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Plymouth-Canton Business Owners, AOL CEO Share Secrets to Success

AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong gives advice to small business owners.

There are hundreds of small businesses in Plymouth and Canton. Some of them may be places you and your family frequent, businesses that have been in the area for as long as you can remember. And some may be your go-to places instead of national chains.

AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong may stand behind a global brand, but he believes in the power of small businesses. In his recent interview with Patch Partners, a website connecting business owners to Patch in local communities, he offered his insight into what can set a small business above the rest of the competition.

Small businesses can hold a lot of power if they are intuitive with their customer base, Armstrong said.

“Small businesses can be nimble and can have intimate relationships with their customers. Knowing what their customers want is a very big advantage.”

In downtown Plymouth, family-owned businesses are the norm, creating a unique shopping experience for consumers where local brands outweigh national chains. 

Charles Dare, who owns Genuine Toy Co., 550 Forest Ave. in Plymouth with his wife, Elle, said community involvement is crucial to sustaining a successful business.

"Just being part of the community is important," he said. "We're involved with all the events around here, sponsor the children's concerts in the park in the summer, and there are things going on all the time in the store where we're trying to offer an experience for people to shop here in the community."

Teresa Pilarz of Espresso Elevado, 606 S. Main St. in Plymouth, said in an interview with Plymouth-Canton Patch that she felt her business, now in its second year, filled a niche in an area steadily becoming a culinary destination.

"Plymouth was my first choice when locating my business because it’s already a vibrant, small town with a good culinary vibe," she said. "In a town like Plymouth you can get fresh-baked bread at Boule, hormone-free meats at Avenue Market, house-made wine and wood-fired pizza at Cellar 849, and hand-crafted sandwiches at Simple Sandwich, among other options. An artisan coffee roaster fits perfectly in the mix."

Armstrong also noted that real success lies in what a business offers that the competitors do not.

“The advice I would give is the same advice I give myself—how do you create a differentiated and time-saving experience versus your competition? If a consumer cannot tell another consumer what unique benefit you offer, you might be missing an opportunity,” he said.

Pilarz said her product sets Espresso Elevado apart from its coffee competitors.

"We don’t intend to follow the pack, but rather focus on our unique mission, vision and values, part of which is to serve an artistic beverage (that's) elegantly prepared," she said.

Dare said carrying a variety of products, including some that offer nostalgic value, helps Genuine Toy Co. stand out from big-box toy stores.

"We try to be different and we try to carry different items," he said. "We don't have a lot of electronic items. To some extent we feel some of those things don't have much play value. We want to foster creativity and sell something children come back to and play with again."

Another way to support locally owned small businesses is to participate in American Express's Small Business Saturday on Nov. 24. Last year, over 100 million people participated in this day dedicated to supporting small businesses.

There are more articles and interviews about small businesses on Patch Partners, where you can also sign up for the Patch Partners newsletter and Patch Partners Twitter feed to stay better informed, grow your small business and strengthen your community.

TELL US: If you are a small business owner, did you find this information useful? If you are a patron of small businesses, do you agree with this advice? What are your favorite local businesses, and why?

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