Entrepreneurs emerging in tough economy

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Travis Maynard, who co-owns Lime Tiger Studio with his wife, Alicia, adapted to the recovering economy by opening their own store. The couple sells vintage and handmade products at their store on North Maple Street. (Photo by M. Hudgins)
Creative artists by trade, Travis and Alicia Maynard were forced to adapt in a recovering economy.

So in October, they became entrepreneurs and opened Lime Tiger Studio at 619 N. Maple St., just off the Square in downtown Murfreesboro. The store offers an array of upcycled, vintage and handmade products.

It’s the kind of store that Travis Maynard says should excel in an economy filled with budget-conscious people.

“I think this is a great business for the way the world is right now,” he said. “We’re helping people out with cost and maybe showing them that you don’t have to pay a hefty buck for nice stuff. It beats going to Bloomingdales for clothes, and it beats going to Pier 1 Imports for some décor. It’s unique, and it’s cheaper than mass produced stuff – that’s important right now.”

Economic confidence in small-business owners is rounding the corner, said Kelli Beam, who serves as the membership director for the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it stems from what we’re seeing in our bigger businesses. When Amazon comes in, they’re seeing activity and preparing for it,” she said.

Beam added growth might also be attributed to previously laid-off employees who then became entrepreneurs.

“They may see it as a ‘great opportunity for me to try something that I’ve always wanted to try,’” she said. “Some of the growth stems from the negative side of businesses laying off, but it also stems from seeing a positive coming out of some of these bigger announcements.”

While MTSU’s Business and Economic Research Center doesn’t track new business openings, Director David Penn said the labor market seems to be improving.

Rutherford County experienced a decrease in unemployment in November 2011 (data for December won’t be available until this week). The rate fell from 7.6 percent in October  to 7.1 in November, which is one percentage point lower than November 2010.

“And if that’s occurring, you would expect consumer spending to be rising,” Penn said. “A lot of these businesses are likely to be retail or food services businesses.”

This type of employment typically pays lower wages and cannot spur the economy like higher-paying jobs. However, Penn said it is possible that some of the small-business growth could be involved in light manufacturing, which offers higher paying jobs.

The Rutherford County Clerk’s Office issued 453 business licenses in the third quarter of 2011, compared to 430 during the same time in 2010. The growth may not be substantial, but a spur in economic development could be around the corner.

“I really feel like I’m seeing strategic business owners who are really thinking about what they need to do,” Beam said.

“We’re doing great with our membership, but I’m still seeing another influx of people who are trying to educate themselves about what is going on, and what they can do to get their business started,” she added.

She said she always reminds current and prospective business owners of MTSU’s Small Business Development Center, located on the second floor of the Chamber’s Medical Center Parkway building, because it provides free services to entrepreneurs in the community.

“It is for anyone that already has a business and needs to reassess their business plan or for someone who has an idea and wants to see where they could go with it,” Beam explained, adding that the center offers research materials, resources and guidance.

As for Lime Tiger Studio, Travis Maynard said there are still plans for the business’s future.

“We haven’t reached a plateau where we’re bored with it. Alicia and I are ‘ideasmiths’ so to speak,” he said. “I’m still excited about stuff that’s yet to happen. Everything keeps changing.”
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Business, Economy, Lime Tiger Studio, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Shopping, Tennessee
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Members Opinions:
February 09, 2012 at 7:04pm
As a music business major at Middle Tennessee State University, I have become well aware an economic shift towards smaller, independent record labels. While this is an entirely different industry than clothing retail, I believe there are many similarities. From a major record label’s standpoint, consumers are loosing interest in buying costly CD’s and have converted to buying most of their music digitally. Even though new technology has brought about this change, people have taken this opportunity to create their own independent labels. While the major labels desperately try to up their CD sales, independent labels have harnessed the digital revolution to compete against the majors. One aspect that independent labels thrive on is their ability to keep their artist rosters small and focused. This gives them the opportunity to develop each band to their full potential while also maximizing profit. This directly contradicts the major labels goal of signing as many artists as possible in hope that 20% of them make up the profit that was lost by the other 80%. Because independents are more choosy with their artists, they can generate a profit from each act. All in all, the idea of making a business small and focused to maximize assets and minimize liabilities can be seen throughout many industries.
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