CLAREMONT — For Joshua Nelson, an independent web developer and marketer from Claremont, opportunities to connect with organizations, entrepreneurs and community stakeholders are key ingredients to running a successful small business that provides mutual support, generates ideas and energizes creativity.
“Ultimately, it’s about relationship building,” Nelson said. “And that relationship building will grow your business.”
To provide chances for small businesses and entrepreneurs to connect, a team of community partners have launched Twin State Innovation, a monthly event for entrepreneurs to share about their businesses, acquire feedback on ideas and collaborate.
“In every city, especially in small towns, entrepreneurs often say they feel disconnected from the community and each other,” explained Jared Reynolds, an economic development specialist with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. “So, the goal of this is to offer that [support].”
The partnership — which includes the Cooperative Extension, the City of Claremont, the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce and the Claremont Makerspace — hosted its first Twin State Innovation event Tuesday morning at the Claremont Makerspace. Attendees included City Manager Ed Morris, City Planning and Development Director Nancy Merrill and several businesses owners from the downtown Pleasant Street area.
Each month, the event will invite two entrepreneurs to briefly present their business to the community, followed by 15 to 20 minutes for questions and discussion.
Reynolds said that any entrepreneur or small business owner is invited to present, and the events are free and open to everyone.
“The whole idea is that it’s inclusive, free, open and welcoming,” Reynold said. “Anyone, regardless of background or experience, [may participate], as an audience member or a presenter.”
Nelson, who began Bee Balm Productions over five years ago, was the event’s first business presenter.
Though web-development comprises about 95% of his business, Nelson wants to expand his work in videography-based marketing, where his creative passions lie.
“I’m looking to tell stories,” Nelson explained. “Storytelling [is what] excites me.”
Nelson wants to hone his storytelling craft through drone-assisted videography. Nelson said he has a “pretty high end drone” and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone-pilot’s license. Over the next three to six months, he wants to make some low-cost video marketing projects, preferably for not-for-profit entities.
“[Initially] I just want to get some projects out there and get better with my tools,” Nelson said. “And while I’m doing that, I’m not charging people for my time.”
During the discussion, the participating community members provided Nelson with a laundry list of leads and suggestions.
Ben Nelson, owner of Claremont Spice and Dry Goods, said that videography would be an excellent way for food growers and sellers to connect their customers to where their foods are grown or raised.
“I’d be thinking of the conservation districts with a lot of different individual farms, group farms, or Connecticut River watershed committees [for client-seeking],” he said. “Where drones can get those hard-to-see pictures and bring people very physically through the space, while also providing that narration to explain what people are seeing.”
The group also suggested that Nelson meet with station operators of Claremont Community Television (CCTV), about possibly using CCTV to air Claremont-related projects that Nelson films.
Following the event, Nelson said that he thought the initial event went well.
“I like this kind of initiative,” Nelson said. “It helps me get from being in front of the computer all the time and connect with people.”
Even when conversing with people one already knew, Nelson said that the dialogue through this forum generated ideas that he hadn’t thought about.
“And it helped get my creative juices flowing, which frankly I need,” he added. “Because if I’m only working on my next project for someone else, it’s hard for me to keep my own stuff going.”
Morris said that he was encouraged by the inaugural event and believes it provides a tremendous resource for many small business owners.
“Starting a small business is pretty daunting,” Morris said. “And trying to make connections is the biggest part. Being able to reach out to find little ways to promote your business, finding someone right here in your town to help you grow, and help each other, is invaluable.”
Reynolds said that the aim of these discussions is to cultivate an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” across the region. Claremont’s community size and entrepreneurial resources, including the Makerspace, enables the city to serve as a hub for that network.