In looking back at 2018 and our plans for 2019, two main themes rise to the surface-creativity and innovation. As we work to continually strengthen the Chamber and the business community we have diligently worked to find new and innovative events, programs and resources to set Fostoria apart.
We have actively sought partners to help provide new resources to small business, such as our partnership with American Express as a Community Champion as well as teaming up with Google as a community partner to provide livestreams and workshops to help small business get found on Google and use data to drive growth. In addition, we continue to review our member benefit providers and have changed our energy cost saving provider to Community Energy Advisors, Partnership with CEA allows us to continue to provide you with cost savings on electricity and natural gas but also allows you to pass this benefit on to your employees as they offer services to residential customers as well. This is yet one more creative way we can increase the benefits we offer our members and have Chamber membership be a tool for employee recruitment and retention.
Our inclusion in a rural development grant with Great Lakes Community Action Partnership, formerly WSOS, has allowed us countless resources and opportunities we could not have accessed on our own.
One such opportunity was hosting Deb Brown, co-owner of Save your Town in December. During her visit she was able to meet with a large cross sections of our community, including students, and provide us some great feedback on what we are doing right as well as empower members of the community to get involved, take action and make positive change.
In addition, a small group of local business people will be trained as business coaches to further build and strengthen our small business footprint.
The grant program has also allowed us to build a network with other rural communities across the state where we have had the privilege to share our unique programs, specifically our youth entrepreneurship programs; Student Start Up and Kid’s Makers Market. In 2018 we launched our first year of Student Start Up as well as the first Kids Makers Market. Both exceeded our expectations and truly set us apart in working to develop young entrepreneurs. Our Kids Makers Market Christmas Edition, hosted 13 youth entrepreneurs in various downtown businesses, not only encouraging young people to run a business but also drive foot traffic to our downtown. Our Student Start Up program has already kicked off for 2019 as the application period is now open and we have added an expansion funding component for past participants. In addition, we will host a summer Kid’s Makers Market in conjunction with the July 20 Farmers’ Market.
We continue to work with small business and innovate to develop retail opportunities. Our seasonal shared retail space, Center Street Artisan Market gave start to a concept we hope to parlay into a year-round shared retail location. We are also working to bring pop up shops into the community in 2019 to allow Fostorians access to new retail while allowing retailers to test the market before committing to a brick and mortar space. We are also actively working to market our community to larger chain retailers.
It is with the creative partnerships and always seeking opportunity, we are happy to introduce a new product today which celebrates some of our local treasures. In December of 2018, Brian and Chelsea Bilger reached out to us. Brian owns Bilger’s Lawn and Landscape, the company responsible for the Downtown Streetscape work. Because of Brian’s wonderful experience in our community during the streetscape project, he and his wife Chelsea wanted to give back to our community. In addition to Bilger’s Lawn and Landscape, Brian and Chelsea own and operate the Tiffin Candle Co. They expressed interest in starting the Fostoria Candle Co. and asked if we would partner with them to bring the idea to life. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to showcase our community through a quality, small business made product.
It is with great pleasure we unveil the first four candles of the Fostoria Candle Co. here this morning. Each candle represents a local treasure, The Fostoria Farmers Market, The Fostoria Area Historical Museum, the Fostoria Glass Heritage Gallery and Historic Downtown Fostoria. $1 from the sale of each candle will be donated to the non profit organization represented or designated by each candle. A special thank you to Brian and Chelsea for the Fostoria Candle Co. and to Great Lakes Ace for wonderfully agreeing to sell the candles.
We had the great privilege of participating in many celebrations last year, which are highlighted in the 2018 Review as well as in our 2018 Chamber highlight video. The steady growth of new small business, continued reinvestment and growth show us Fostoria is moving in the right direction. 2019 has already brought many exciting announcements and openings-the announcement of Dunkin, the grand opening of the Urban Woody Brewery, St. Catherine’s Manor of Fostoria’s new assisted living neighborhood and physical therapy gym ribbon cutting and the reconstruction of a state of the art McDonald’s. This year shows no sign of slowing.
And there is always more to come, as we never cease brainstorming and developing innovative ideas. But of course none of this would be possible without you, our members. We thank you for your continued membership and look forward to another exciting year.
Sarah Stephens Krupp
Chamber/Small Business Director
Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce.