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Small businesses drive Cape economy

By Staff | May 3, 2018

Small businesses exist in every community across the globe, but for Cape Coral, small businesses are the community.

Almost 9,000 small businesses exist in the Cape, and that number continues to rise, with nearly 500 new enterprises applying for Business Tax Receipts through March.

Economic Development Manager Dana Brunett believes Cape Coral is made for successful small businesses and that such enterprises have a massive impact on the economy.

“I think the impact it has is huge,” Brunett said.

“Almost all of our businesses in Cape Coral are small businesses, it drives the commercial economy. These places are very important to us,” Brunett added.

A small business is defined as any business with 500 employees or less. This pretty much defines all businesses in Cape Coral other than big chains, city government, schools, and hospitals.

“Two out of three businesses in Cape Coral have 100 employees or less; it’s our strong suit,” Brunett said.

As National Small Business Week wraps up, Brunett said there are lots of resources available at no costs to help any small business in the area.

“We want to make sure they are aware of our programs and free services,” he added.

“The Small Business Development Center at FGCU is a great tool for us. They put together business plans, help with marketing and social media and find employees. Navigating government may not always be a strong suit for owners so we lend them a hand that way.”

Brunett is extremely proud of the 3.4 percent unemployment rate in Cape Coral, and wants to see more business owners make the Cape their home.

“We have great schools, great land, vacation starts when you get home. Lots of people come here to work, we want them to work and live here as well,” he said.

President and CEO of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce Donna Germain expands on how the city is there for business owners who may not know how they can get help in their own community.

“The Chamber has a number of resources and programs that help businesses get additional exposure whether they are brand new to our area or established. We offer numerous networking opportunities per month that help new business owners meet others in the community. Those opportunities help them establish new business connections,” Germain said.

“We also partner with different community agencies like the Cape Coral Economic Development Office, SCORE, Small Business Development Center and SBA to educate the business community on the various services they offer.”

She also offered some words of wisdom to owners if they feel they aren’t finding success.

“One of the best pieces of advice we can offer is don’t get so wrapped up in working in your business that you don’t work on your business. Get out and network, get involved in your community. People, especially in this community, like to do business with people they know and trust. One of the biggest challenges we see with new businesses is the inability to get involved and get their name out there. Word of mouth goes a long way in Cape Coral.”

Some Cape Coral small businesses shared their advice and experiences:

n Patty Campo, owner and operator of Best Pets dog daycare, boarding and grooming says owning her own business is something she’s always wanted to do.

“I started off going to people’s homes, but I eventually wanted to have a place to call my own,” Campo said.

“Once I was able to acquire a space, my challenge then was to find the right setting. What works without caging the dogs? Dogs are like people, they have lots of clashing personalities, but I have figured out a way to ensure every four-legged-friend has the best stay imaginable.”

Best Pets is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year and is a cage-free facility, with private rooms and cameras so that dog owners can see in real time how their dog is when they’re away from home.

“Customers tell me that they had the best vacation ever because they can trust me with their dogs, and that kind of trust is priceless,” Campo said.

Her advice to small business owners is this: “Start small and let it grow organically, you will find challenges and make mistakes, but that’s part of the process. Don’t bite off more than you can chew to start or it may not turn out how you had hoped.”

n Dolphin Key Resort, owned by Magdalena Tengroth since 2011, has flourished under her direction. She says it has been a fun, but difficult project.

Previously a senior buyer, Tengroth had stayed in hotels over half of the year, and had a clear vision of what she wanted in a hotel and bar.

“I used to go to the Tiki Hut (the bar at Dolphin Key), and would see it be busy, but it was run down. I thought I could make some positive changes,” Tengroth said.

“The biggest challenge was to change the reputation. It’s not just a job, but a way of life. Now, I see the shirts we sell wherever I travel and that lets me know I’m doing something right.”

The Dolphin Key Resort has 100 rooms, and Tengroth says they are tenacious with keeping room conditions and cleanliness priority No. 1.

Their core staff of 45 to 65 employees are with them year round, and the bar atmosphere at the Tiki Hut has improved drastically.

“We have an amazing atmosphere at the Dolphin Key and Tiki Hut Bar and Grill; I have customers who want to book the same room over and over. Our staff is so friendly, we never have any trouble with our late-night scene at the Tiki,” Tengroth said.

Her advice to anyone wanting to start a business: “Plan better than I did. Look at your competition in the area and plan through each step. Immerse yourself in your business before hand, make sure you know the ins and outs. Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

n Kevin Babesh, owner and operator of Fences Unlimited, found some hardships along the way while providing fencing services to Cape Coral residents.

His business had to shut down in 2008 when the economy was taking a blow, but re-opened in 2017 and is committed to continuing his standard of excellence.

“I’ve been in the fencing industry my whole life, I started my company when I was 18 years old,” Babesh said.

A life-long Cape Coral native, he says he has a passion to serve the community he loves.

Fences Unlimited is dedicated to getting jobs done in the time frame they promise customers.

“Three weeks or less is our goal. I’m out on every job for estimates, sales and construction. Beginning, middle and end, I’m there to make sure our work is done right and in an efficient time frame,” Babesh said.

He is a stickler for perfection when it comes to his work, and he feels it shows when his customers see the finished product.

“Every customer I’ve had is a happy customer. I’m very hands on as an owner and operator, I make sure the work is done the right way and I think that’s important to people,” Babesh said.

His advice to business owners is simple: “Do what you say you’re going to do. Don’t cut corners. Show up on time. And don’t make excuses.”

In the Cape, small is big.

“An estimated 90 percent of the businesses in Cape Coral are small and locally owned,” Germain said

“Small Businesses and local companies are important to any city. The majority of businesses in Cape Coral are small which creates a greater sense of community,” she added.