Small-business owners in Hillsborough County find strength in numbers
BEDFORD — Members of the Hometown Business Alliance of Hillsborough County believe in mixing business with pleasure.
The group of 75 business owners is part of a national movement that offers the right mix of camaraderie and marketing to promote products and services.
"We believe in the 'we not me' mentality," said Dave Chouinard, co-coordinator for the Hillsborough County chapter. "When a group of positive people come together and help each other, all participants cannot help but win."
On the second Tuesday of each month, the group meets at Shorty's Mexican Roadhouse on Route 101 in Bedford. The next Hometown Business luncheon is Aug. 13, from 11:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m. The menu offers four choices, one non-Mexican, at a cost of $9.99. Beverages are not included.
The luncheons offer small-business owners and entrepreneurs a chance to make new connections, learn about each other and gain referrals.
Attendees are urged to bring business cards and be ready to talk about their business. The guest presenter in August will be Bob Robichaud of North American Power.
"The bottom line is we are having fun. We are building relationships, people are connecting and they are writing business with each other. Can't get any better than that," said Pam Fariole, owner of SendOutCards in Milford.
Fariole and Chouinard, owner of Allied Plumbing and Heating of Merrimack, co-founded the county's Hometown Business Alliance in January.
"We agreed to run a chapter in Hillsborough County because we would be able to expand over a larger area, make new connections and help others do the same," said Fariole. "It is a national organization that offers incredible value and benefits to business owners and entrepreneurs at an unbelievable inexpensive cost, therefore the return on investment is seen quickly."
The success of the Hometown Business Alliance of Hillsborough County is attributed to the positive attitude of its ambassadors and members, whether it be their own or fellow members, Chouinard said.
"It is an unbelievable feeling to watch businesses grow and prosper and know that you are part of an organization that helped in their success," he said.
The ambassador staff is made up of volunteers — committee chairman Deb Maynard of Lia Sophia in Hudson, Tracy Lurvey of Keller Williams-Nashua and Fariole, who are part of the chapter's successful evening mixers, he said.
"Any member can volunteer to be on any committee. We are as non-exclusive as it gets. Have energy to burn, like to have fun, want to surround yourself with incredible high-energy business owners? Here we are," said Chouinard.
Lynda Simmons, owner of Tea for You in Bedford, said the Hometown Business Alliance has helped her tea business grow. She takes advantage of the marketing benefits the group offers, and members often partner with others at special events.
"It's a great opportunity," said Simmons, the head of the group's hospitality hosts who welcome and register attendees at luncheons and other events."
At the luncheons, 100 bags are filled with business cards and brochures for attendees to take home.
"Even if you haven't had an opportunity to speak with someone, everyone goes home with a bag with leads for your circle of influence," Simmons said.
Simmons is also known as the First Duchess of Bedford — a name she chose in honor of Anna Marie Stanhope, the Duchess of Bedford, England, and the originator of the British afternoon tea during the Victorian era.
Simmons also gives tea talks about the history of teas and hospitality at assisted-living facilities, senior centers, libraries and historical societies. And she offers tea-related products made in New Hampshire.
"I also do tea consultations on how to give a tea party. The host provides the linens and I come with cups and teas, and help with recipes. It's everything tea," she said.
Chapter member Gaby Harris of LegalShield in Milford said the organization has also helped increase her business.
"Our HBA events have grown. They are well-attended, high-energy mixers that have provided me with a steady stream of new acquaintances, many of which have become not only friends but customers of mine," said Harris.
Another upcoming event is the Hometown Business Alliance Family Summer Celebration at Lake Contoocook on Saturday, Aug. 24, from 2 to 9 p.m., featuring live music, tennis, boat rides, access to the public beach and a barbecue.
Membership to the Hometown Business Alliance is a one-time $50 sign-up fee and monthly dues of $9.99. Membership also offers education and county-wide networking opportunities. Members are issued an ID card for discounted entrance to all HBA events nationwide. As members, businesses get a listing in the HBA's online directory, including a biography posting and business description.
To register for the Aug. 13 luncheon and other events, visit www.hbahillsboroughcountynh.com.