Education and assistance are key when locating a business DowntownRelease Date: 2017-12-18
Choosing a location to open, relocate or expand a business is an important decision with many potential pitfalls and challenges. It can be a daunting task for a budding entrepreneur who is unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Downtown Long Beach. However, free or low-cost resources are available to assist potential small business owners.
Before viewing properties and talking leases, John Keisler, director of the Long Beach Economic Development Department, advises entrepreneurs to browse the ‘Launch’ tab at bizport.longbeach.gov.
“They can zero in on the downtown and the type of property they are looking for, and this will provide them not only with all of the available sites that are lists on the MLS but they can then also click on the building and do ring studies of consumer, demographic and all kinds of economic analysis,” Keisler said. “It’s really an awesome tool if you want to poke around.”
One thing to consider that often gets overlooked, according to Keisler, is the impacts of future development. He explained that, with the amount of new construction underway and planned downtown, realities, such as a loss of surface parking, could have a negative impact on some types of business. However, he noted residential developments could have positive impacts due to an increase of foot traffic.
For more direct assistance, Keisler recommends prospective business owners reach out to Adam Carrillo, economic development manager at the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA). He said Carrillo has intimate knowledge of the group’s membership and vacant space in the downtown area and can offer entrepreneurs a wealth of information and resources.
“Really educate yourself with data,” Carrillo said. “That’s really one of the biggest reasons why we launched our Entrepreneur and Business Education series: we wanted to provide education that worked well with existing and potential business owners in the downtown, especially small business owners.”
Carrillo looks toward the successes of business that have utilized the DLBA’s education and data, such as Romeo Chocolates, The Pie Bar and 6th & Detroit, as models of ideal startup processes. He explained that, when entrepreneurs engage in discussions with the DLBA, the organization can walk them through all the steps required to open their business.
For many retail, restaurants and service businesses, Carrillo said connecting with the community is key. He explained that downtown residents love supporting small businesses and, once they are hooked, they become advocates for a business and actually drum up more business. However, to build the initial clientele, Carrillo said soft opening and ribbon-cutting events work well, as does e-commerce and a solid online marketing presence, through social media and other tools.
As for choosing a physical location in the downtown area, Carrillo said it is really up to the prospective business owner to do their due diligence when looking at properties. Part of this process should be consulting with an architect and general contractor to determine build-out costs and whether or not they fall within budget. This also includes understanding if the type of business can legally operate at the locations of interest.
“As a business owner, I think having an understanding of the Downtown Plan is good. Just knowing what the approved use is within a neighborhood, that’s a question I get asked quite a bit,” Carrillo said. “Outside of a general retail or restaurant, if there is a very specific use, it’s always best to double-check with the city if that use is approved.”