A LIVE ONE: Snappa Charter Boat Captain Charlie Donilon in Narragansett was advised by a Mastermind group to launch a dedicated ash-burial website. Since then, his business has grown from three customers a year to 20, he said.
Josh Hatfield, a registered nurse who owns a 5-year-old, Web-based, medical-supply company in East Greenwich, had never heard of “nurture marketing” until he met David Nash at a TeamWorks Mastermind meeting in Coventry.
With some help from Nash, who with other business experts helps facilitate group meetings in five other towns as part of the Rhode Island Small Business Recovery Program, Hatfield launched a targeted letter-writing campaign to 300 potential clients for Direct Buy Medical, which supplies incontinence products, wound-care dressings and ostomy supplies.
Within two months, he had heard back from 10 and added three new accounts. “That doesn’t sound like much of a response,” Hatfield conceded, “but from a business-to-business standpoint, that’s not bad early on.”
Whether through Mastermind-like programs, the collective wisdom afforded by “collaboration circles” or incubator accelerator programs for startups, small-business owners are leaving the cocoon of inward analysis and self-protection in order to share strategies confidentially, mentor one another, build partnerships and lasting relationships, and trust in the promise of future growth, experts say.
“There are a lot of fabulous things happening in Rhode Island,” said Lauren E.I. Slocum, president of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, which is one of the Small Business Recovery Program resource providers. “We need to make that contagious. That [business] relationship needs to be built before you’re in a fire sale. Find your network. Find your support system today, because they are going to help you grow through the positive times and deal with the negative times.”
Held in Coventry, Lincoln, East Greenwich, South Kingstown and in two locations in Warwick, the 10-member Mastermind meetings have helped a gift-shop retailer build a mutually beneficial relationship with a travel agent, a home-tutoring business owner remake her image, and a sea captain more effectively advertise ash burials online.