By Joanne Elie
More than 70 people gathered at J Malden Center on Wednesday evening, Feb. 5, to listen to five local business owners talk about how they managed to give back to their community while keeping their businesses afloat. Panelists at the “Building a Business and the Role of Generosity” event shared the reasons they chose to run a business in the first place, which was to help empower their community.
Generosity was the theme of the night. This theme was reflected in the topic of discussion and by the contributions both in-kind and fiscal by the many sponsors. United Peoples Bank sponsored the event and J Malden Center contributed the beautiful amenity space. J Malden Center is a new mixed use development with a high-end housing complex, retail spaces, and Malden city offices. The community space has a modern, suave design with a colorful young vitality. The center has become a structural symbol of Malden’s commitment to enhancing its community and exemplifies a business focused on community.
Other generous contributors to this event included speed coaches Daniel R. Martiniello, Lender Relations Specialist, Massachusetts District Office, U.S. Small Business Administration and Mo Saeed, Entrepreneur and Business Leader, AI Financial, LLC. In addition, MATV, Malden’s Media Center; Accion East; Asili Consulting; Hugh O’Neills; Sam Adams; and Boda Borg provided services and in-kind donations to make the event a success.
Ose Schwab, Outreach and Service Development Coordinator of MATV, along with Natasha Kayulu of Asili Consulting and Fatiha Ainane of Accion, organized the event to jumpstart an entrepreneurial community in Malden. They brought together attendees ranging from start-up company and store owners to business development professionals with expertise in lending, business planning, and commercialization.
“This particular event took place to focus on generosity and business. As part of a series of gatherings over the past year held to activate more culture, commerce and creativity in Malden. MATV believes building such a community with diverse skills, and expertise will naturally encourage cross pollination of ideas, resources and networks,” said Ms. Schwab.
The five panelists were Marcel Schwab of The Gallery@57, Mirna Diaz, Esq of Diaz Law, Heather Yunger of Top Shelf Cookies, Nicholas Matthews of Manifest, and Tiago Prado of Best Rate Zone.
They answered questions posed by moderator Rowan Walrath of BostInno, a local online news platform focused on covering innovation in Boston. Attendees listened eagerly, hoping to grab some takeaways and tools they could use. They also had a chance to ask their own questions.
“Generosity, when donating has to be genuine, otherwise the consumer can tell what is authentic or not,” said Yunger.
As the panelists reflected upon what they’ve learned in their business ventures, they also emphasized their appreciation for the lessons they’ve learned.
“Fail Big. Don’t be afraid of failure because there within lies your biggest lessons and rewards for future growth and improvement. Allow your failures to teach you,” said Tiago.
This underscored to the audience that mistakes are acceptable and crucial to building a successful business; failing forward is a form of strong progression. Prado shared his story about regrettably hiring his own friends when he started Best Rate Zone. He explained that business challenges can ruin friendships, while hiring professionals is better for the company.
“Had I known what I known now, I would have kept my personal relationships separate and we would have still been friends today. Rather than introducing a professional relationship that in the long run was not sustainable for the progression of the company,” said Prado.
Mr. Schwab reflected on his reasoning and purpose of opening The Gallery@57, saying that money cannot be the only motive for running a business.
“There has to be a bigger driving force that inspires you beyond money. What will happen to your business on the days when the cash register isn’t always ringing? What will motivate you to continue to do the work?” Schwab said.
He emphasized that if the foundation is built upon a strong sense of purpose for the people and the product, then the world will continue to motivate a business founder even on the most challenging days, which he considers character-building days.
An attendee discussed how she overcame her biggest challenge with viewing business as a shark-eat-shark world.
“This event was extremely helpful to me because I always saw business as such a competitive sport. One business competing against the other but it doesn’t have to be so cutthroat especially if it’s centered around the betterment of the community as a whole,” said Hailey of MATV.
Yunger said that she wished she had more money to start Top Shelf Cookies, which was launched with $2,500. Yet her business has been thriving since it opened in July of 2014. She encouraged the audience to start their business without fear over whatever finances they currently have.
And when the going gets tough, Prado said to derive motivation from the main purpose for any business.
“Remember your why. Focus on why you do what you do. Keeping your mission statement in the forefront of your mind will aid you in moments of discouragement,” Prado said.
MATV gave panelists money trees as a symbolic expression of gaining financial prosperity by way of giving back to the community.
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