CASSVILLE, Mo -- Businesses in Barry County are seeing some encouraging results of a partnership formed just one year ago. It's not a new concept--help me, help you. In a time where budgets are tight for small businesses, and there isn't much room for advertising, a small business network can make a big difference.
"We started in February of last year. So we've been going just over a year," said Nickle Flooring owner Debra Nickle.
In that time the Barry County Small Business Owners Network has thrived.
"What our purpose is, is to build business through resources, relationships, and referrals," she explained.
When we spoke with members of the group in 2012, they were pooling resources to get cheaper healthcare.
"If the business owner comes in and gets involved with it," Nickle explained, "they are going to benefit from it."
At that time they had 30 members. Now, they boast 60 members.
"Small businesses really don't have the support or the systems in place that big corporations have."
Since joining the network Nickle Flooring has seen a 64% increase in business. "We're seeing so much referral business off of the network, and seeing so much success from it," Nickel said.
Jeremy Huse Photography has seen a 20% bump. "Ninety nine percent of my business comes from word of mouth. So if I have people in the community giving my name," said Huse, "that is great. I can't ask for anything better."
For the Birds Garden Center, its business is up 40% since joining the network. "It was very needed for the mom and pop organizations like ourselves," said co-owner Brenda Beck.
Over at Forever Yours Embroidery, "I increased 55%," said owner Valerie Speer.
They are all success stories made possible by a free, exclusive group of small businesses.
"You can't find free advertising anywhere. Basically this is free advertising. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get," said Speer.
They are all helping each other through networking and simple referrals. Combined, it has given a big boost to bottom lines and the community.
"When we get together and we talk about ideas and we find out about all the benefits that we can offer each other and our customers," said Beck, "it really expands our customer base."
The network has no intentions of slowing down. Five more businesses recently joined the group. The group also has a waiting list. Because it is exclusive, only one business in each trade is allowed in the group. One plumber, one flooring company, one photographer, etc.