OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Small Business Alliance (OSBA) has been growing since it started in October 2019. Now there are 114 businesses associated with the alliance. Founder Connie Hammersley-Wilson couldn’t be happier.
“I’m just on cloud nine today,” she said at Thursday’s OSBA meeting, “I just want to see that we’re buying from one another, we’re supporting one another.”
The alliance is comprised of local businesses in Wapello County. They meet once a month at Hotel Ottumwa to discuss marketing strategies, taxes, and approaches to their businesses.
At Thursday’s gathering, Hammersley-Wilson spoke about the importance of having a updated city directory on Ottumwa’s website. She said this is an easier way for residents to see the different businesses available.
Brian McMillan, Neapolitan Labs founder and designer of the directory, hopes to have the directory running sometime in the end of January.
“There’s going to be a listing of those active businesses and having the ability for users to go into the directory and filter down based on what either what category,” McMillan explained. “Business owners will have the ability to claim their business and what they do and how they help [others], customize and make sure every information is accurate in terms of services and products that are offered, business description, etc.”
The directory won’t just benefit business owners and residents. The city will also get their share of opportunities. Deputy Fire Chief Cory Benge will be able to go to the directory and see what different businesses need fire inspections. “What we’re really after is having businesses come to us,” Benge said, “and say ‘hey can I do this here or what needs to be done?’”
Benge said inspections will guarantee customer safety. “It’s ultimately going to save you money,” he said, “and be safe. [Our goal for] every two years is to get into all the other restaurants in our higher end places to hotels. It’s going to be easier for folks to come in and add your business to the directory.”
It was Brad Johnson’s first time attending a OSBA meeting. He isn’t a business owner, but he said he benefited from networking.
“This is a great thing,” he said, “I can’t believe that in the four meetings, it’s like 114 businesses [are OSBA]. The biggest takeaway is that there is a lot of hunger from small businesses in this area to work together and to grow. There’s a lot of people that are negative about Ottumwa, but when you see the level of passion — to me it just says a lot.”
Krista Tedrow, founder of No Opportunity Wasted (N.O.W) also benefited from the meeting. Local businesses and networking is what she loves, so she said coming seemed like the right fit.
“It’s critical because sometimes in small towns we don’t have a lot of resources,” she said, [but] we don’t know where they’re at or how to access them. Small Business Alliance is a really great opportunity to connect with others in the community and say ‘How can we keep things local? How can we collaborate with one another? How can we unite to keep our community elevated and not outsourcing things? We just have so many amazing opportunities in our community that you just [say] ‘oh my gosh, I didn’t know that Ottumwa did that.’”
The biggest goal Hammersley-Wilson has is to have businesses continue to network with the city and support all the local businesses and inspire residents to shop locally.
“We’re showing that our government’s here and ready to answer questions,” she said, “we’re here to help you find the money to grow your business. We have in Ottumwa, every expert that you could possibly need. We got the specialists right here and [we] allow them to shine. It starts from buying from one another, because we have to show our customers that we’re buying local. If we’re not showing them, they’re not going to pay attention to us.”