BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
That first, descriptive sentence has to pack a punch.
That's only the beginning, however, of the advice offered to small-business-owners during Thursday's day-long workshop at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
The Tennessee Main Street and Tennessee Downtowns Creative Community Summit aimed at getting the wheels turning and providing networking opportunities to small-business-owners across East Tennessee.
In fact, the free event drew merchants, developers, investors and municipal officials from 31 different communities -- from Nashville to Abingdon, Va., according to Main Street: Greeneville Director Jann Mirkov.
The morning session featured a four-hour workshop by Jon Schallert, president of a marketing consultant company, The Schallert Group.
"Building a Destination Business in Any Size Community" included highlights of about half of Schallert's 14-step principles for business-owners who want to create a "destination business": his term for those businesses able to draw customers from three or more hours away.
"These principles of being a destination work in urban communities or in rural communities," he said. "Consumers work the same way."
To begin, he encouraged business-owners to develop a unique statement that describes their business briefly, but in a way that captures emotion, especially in the first sentence.
"If branding works, you hit a consumer with an emotion," he said. "The average experience is the worst."
Schallert encouraged small-business-owners to embrace being a small business while still looking beyond their neighborhood or town.
"Why is it big companies want to be small, but we as small-business-owners don't emphasize our differences?" he asked.
He offered three methods for owners to spotlight their products with a "symbolic slap up-side the head" within those vital first seven seconds of when a customer walks in the door:
* offer more of any one item than any other business in the area;
* offer one-of-a-kind "signature" items; and,
* produce a large and eye-catching "monument" as a way of capturing the attention of customers and the news media.
"You don't have to remake your business," Schallert explained. "You just have to reposition your business."
THREE BLIND MICE
Local business-owners responded enthusiastically to Schallert's message, saying that it encouraged them to break away from their complacency.
"Boy, he opens your eyes to a lot!" said Susie Loven, owner of Three Blind Mice, located at 907 Erwin Highway, across from the Tusculum College campus.
The wheels were clearly already spinning in Loven's head by halfway through the presentation.
"Focal points ... You think you're doing a lot, but you forget the basics," she said. "When someone first comes into your shop, what brings them in?"
She said the big question turning through her thoughts was exactly that -- what would call customers of any age group into the shop?
"You can put so much into planning and miss the obvious," she said.
"I think it takes something like this to make you realize that. I can ask my girls. I can ask customers. I can ask for comments. But I need direction on the obvious."
Loven noted that she has been in the same location for 28 years, a fact that she said is not currently advertised inside her business, but will be soon, after Thursday's workshop advice.
"The first thing that I thought of is, when we first opened and the fun we had and what all we had to do," she said.
"I can go through my pictures, and I think it would be fun to blow that up."
MYERS PUMPKIN PATCH
Loven and Vera Ann Myers, of Myers Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze in Bulls Gap, agreed that networking and community support among business-owners could go a long way in Greeneville.
Thursday was Myers' second time hearing Schallert, but she said there was still plenty she planned to take away and apply to her business.
"It's that destination and having that monument that would make you want to come," she said.
"We can as small business or small operations get those numbers of people by doing what he says. Even though we're small, we don't have to be big to make it work."
The Myers Farm is located out Gap Creek Road, but that is certainly not too far to drive for customers looking for their special touch, Myers said.
"Some of my best friends won't come because they think it's too far away, yet we will get customers who will drive out of their way just to come to us," she noted.
That dichotomy presents an interesting challenge that Myers said she is enthusiastic to tackle.
"He's given me another inspiration, another push, this time around," she said. "We need to all be reinvented. We need to all do that."
Myers said she is confident that Thursday's session will help Greeneville build as a community.
DANDRIDGE GENERAL STORE
Barbara Garrow, owner of the Dandridge General Store in Dandridge, said her community's downtown area has already realized some benefits from having had such workshops in the past.
But after Thursday, Garrow immediately declared more changes she planned to make.
"From lobes to toes!" she exclaimed. "I just re-did my business moniker.
"We have lots of great, handmade earrings made in the United States, and we carry Solmate socks, which are made in the United States, too," she explained.
This was also her second time hearing from Schallert.
"You always get something out of [the workshops]," she said.
Garrow emphasized her desire to reach out to those customers who may come to her general store as their destination from three or more hours away.
"You cannot survive in a small town on the 15-minute tourists because they don't think you're the best," she said.
"They'll go to Knoxville, because they think it's better. So you reverse it."
And that, in a nutshell, is a small-community business with the goal of becoming a destination.