Business Insights Podcast

Main Street Business Insights

A Podcast Hosted by Chief Program Officer Matt Wagner, Ph.D. 


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Highlighting Downtown & Neighborhood Entrepreneurs

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Welcome to Main Street Business Insights, a podcast powered by Main Street America. 

Each week, join host Matt Wagner, Ph.D., as he travels the country and takes a deep dive into the personal journeys of downtown and neighborhood entrepreneurs. The stories that far too often go unheard. Learn about the innovative ways that these Main Street businesses have overcome adversity, whether it’s starting a new enterprise or keeping a multi-generation business alive, and the advice they have for others on how to keep their businesses on track.

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Season 2

Welcome to the second season of Main Street Business Insights! This season, we’ll widen our lens to cover macroeconomic trends, share advice from the community leaders, and feature economic development and small business marketing experts. 
 Of course, we’ll also continue to take deep dives into the personal journeys of entrepreneurs, focusing in on overarching issues that small business owners grapple with that are too often overlooked, such as loneliness and burnout, digital marketing and AI, and more. 

Why Retail Real Estate Matters with Bobby Boone, &Access

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Bobby Boone, founder and Chief Strategist of &Access. Based in New Orleans, La., &Access creates data-driven and design-centric retail real estate solutions for historically excluded entrepreneurs and under-invested neighborhoods. 
 
Bobby has a strong background in economic development and real estate. Prior to founding &Access, Bobby led an effort to attract and maintain small businesses in Detroit and tackled wide-ranging retail challenges as a senior strategist at Streetsense. 
 
In this conversation, they discuss how retail can be a key economic development driver, ways small businesses add social capital to communities, challenges facing retailers and the solutions offered by &Access. They touch on anti-displacement solutions for business owners, how digital commerce is impacting local retailers, and how business owners can acquire properties in ways that meet their own unique goals. 
 

Watch the Recording:

Breaking Into a New Community with Jennifer Jones, Good Times Coal Fired Pizza & Pub

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Jennifer Jones, co-owner of Good Times Coal Fired Pizza and Pub in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Located in historic Big Stone Gap Main Street, Good Times is a coal-fired pizzeria and pub, music venue, and community gathering place. In the heart of Appalachian coal country, the coal-fired pizzeria also nods to the area’s unique heritage and geography. 
 
Jennifer and her husband Brian purchased the business from the previous owner in 2021, soon after relocating to Big Stone Gap from northern California. The move from California to Virginia had been a long-time dream of Jennifer’s, who has an affinity for the Appalachian Mountains, but landing in Big Stone Gap was largely due to coincidence. When Brian and Jennifer were visiting the area looking for a town to put down roots, they stopped in Big Stone Gap (at the very restaurant they would later own) for a bite to eat. They were met with such a welcoming atmosphere and kind people that they stopped their search then and there. “It was like Big Stone Gap was saying, ‘Pick us!’” said Jennifer. 
 
Brian and Jennifer have a background in entrepreneurship and were interested in starting or purchasing a business once they got settled. When the previous owner of Good Times announced they were selling, Brian and Jennifer jumped on the opportunity. Since taking over, they have completed a kitchen renovation, added community events, and more. 
 
In this conversation, they discuss why Jennifer and Brian chose to relocate to Big Stone Gap, their experience of owning a downtown business in a new community, and how they’ve grown and expanded the existing business into something unique to them. 
 

Watch the Recording:

Embracing Digital and Demystifying AI with Janet Hurn, Future Ready Consulting

In this episode, Matt sits down with Janet Hurn, co-founder of Future Ready Consulting in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
 
Future Ready Consulting is a technology-focused marketing consulting firm, specializing in supporting small business owners with digital skills. Janet was also one of 10 small business coaches who provided free training to small business owners in rural areas through Main Street America’s Grow with Google Digital Coaches program in 2023.  
 
In their conversation, they discuss Janet’s background as a physicist, and her path from the world of academia into entrepreneurship. Janet’s gift for making complicated subject matter understandable has helped her successfully bridge her professions: teaching university-level physics and coaching small business owners to use AI and other digital tools.  
 
Janet breaks down how small business owners can use technology to streamline and optimize their administrative processes and marketing efforts, the importance of continuing to adapt your marketing strategy, and simple ways business owners can use artificial intelligence to save time and money. 
 

Coping with Isolation and Building Community with Derrick Braziel, MORTAR and Pata Roja Taqueria

In this episode, Matt sits down with Derrick Braziel, owner of Pata Roja Taqueria and co-founder of MORTAR, in Cincinnati, Ohio. 
 
In their conversation, they discuss Derrick’s origins as an entrepreneur, which began in 2014 with the launch of MORTAR, an organization that enables historically marginalized entrepreneurs to access the resources needed to start and run successful businesses.  
 
Out of his participation in a MORTAR program, Derrick was able to test out his own business idea: a taco truck. A decade later, Derrick’s food truck, Pata Roja Taqueria, is thriving – and he’s actively working towards setting up a brick-and-mortar restaurant expected to open this year. 
 
Matt and Derrick also discuss the rarely discussed but prevalent issues of burnout, isolation, and loneliness facing many business owners, and how Derrick has learned to cope, adapt, and learn from his own experiences with them.  
 
Further Reading: Pata Roja Taqueria | MORTAR | Main Street Ohio |  

2024 Predictions for Main Street Businesses

Welcome to Season 2 of Main Street Business Insights! In our first episode of the season, you’ll hear from host Matt Wagner about his predictions for the small business landscape in 2024. This episode focuses on the macroeconomic technology and societal trends that he believes will impact the work of Main Street leaders and the businesses we seek to nurture and support. Given the topics and guests coming up in Season 2, this episode is meant to lay out the issues, trends, and shifts that our business owners are likely to experience in the coming year.  

Matt breaks down his predictions from last year – the misses, the wins, and a push prediction from 2023. Plus, he uses data, stories, and anecdotal evidence to make his six predictions for 2024.  

Further Reading: 2024 Predictions Blog | 2023 Predictions Blog | 2022 Predictions Blog 

Watch the Recording:

Watch this accompanying video break-down of the episode to get extra insights through data visualizations, photo examples, additional case studies, and more.

Bonus Episodes

These special bonus episodes feature highlights from season one. 

Working with Your Main Street

Learn how local entrepreneurs have leveraged the power of a Main Street community to establish, maintain, and grow their ventures.

 This episode features:

Advice for Other Small Business Owners

Learn about small business owners who are succeeding along Main Street -- and the advice they have for others doing the same. 

 This episode features:

Connecting with Community

In this bonus episode, you'll hear from small business owners from our first season who make connecting with their community a top priority. They share tips on how to build strong relationships with local people and organizations -- and build the case for why other small business owners should consider integrating community development into their core practices. 

This episode features:

Season 1

Jamie & Jerry Baker | Trendy Teachers | Rome, Georgia

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Jamie and Jerry Baker, co-owners and founders of Trendy Teachers, a teaching boutique and educational toy store located in downtown Rome, Georgia. A “unique boutique” for teachers, Trendy Teachers provides classroom supplies, décor, custom clothing, and educational toys and materials both through an online store and their brick-and-mortar shop in downtown Rome. 
 
Trendy Teachers opened in 2020 towards the beginning of the pandemic. Jamie, a retired teacher, and her husband Jerry, who previously worked in corporate retail, were both going through career transitions at the time. While searching for her next vocational step, Jamie learned from local teacher friends that all the nearby teaching supply stores had closed. Teachers had to drive more than an hour to Atlanta to purchase supplies in-person. She approached Jerry with the idea of launching a teaching supply store in Rome – and with his background in corporate retail, he was on board.  
 
Three years later, Trendy Teachers has now moved to a larger location and added an educational toy store arm to the business. This fast-paced growth can be attributed to Jamie and Jerry’s quick adaptation to a bricks-and-clicks strategy and a consistent and strategic marketing strategy that is highly targeted to their specific audience. 
 
In their conversation, Matt, Jamie, and Jerry discuss their unique path to entrepreneurship, pivoting their business strategy to appeal to broader audiences, the importance of community and collaboration, and advice for other business owners. 
 

Anette Soto Landeros | Casa Azul Coffee | Fort Worth, Texas

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Anette Soto Landeros, co-owner of Casa Azul Coffee and President and CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Fort Worth, Texas.  
 
Prior to her current roles, Anette spent 12 years working in federal government, first as an analyst in the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington D.C., and later in the Inspector General’s office in Fort Worth. Raised in Texas, moving to Fort Worth was something of a homecoming – she fell in love with the community, and soon became involved with various community non-profits and business-serving organizations, such as serving on the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board. In 2019, she took on the full-time role of President and CEO. 
 
Not long after, in 2021, Anette and her husband Joseph Landeros opened Casa Azul Coffee. Casa Azul is the first and only coffee shop in Fort Worth’s Northside, which according to the latest census, has a 78 percent Hispanic population and is considered one of four Latino “Barrios” in Fort Worth. While residents had long been asking for a coffee franchise to open in their neighborhood, they were repeatedly told that they weren’t the target demographic. Anette and her husband were already considering opening a business in the neighborhood – but when they heard this, they knew their charge. 
 
Today, you can find the appropriately named Casa Azul in a brightly painted cobalt-blue, aqua, and kelly green house in the heart of the Northside district. Serving Latin-inspired coffee and pastries such as pan dulce, conchas, churro lattes, matcha-coladas, and more, Casa Azul not only provides coffee to locals, but also unapologetically celebrates residents’ culture and heritage. 
 
In their conversation, Matt and Anette discuss her path to entrepreneurship, how her experience in public policy informs her work, her thoughts on creating economic growth while lessening the impact of gentrification and displacement, and her advice for other business owners. 
 
 
 

Danny Renyolds | Stephenson's Clothing | Elkhart, Indiana

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, Matt sits down with Danny Reynolds, owner and president of Stephenson’s of Elkhart, an independently owned high-end fashion retailer in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. For more than 90 years, Stephenson’s has undergone several transformations – from custom tailoring to everyday fashions to special occasions – always with a strong focus on customer service and community involvement. 
 
Stephenson’s opened its doors in October 1931 as an upscale, appointment-only dress shop. Since the mid-1960s, the business has been owned by the Reynolds family – first by Danny’s parents, then transitioning ownership to Danny in 1994.  
 
When Danny took over as owner in the mid-1990s, change was on the horizon. Small businesses across the country, particularly retail, were facing an uncertain economic future. In the height of the big box store boom with online shopping on the horizon, Danny knew that if Stephenson’s was going to survive on Main Street, they would need to provide services and meet needs outside of what larger retailers were already doing. So today, Stephenson’s offers high-end clothing for special occasions, including bridal, homecoming, sportswear, and high-end men’s wear. This change is largely due to the in-person experience customers prefer when purchasing special occasion wear. Over the course of the last three decades, Danny has maintained this attitude of constant adaptation and transformation, always looking for the unique ways that Stephenson’s can meet his customers where they’re at. 
 
In their conversation, Matt and Danny discuss the overall economic landscape for clothing retailers, how Stephenson’s continues to carve out a successful niche, and the importance of connecting with customers on a personal level as well as the community at large. 
 

Proof of Danny's father's dedication to diligent notetaking:

Harvey Williams | Delta Dirt Distillery | Helena, Arkansas

In this episode, Matt sits down with Harvey Williams, Co-Founder and CEO of Delta Dirt Distillery in Helena, Arkansas. Delta Dirt Distillery is the only Black-owned farm-to-bottled distillery in the United States, and is a family-owned craft distillery, producing high-quality vodka out of sweet potatoes grown on the Williams family farm. 

Harvey grew up working on his family farm in Helena. He married his high school sweetheart, Donna, who now serves as Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer at Delta Dirt. After several years doing a variety of jobs across the country, Harvey and Donna moved back home to raise their two children at the family farm. (Their sons, Thomas and Donavan, now work alongside their parents at the distillery, serving as Head Distiller and Operations Manager, respectively.) 

The family farm has been in operation since the late 1800s, when Harvey’s grandfather purchased the land on which he had been sharecropping. When Harvey Sr., inherited the land from his father, he was faced with the difficult reality that the relatively small acreage wasn’t enough to sustain traditional row crop farming. Instead, he decided to diversify the operation, reinventing the farm for vegetable production, mainly sweet potatoes, and soon began shipping out for national distribution. 

As a continuation of that ingenuity, Harvey Jr., along with his brother Kennard, decided to reinvent the farm once again in 2017, experimenting with crafting vodka from their sweet potatoes. After many years and plenty of trial and error, Delta Dirt Distillery was born. Today, it offers award-winning spirits including both vodka and gin, available in retail stores across six states across the South and shipping nationwide. The family also operates a tasting room with a variety of specialty cocktails imbued with their products. 

In their conversation, Matt and Harvey discuss the family’s legacy with farming and entrepreneurship, the innovative ways they have overcome unexpected challenges, how their tasting room has fostered community, and the advice Harvey has for other small business owners. 

Lastly, in Matt's intro, he references data from the Black Farmers' Network, founded by Dr. Veronica Womack of Georgia College. Click here to learn more about the Black Farmers' Network.

Further Reading: Learn about Delta Dirt Distillery | Follow Delta Dirt Distillery on Instagram | Learn about Downtown Helena | Learn about Main Street Arkansas 

Lindsay Goodson McDonald | Keith McDonald Plumbing | Milledgeville, Georgia

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, host Matt Wagner sat down with the CEO of Keith McDonald Plumbing in Milledgeville, Ga., Lindsay Goodson McDonald.  
 
In their conversation, Lindsay discusses her path to small business ownership. Lindsay began her work in plumbing in 2009. After losing her job in Athens, Ga. during the national recession, she moved back home to Milledgeville to help her father with the family business. At the time, Lindsay said, “I totally hated it. Hate’s not even enough of a word.” It wasn’t until several years later when her father wanted to begin scaling the service side of the business into new locations that Lindsay became more interested, and eventually passionate, about the work.  
 
Around five years ago, Keith began planning for retirement and was slowly scaling back, allowing Lindsay to take on more of a leadership role. Unfortunately, the gradual succession plan was cut short when, in 2021, Keith tragically passed away during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing Lindsay to decide whether to sell the business or take over as CEO. She made the decision to stay on, recognizing that she would need to make significant changes and scale back in certain areas in order to maintain the company without her father. Even with these changes, Lindsay says, the company has begun to grow and scale in new areas, largely due to her adaptation to innovative new technologies. 
 
In the episode, Lindsay talks through the challenges and lessons learned from being a woman leading a company in a male-dominated industry, the importance of adapting to new technologies, overcoming imposter syndrome, and her passion for community development work.   
 

Christina Hollerbach | Hollerbach's German Restaurant | Sanford, Florida

In this week’s episode of Main Street Business Insights, host Matt Wagner sat down with the CEO of Hollerbach’s German Restaurant in Sanford, Fla., Christina Hollerbach. In addition to providing an authentic German food and beverage experience to guests, Hollerbach’s also includes a German market, art gallery, outfitters, and an entertainment venue. In 2019, Hollerbach’s founded the Hollerbach’s Has Heart Family Foundation to provide grants to hospitality workers to pursue education and/or business certifications and provided financial relief to hospitality workers throughout the global pandemic. 
 
The restaurant was opened in 2001 by Christina’s parents, Linda and Theo Hollerbach. Christina transitioned into the role of CEO in 2020. As CEO, Christina focuses on the importance of creating a healthy organizational culture by instilling a sense of community among her employees. In her conversation with Matt, Christina discusses how she has created and led a thriving company culture through the pandemic and beyond, her strategies for growth and expansion, and advice for newer Main Street business owners.  
 

The Barbershop Conversation Podcast Team | Goldsboro, Florida

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, host Matt Wagner sat down with The Barbershop Conversation podcast team, co-hosts Kenneth Bentley and Davion Hampton along with executive producer Emory Green Jr., in Goldsboro, Florida.

Launched in 2021 to encourage local and regional voter turnout, The Barbershop Conversation podcast is focused on delivering current events and political news, along with local coverage, through a positive lens. Outside of their work educating the community through the podcast, Bentley is also the Board Chairman of Historic Goldsboro Main Street, a designated Main Street Community as of 2022. Bentley is also involved with Goldsboro Front Porch, a youth community resource center that supports area high school students with tutoring and employment. Green is the owner of Elite Styles Barber Lounge in Goldsboro, Fla., and Hampton is a contractor in the historic Midway community.

In their conversation, Bentley, Hampton, and Green discuss the importance of youth community involvement, encouraging entrepreneurship among residents, fostering equitable partnerships, and their founding mission of serving the community.

Martha Moore & Ashley Owens | Martha & Ash Custom Drapery | Camden, South Carolina

In this week’s episode of Main Street Business Insights, host Matt Wagner sits down with mother-daughter duo, Martha Moore and Ashley Owens, co-owners and founders of the custom drapery business Martha & Ash in downtown Camden, South Carolina. 
 
Since 2003, Martha and Ashley have been making and supplying hand-made draperies, shades, and hardware for residential and corporate clients out of their quaint shop in a renovated schoolhouse. Prior to this, Martha operated a custom drapery workroom out of her home, servicing mostly local customers. Eventually, she began working on larger contract jobs for local corporations. Soon after, Ashley, who had recently graduated college, came home to join her in the family business. 
 
When the recession hit in 2008, the team’s commercial projects began to dry up. In an effort to attract more local residential customers, they opened their first bricks-and-mortar shop in downtown Camden and began to experiment with selling smaller items such as throw pillows on the then-fledgling online marketplace, Etsy. At the time, focusing on Etsy sales felt something like a gamble – but over the years, Martha & Ash’s online sales have eclipsed their in-person revenue and have helped them grow and scale beyond their local and regional client base. 
 
In their conversation with Matt, Martha and Ashley share their experience co-leading a thriving business as a mother-daughter team, the importance of delivering a high-quality product, ways they improve the customer experience online, and how they have navigated through massive economic shifts. 
 

Terrand Smith | 37 Oaks | Chicago, Illinois

In this episode of Main Street Business Insights, host Matt Wagner sat down with the founder and CEO of 37 Oaks, Terrand Smith. Located in Chicago, Illinois, 37 Oaks is a commerce development and learning laboratory for entrepreneurs. The business is comprised of three platforms: 37 Oaks University, with over 30 courses that build retail, commerce, and distribution knowledge for product-based entrepreneurs; Sokoni, a commerce development learning lab that reduces risk of scaling into retail and online; and 37 Oaks Community, a community of people, tools, and resources that help entrepreneurs navigate business ownership. Within 37 Oaks, Terrand and her team have built a mechanism that guides entrepreneurs from the start-up phase into healthy and sustainable growth through learning, application, and personalized support. 

Before becoming an entrepreneur herself, Terrand worked as a national buyer in retail. She was responsible for connecting customers to products in a profitable way – both on the international stage and for regional retailers. She found that smaller businesses were creating amazing products, but were struggling when it came to retail, distribution, and commerce acumen. When she left her corporate position, she decided to use her experience and knowledge to help small business owners, to educate and prepare them for scalable growth. 

In addition to her work leading 37 Oaks, Terrand Smith is also the author of Prepare to Shift: Proven Ways to Shift Your Hobby into a Growing Business. This is a workbook that outlines proven principles to shift a business from the early start-up stage into growth. 

 

Background reading: Read about 37 Oaks | Learn about Illinois Main Street | Learn about Six Corners Association |  Learn about Prepare to Shift: Proven Ways to Shift Your Hobby into a Growing Business

Amber Lambke | Maine Grains | Skowhegan, Maine

In the inaugural episode of Main Street Business Insights, host Matt Wagner sat down with the co-founder and CEO of Maine Grains, Amber Lambke. Located in downtown Skowhegan, Maine, Maine Grains is a grist mill that processes locally grown and organic heritage grains for bakers, brewers, and chefs throughout the Northeast. What's more, Maine Grains has created a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem around it that creates jobs, improves land use, and provides healthy food all while serving as a successful model for thriving local economies.  
 
Amber began her path towards entrepreneurship when she was a new mother, soon after relocating to Skowhegan. With a little time on her hands and a desire to more deeply engage with her new community, Amber began volunteering at the farmer's market. There, she learned that grain farmers and producers were missing components in the local food shed. Maine Grains grew out of a desire to bring locally grown and manufactured grain products back to central Maine.  
 
Her story highlights the importance of how combining a business with a higher purpose, along with a successful formula for growing and scaling, can build community and spur economic growth.  
 
This episode was recorded live at the Main Street Now Conference in Boston, Mass., in May 2023. 
 
Background reading: Read about Maine Grains | Learn about Main Street Skowhegan | Learn about Main Street Maine | Read an article featuring Amber’s story, published in The Wall Street Journal in July 2023

Go Behind the Scenes with Amber Lambke of Maine Grains

Other Small Business Resources

Over the course of the last several years, a major focus of Main Street America has been building the network’s position in economic development, with an emphasis on supporting our most critical asset: downtown and neighborhood businesses. In addition to the Main Street Business Insights podcast, here are several other small business resources available to downtown and neighborhood entrepreneurs:
 

Backing Small Businesses Grant Program, presented by American Express 

 
Launched in 2021, this grant program awards $5,000 grants to support small business owners in building their economic vitality and fostering a thriving community.  

LEARN MORE

 
 

Breaking Barriers to Business, presented by the Truist Foundation 

 
In this partnership with the Truist Foundation and Living Cities, Main Street America is working with place-based leaders in local government and business support organizations in five cities across our network to support business owners and entrepreneurs of color.  

LEARN MORE

 
 

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building 

 
Supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, this resource center provides tools and information on building greater local support systems around entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

LEARN MORE

 
 

Grow with Google Digital Coaches 

 
Main Street America and Grow with Google have partnered to help business owners in small towns gain new skills through local Digital Coaches. These coaches provide free, in-person digital skills training for small businesses in rural America. There are also several virtual live and on-demand workshops available for small business owners to access.  

LEARN MORE

 
 

Main Street Online, powered by GoDaddy 

 
This free assessment tool was designed by industry experts to provide consultative recommendations to businesses of all stages and ages with 20 or fewer employees in the following sectors: Retail, Service Providers, Food & Beverage. 

LEARN MORE

 
 
Click here to sign up for Main Street America’s small business emails to stay connected with us about new resources and future funding opportunities!