Raymond boasts of several business owners under age 30
RAYMOND -- It was a little scary to go into business last April, considering the condition of the economy at the time, said Jessica Heida.
But Heida, who just turned 29, took the plunge with Heida's Corner Café in Raymond.
She joined at least a half dozen other businesses in the community owned by people 30 or younger.
The newest member of the club is S&D Repair, owned by Brian Sietsema, 29, and John-Adam Day, 30. Their business opened along Highway 23 about a month ago.
Some of the businesses have already been around for a while already. Trista Rand, 23, has owned the grocery store in town for 3½ years. "I love it," she said.
Cassandra Strommer, 28, has been operating Hair by Cassandra for about four years. She shared her shop with another hair stylist for a couple years before that.
All the entrepreneurs said the community supports them very well. Sietsema and Day didn't have time to get their shop equipment organized before business started rolling in the door.
"We're not the typical small town," said longtime resident Larry Macht. "We have a much higher percentage of youth than many small towns."
The town also has a high percentage of women-owned businesses, he said.
Macht, an accountant, is president of the Raymond Civic and Commerce Club and volunteer economic development director for the city.
"As a community, I believe we're aggressive in helping out new businesses," he said.
Macht said the city and economic development commission can help with advice and access to assistance programs. Tax abatements are possible in some cases. The Mid-Minnesota Development Commission also has programs to assist start-up businesses.
Heida said she was able to borrow money directly from Heritage Bank in Raymond for her business. "We did our homework," she said.
It helped that she and her husband, Brandon, have a good credit score. They are the type of people who save up for something rather than buy it with a credit card, she said. "My mother drilled it into me from a very young age."
Sietsema and Day said they were able to get help from the economic development commission, from Heritage Bank and from a mid-Minnesota Development Commission loan program.
Opening just before harvest season ensured a demand for their services, and they have both worked as mechanics in the area for years. In fact, they got so busy so fast that they said they have been working until 10 p.m. many nights doing truck repairs and trying to finish getting their shop organized.
Getting started was a long process. "We started thinking about it the first of the year," Sietsema said.
"We wanted to be financially independent," Day added.
They were able to rent a vacant portion of the Steffen Implement Co. building. Macht called it a win-win for both businesses.
Many of the business owners credited Macht for his advice and assistance and their supportive community for their success. Being in Raymond seems to suit them just fine.
Sietsema and Day said they turned to Macht for guidance with the paperwork in the public loan programs.
Heida said Raymond residents have supported her café "more than I ever thought they would."
Business has been good at the café, she said. She has the morning coffee crowd, and the Wednesday hot beef commercial is popular. She learned that her homemade soups and chili sell, even in the summer. "It's 97 degrees outside, and people are coming in eating chili," she said.
Strommer said she likes setting her own hours, and her kids' day care is never far away in a small town. She has clients who come from all over the area, so "if people will come, I might as well stay here," she said.
Rand has made some updates at the store and rearranged the interior. She has grown a lot of the produce she sold in the store this fall. "I've never had a garden before in my life," she said with a laugh.
When she first started, she said, she had to work at learning everyone's names. Now she can greet nearly all of her customers by name.
Other businesses with younger owners in Raymond include LeRoy's Collision Repair, Neal Motors, Lidbeck Construction and Photos by Jennie.
A number of young people have part-time businesses in addition to their other jobs, and the area also has a number of younger farmers, Macht said.