GENEVA – Kristen Kaven, owner of Montage Salon and Spa in Geneva, was eager to upgrade the 5-year-old business' profile online.
With some tutorials from Geneva, the Geneva Chamber of Commerce and the Geneva Public Library, Kaven said the company's website was upgraded, as was the Geneva Bride site. Geneva Bride is a consortium of 24 local businesses, including Montage, involved in the bridal industry.
"It's helped a lot," Kaven said of the continuing business education programs offered in Geneva. "I had social media training through the library. I not only used them for Facebook, but with help in different avenues to correspond with emailing. There were several areas the library is helpful in. They are very knowledgeable in social media."
With help, Kaven said the company was able to update its Facebook page and is now also on Pinterest, an online content sharing service.
"More people see you in general and kind of get the word out about what you're doing every time somebody likes or shares information," Kaven said. "They might not have a direct need, but for friends, a mom or sister – it sends a chain reaction. The more you do stuff on it, the more you get back."
And that is one of many ways the city, in partnership with the chamber and the library, is looking to help local businesses be more successful.
Kaven was one of more than 80 people who attended the Geneva Downtown Merchants meeting this week, co-sponsored by the city, the chamber and real estate developer ShoDeen, with featured topics on how to promote a business through social media. Kaven said the speakers helped her see how to use Pinterest and other social media to develop a company brand and define it online.
"You definitely walked away with a lot of different tips," Kaven said.
"It was packed – not bad for 8 a.m. on a Wednesday in January when it's cold," chamber spokeswoman Laura Rush said. "That is why this is important – united we stand."
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When businesses have an opportunity to learn about using social media, they can find themselves opening up to a whole new set of customers, as Martha Scatterday, garden center manager and marketer for Geneva Ace Hardware, discovered when she attended the merchants meeting this week.
"In the age of technology, people are using social media to learn more about businesses," Scatterday said. "We need to embrace that and use it as a tool for us to keep up with the competition."
Geneva Ace is on Facebook and Pinterest and is using Mobile Geneva – launched through the chamber – where people register via text message at 223344. Offers and coupons from participating businesses are sent to mobile devices every other week.
"Our coupon came out for $5 off a purchase of $25 or more," Scatterday said.
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The sense of support and unity in Geneva is inviting to new businesses, Rush said.
"If one of us is not supporting other ones, Geneva is not going to be a desirable place for a new business," Rush said. "The city, park district and library partner with us, especially when we do our festivals."
Geneva Business Development Specialist Paul Evans said the city also offers periodic Frontline Training events, a customer service training program for employees on the "frontline" such as cashiers and sales personnel.
Other events include Merchant Open Houses, in which a downtown block is picked and stores stay open later and merchants go around to a host store to meet their neighbors, Evans said.
"You meet your neighbors and find out what your neighbor does or what products they have," Evans said. "It's about building relationships."
Geneva Economic Development Director Ellen Divita said the city's commitment to its business community is evident by the resources it commits to the economic development department.
"The business community creates our identity, who we are as a community," Divita said. "It's a financial benefit, a sense of place, and the financial element of a strong business community supports the tax base and takes the burden off taxpayers."