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Hard work

By BRANDON TOWNSEND - btownsend@newsexaminer.com

With plenty of empty buildings where businesses used to be and one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, Connersville seems to some to be a place devoid of jobs where there is little money to be made.

But some people have successfully managed to skip the job search process by starting their own business. Some have been fortunate enough to keep a business afloat.

Within seconds, anyone can do an Internet search to see that a business owner needs capital, a business plan and an effective marketing strategy to be successful, but this does little in educating someone about the real experience and challenges of owning a business.

Considering the risks and the fact that 20 percent of businesses fail within the first year, people may wonder why even start a business in Connersville?

Robin Mays, co-owner of Yodies, a frozen yogurt shop at 2130 Park Road, was inspired to start her own business with her husband, Jason, after the two had grown bored with working warehouse jobs.

“I love to create things and dream things,” said Mays. “Jason likes to save up and build, so we decided to mix it up and take a leap of faith and open Yodies.”

Mays and her husband decided to start a frozen yogurt shop because she had used frozen yogurt to encourage her children to behave during long car rides.

“It was something that we didn’t have locally that kids really enjoy,” said Mays. “We’ve always thought that Connersville is in need of things to do with the kids.”

If you ask Stacy Fox, owner of Reiman’s Flower and Garden Shop located at 1224 N. Grand Ave., not just anybody can run a business. “I think it takes a certain type of person,” she said. “It takes certain skills.”

Fox’s parents owned and operated Reiman’s for several years until she took over the business eight years ago. “I grew up helping my mom here,” she said. “She had a reputation for me to live up to, and I wanted to prove to people that even with a new owner it would seem as though she were still running it.”

“I had no experience with business ownership,” said Bill Faw of the time he became the owner of The Pizza Place, located at 105 E. 16th St. “I was motivated by the desire to work for myself.”

When Faw and his two brothers bought The Pizza Place in 1991, the establishment had been running for six months. “We all worked other jobs when we started, but when I bought out my brothers I was able to focus on running the business,” he said. “It was exciting, but it took a lot of long hours in the beginning.”

While long hours is a challenge any aspiring business owner should anticipate, there are many other challenges to be expected. Any business owner must budget effectively, rely on cash flow to keep their businesses in operation, and comply with government regulations. However, each business faces its own challenges.

Fox says the biggest challenge she faces running Reiman’s is keeping up with trends and the desires of her customers, which change with time. She credits part of Reiman’s success to the location of the business.

“We’re right in the center of town,” she said. “I feel like for us, that’s a positive because we’re conveniently located.”

“Location makes the biggest difference in business,” said Faw.

According to Mays, lacking an advertising budget was among the biggest challenges for Yodies. “We didn’t have a dime for advertising so we just went on word of mouth,” said Mays. “The Chamber of Commerce did an amazing job getting the word out.”

Through every challenge and hardship that comes not only with learning to run a business, but also with keeping one running for as long as possible, a successful business owner can find more rewarding experiences than simply making a profit. Mays says that the community response to Yodies has been the biggest reward for her.

“Every day people tell us they love coming in to a family-owned-and-operated business,” said Mays. “We’re a part of people’s positive memories, and that really makes our hearts smile.”

While Fox says that being the owner of Reiman’s allows her flexibility with her schedule, the greatest reward for her is interacting with her customers.

“I’ve always been a people person,” said Fox. “I think that it’s crucial to be a people person as a business owner. I love getting to talk to the customers and getting to know them. Some of them have become like family.”

Faw enjoys the sense of freedom that comes with business ownership but says the greatest reward is having the opportunity to operate The Pizza Place with his family.

“I see them every day and watch the grandkids grow up,” said Faw. “My family is the reason I’m still doing this, and I love what I do.”

Faw still insists that aspiring business owners should be wary of the challenges. “Do not start one unless you are willing to dedicate a lot of time and money,” he said, “and it takes a lot of both.”

“Be prepared to work hard,” said Fox, “Treat customers good, realize you’ll have ups and downs, but don’t get discouraged.”