Main Street Business Insights

Join host Dr. Matt Wagner, Chief Program Officer at Main Street America, as he travels the country, taking a deep dive into the personal journeys of downtown and neighborhood entrepreneurs. Each week we showcase a small business owner, who will share the story of starting, maintaining, and evolving their business. These are stories that frequently go unheard and unnoticed but offer us valuable lessons as to how Main Street businesses have overcome adversity, and successfully made business model shifts in ever-changing economic environments.

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4 days ago

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 Main Street Helena | Learn about Main Street Arkansas 

Wednesday Sep 20, 2023

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.   
Background Reading: Learn about McDonald Plumbing | Learn about Downtown Milledgeville | Learn about Georgia Main Street 

Wednesday Sep 13, 2023

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.  
Background reading: Learn about Hollerbach’s German Restaurant | Learn about Christina | Learn about Sanford Main Street 

Wednesday Sep 06, 2023

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.  
Further Reading: Listen to The Barbershop Conversation | Follow Elite Styles Barber Lounge | Learn about Historic Goldsboro Main Street | Learn about Florida Main Street | Read a press release from the Florida Department of State honoring Goldsboro Main Street 

Wednesday Aug 30, 2023

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 quant 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. 
Further Reading: Learn about Martha & Ash | See Martha & Ash’s Etsy Shop | Learn about Downtown Camden | Learn about Main Street South Carolina 

Wednesday Aug 23, 2023

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 

Wednesday Aug 16, 2023

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 | Read an article featuring Amber’s story, published in The Wall Street Journal in July 2023

Tuesday Aug 01, 2023

Welcome to Main Street Business Insights, where host Dr. Matt Wagner, Chief Program Officer at Main Street America, travels the country and takes a deep dive into the personal journeys of downtown and neighborhood entrepreneurs. Tune in Wednesdays starting August 16 to get inspired, get informed, and get in motion with Main Street Business Insights. 

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