Partnering may be one effective way for local businesses to increase revenues during these tough economic times (published in July of 2010 in the SB News Press)

When speaking with business owner, executives, and management team members throughout Santa Barbara County, I have noticed an encouraging and innovative trend, which I feel will really help these businesses perform well, especially during the challenging economic times we face.  Recently, several businesses have established partner relationships with other local businesses, to cross promote and cross sell each partner’s products and services

In this week’s column, I will discuss some of the partnership arrangements that have developed recently, and some existing relationships that are working well.  Motivated business owners are looking for any way to achieve a competitive advantage, and to increase sales.  This makes perfect sense, and I hope to encourage more businesses to follow suit. 
The most recent partnership I have seen develop is between my martial arts school, Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (located at 1014 State Street; www.gbsantabarbara.com; 845-2272), and Spectrum Athletic Club’s downtown location, at21 W. Carrillo Street (965-0999).  Through this new partnership, each business will promote the other’s services through a variety of marketing strategies.  Leon Jesmanowicz, Membership Manager for Spectrum, relates that Spectrum will provide an 8 ½ by 11, full-color Gracie Barra flier in each new membership package, when a new member signs-up.  In addition, at least once a month, a class will be offered at one of the two businesses to attract new members for the partner business.  An example would be a women’s self defense class taught by Rodrigo Clark, owner of Gracie Barra, at Spectrum Downtown, or a fitness class taught by one of the certified Spectrum instructors at Gracie Barra.
Leon states that Spectrum will display standup advertisements for Gracie Barra throughout the fitness center, and that GB will also be able to setup display tables whenever Spectrum holds events or during high traffic times, etc.  Gracie Barra will also provide marketing and promotional materials from Spectrum to all new members, and will display advertising in their space as well. 
Leon also says that this is just the beginning, and that they are exploring many other possibilities, and will definitely expand on this initial plan.  Also, he states that Spectrum Downtown will not promote any other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools and Gracie Barra will not promote any other fitness clubs.
Another recent partnership is between McConnell’s Ice Cream and the Berryman.  The Berryman is now carrying McConnell’s ice cream on all of their trucks, and is helping McConnell’s to more effectively market to the Berryman’s existing, extensive client base.  McConnell’s has also been successful at getting many other Santa Barbara businesses to stock their ice cream.  McConnell’s is a premium brand, which is a positive for any business offering McConnell’s, such as grocery stores and restaurants.  McConnell’s ice creams can be found in 100% Gelson’s, 100% of Whole Foods Markets, 100% of Bristol Farms, 82 Ralph’s locations, select Vons (all local locations), select Albertson’s (all local locations), and major independents like Montecito Village Market, Lazy Acres, and Nielson Brother’s market and El Rancho Market, (both in Solvang).  These partnerships certainly are not hurting McConnell’s sales either. 
A long-standing partnership exists between Richard’s Accurate (401 Santa Barbara Street; 962-1741) and several of the top paint and body shops in town.  Richard’s is a specialist in the mechanical repair area (they are my mechanic shop), so there partnerships with these paint and body shops is a natural, and complimentary fit.  David Raezer of Richard’s Accurate says that Richard’s refers business to the best paint and body shops in town, including Precision Auto Body, Superior Collision Repair, Hughes Auto Body, and 101 Collision.  In turn, when they have customers who need mechanical service, they refer business back to Richard’s. 
As the president of the board of Transition House, a local charity dedicated to ending family homelessness in Santa Barbara, I can tell you that we enjoy many vital partnerships with businesses throughout Santa Barbara.  The banks in particular have been extremely helpful, not only through offering assistance with financing and other banking services, but through generous donations as well.  Santa Barbara Bank & Trust has been a long-time supporter for us and many other charities within our community.  Wells Fargo consistently donates money to us each year.  During the holidays, they not only allow us to place collection boxes in their branches to prompt their customers to buy toys for our kids (which the customers very generously do each year), but their employees usually end up buying a lot of the toys we receive. 
Montecito Bank & Trust has been a true community partner for Transition House.  Michael Towbes has always been there for us, good economy and bad, and the bank is already ready and willing to work with us to secure financing when we have a project that needed funding. 
Many restaurants in town, such as Frescos, Lucky’s, Downey’s, Paradise Café, Aldo’s, Arnoldi’s, Brophy Brothers, Ca’ Dario, Café Luck, Bella Vista at the Biltmore, Bay Café, Café del Sol, Olio E Limone, Via Maestra #42, Louie’s at the Upham Hotel, Marmalade Café, Palace Grill, Pascucci, Sojourner Café, Playa Azul and others help us throughout the year as well as during our main fundraiser, the Help a Kid No-ball, which is coming up on September 24 (www.transitionhouse.com).  By providing us with gift certificates, these restaurants allow us to put together very attractive packages for a raffle, which in previous years has allowed us to raise significant funds to support our families.                       
The Channel Cat has donated boating excursions to us, allowing us to recognize our long-standing donors.  This is also a great opportunity for the Channel Cat to draw potential new clients onto the boat to enjoy the amazing experience of a cruise through the Santa Barbara channel.  We simply could not do what we do without the support of these and many other local businesses, too numerous to mention, but every bit as generous and helpful. 
The Clean Business Investment Summit offers local entrepreneurs unprecedented access to valuable information, as well as direct contact with angel and venture capital investors and industry experts.  Jerry Knotts, President and CEO of The California Coast Venture Forum (www.ccvf.org) relates that the CCVF is hosting the second annual Clean Business Investment Summit™ on August 13th, 2010 at the Corwin Pavilion at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  The areas of focus at this event will include: renewable energy, clean tech, ethical, green, socially responsible, and sustainable enterprises. 
Alan Tratner, Founder and Director of Green2Gold states that The Clean Business Investment Summit aligns the power of capital and clean business principles to build viable, attractive, partnerships. The Summit allows entrepreneurs to present their companies to investors looking for viable, ethical Clean Business opportunities.  This is the 12th annual presentation from the CCVF which has joined forces with Green2Gold for this event (I will be writing a future article on this event, so watch my column, if interested).
The CCVF, the largest venture capital forum held in coastal California, links innovative, high growth companies with leading business development and financing experts, and service providers.  More than 575 start-up and growth companies have been introduced to venture investors and related services experts, with more than $110,000,000 invested through the CCVF.  This is the kind of partnering that builds wealth, increases economic activity throughout the region, and increases employment, which benefits us all.
I am certain that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, or business partnerships throughout the County that are contributing to business activity that benefits these business partners as well as you and me in many different ways.  I truly hope that more local business owners will seek new, innovative partnerships with other local businesses, to help increase business activity further.  Through partnering, businesses not only increase their potential for new customers and clients, and thereby their potential for increased revenues and profits, but also increase the perceived and real value experienced by their customers and clients.  With more partnering, we will have a better chance of avoiding the depths of the negative impacts of the poor economy, and just might rebound quicker than most other communities.
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