New immigrants have started new businesses throughout the country. However, in small towns with growing new immigrant populations, we found that few long-time residents patronize these new businesses. And few new immigrants patronize long-time residents’ businesses. It seems like a missed opportunity.
Language barriers or the fear of not being welcome are often causes. How can you break through that barrier? We asked that question in two small towns recently. Part of the answer seems to be in developing inclusive “Business to Business” tours.
The tours work like this: invite new immigrant businesses and long-standing businesses to participate in an evening tour. Invite the community to participate, and provide transportation to and from the businesses.
Tour participants are drawn from new immigrant communities and from long-time community residents. At each business the owner gives an overview of their business and has light snacks available to help provide a relaxed atmosphere.
The tours are catching on. The number of first-time patrons to businesses has increased. Towns in Nebraska and across the country are now using this method as a means to increase profits for local businesses and to create more integrated communities.
Victor Lopez participated in the first Business to Business tour in Schuyler, Nebraska. Victor owns El Pueblo Tires, a business offering tires and automotive services. The tour brought folks to his business who did not know it existed pre-tour and are now coming back.
The tour worked similarly for other business owners, seeing an increasingly diverse group of new customers. The welcoming atmosphere business owners created in their businesses made a difference, as did the larger group of tour participants.
People were happy to learn of the opportunities their communities held, and as one tour participant said, “I always wanted to go into the business, but I was worried I would not know what to say. I learned a lot tonight and look forward to going back.”
We are working to develop the next round of business to business tours. Local chambers of commerce and local leaders have embraced the idea, along with local business owners. We look forward to our next series of business to business tours to see what those outcomes will bring.
Feature image above: Jerry Morales, of First Class Auto Detailing, in Columbus, Nebraska, shown with his family, was featured in a “Discover Columbus! Local Business Tour.” Photo by Adele Phillips
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