewery to create specialty dog treats from the brewery’s spent grains.riverfront

“It’s pretty cool because then you can pair the beer biscuits with the brewery’s beer and have a nice evening with your pet if you wish,” Clinton explained.

Sounds like a great idea to me!

“Thursday night we have a collaboration with the Delaware Humane Association for an adoption event. The wine store right down the street, Veritas Wine Store, will be doing a wine tasting at the same time. So we'll have wine and cheese at our event,” said Clinton.

Another example of businesses helping businesses: A local gym I belong to displayed exclusive coupons at the front desk for a new sandwich shop that recently opened in the same shopping center. It really could be as simple as that. 

Connect with your neighbors and see how you can work together to create something bigger for your local economy.

2. Location, location, location.

There’s a lot that goes into choosing the location for your business. Aside from permits and pricing, traffic patterns and accessibility, you ultimately want to choose a place that really feels like home.

riverfrontNestled right along the Delaware River in Wilmington, the riverfront is bursting with attractions for people of all ages.

It just so happens that Laura and Clinton live about 200 yards from the space along the riverfront that has now become their pet store. Talk about being a true piece of your community.

“We're really connected to the community. We love the riverfront. So we wanted to sort of bring that passion of loving Wilmington and Delaware to this store. I think generally down here all the businesses want to make the riverfront really vibrant. So they've been more than gracious with us,” said Clinton.

Embrace your location and let it help you enhance your brand presence. Consider doing things like a “Raleigh raffle” on the seventh day of each month or a “Pittsburgh pierogi cook-off” to celebrate National Pierogi Day (yes, that’s a thing).

Oh yeah, if you’re brave enough, you can even incorporate it into the name of your store, like Riverfront Pets did.

Be proud of your location and make it your own. As you can see, there are plenty of unique and small business budget-friendly ways to do this.

3. Collaboration on every level.

Collaboration is crucial in building a stronger sense of community. From the design conception to the execution, to hiring employees, Riverfront Pets took this idea to heart.

As Clinton admits, this collaborative approach was a little different than what he was used to, but it paid off in the end.

“Usually the businesses I’ve done are very top down. But this is more grass roots, community-based with a lot of integrated pieces with all the employees. First came the design concept, then looking for a space, and then incorporating our concept into an actual design. Since we position ourselves as a more high-end pet store, selling natural foods and products, we had to do a lot of background research work as well,” explained Clinton.

riverfrontOne of his best pieces of advice for aspiring business owners is to get a great team together before you even open your doors. The business world is so much about relationships these days, so the more connections you can make, the better.

“I personally believe that finding people to fit your vision is at least 90 percent about relationships. I don’t think we found any staff members through a resume,” said Clinton.

When it comes to marketing, Clinton said they feel connected on social media because their likes, follows, and reviews continue to rise. However, being a new business, they’re still coming across the people at the dog park a mile away who didn’t even realize their store exists.

To combat this, Clinton further explained that they’re focusing on relationships with other, more established businesses nearby as well as with people in the community.

“Our dog walker goes to the dog parks now and gives out free biscuits and a free dog wash if the people come into our store,” Clinton said.

A nice play on guerilla marketing, if you will. From your employees to the people in your community who could become customers, it’s so important to place value in collaboration if you want your small business to grow.

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Your community can be a huge factor in contributing to your success if you make the right moves. Help out the other small businesses around you, embrace your location, and collaborate on every level to get the most out of your area. Take notes from our client, Riverfront Pets, because they’ve got this concept nailed.

To learn more about Riverfront Pets, click here.

Follow them on Instagram here.