American Morning

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November 25th, 2009
07:25 AM ET

Success in Sour Times: Network farming

By Stephen Samaniego

Fred Fleming's family has been farming in Lincoln County Washington for over a hundred years. President Grover Cleveland signed the deed to his great grandfather back in 1888. Since then the farm has been passed on from generation to generation. To say farming is in his blood would be an understatement.

Fleming jokes about how he used to be addicted to the traditional farming methods passed on to him by his father. "I'm a recovering conventional farmer. I'm ten years into my program. My name is Fred."

Fleming says this with a coy smile, but for years he worried about the sustainability of conventional farming. Traditionally, a wheat farmer sells his product on the commodities market where prices can be so volatile a farmer can be bankrupt before he knows what happened to him.

Fleming decided it was time for him to start selling wheat on his own terms. Fleming and his long-time friend and fellow farmer Karl Kupers decided to bypass the commodity market and take their product directly to the customer.


Filed under: Economy • Success in Sour Times
November 24th, 2009
07:44 AM ET

Success in Sour Times: Local chains take on retail juggernauts

By Stephen Samaniego

They have infiltrated American consumer culture – Walmart, Target, and Costco. They are the mega-chains. Stores that carry anything and everything found in almost every community across the country. Many towns have gone to court to stop stores like Walmart from setting up shop, fearing a loss of local businesses and community charm.

Now in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood, a new phenomenon is starting to take root. The local chain. They're small businesses linked by a common theme and – unlike their big chain rivals – are located in close proximity to each other. "We're not cloning one thing and putting it somewhere else," says Patrick Watson. "We're trying to target a neighborhood that we know and love incredibly well, and fill the gaps in."

Patrick Watson and his wife Michelle Pravda have lived in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood for fifteen years and are owners of a local chain. Their first business was a wine shop called Smith and Vine. Playing off the wine theme, they opened up a cheese store across the street, called Stinky Brooklyn. They followed it with a combination of the two – opening a wine and cheese bar up the street, called The Jakewalk.

The concept: Identify a customer base and cater to their specific tastes with a personal touch and local flair. After a loyal following begins to build, capitalize on that reputation with another store that further extends your local brand.


Filed under: Economy • Success in Sour Times
November 23rd, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Success in Sour Times – You're the boss

By Stephen Samaniego

Ida Petkus may be in the middle of her sixth month on unemployment, but she says she hasn't looked for a job since the summer. She's already got work – a job she created working for herself. "I thought I'd still be working for someone else and working in a company," says Petkus. "I never thought I would be an employer myself."

After being laid off as a domestic violence advocate this past March, Ida started her own domestic violence agency with a little help from Uncle Sam. It’s called the Self Employment Assistance Program, S.E.A. for short, and it trains people receiving unemployment benefits to start and run their own business.

When Ida heard about the program, it seemed like a no-brainer. She had tried looking for a job but had no luck. Petkus says, "There’s just nothing out there to be an advocate in this economy. So I signed up for it, thinking, "Well, I can brush up on my marketing skills, why not?'"

"Small businesses tend to fail," says Michael Glass who is director of New Jersey’s S.E.A. "Often because they don't have a written business plan, a marketing plan, and they're not financially ready to do it, so what we try to do is ease that process," adds Glass. He has been with the program since it started in the state 13 years ago and has seen close to 8,000 businesses created through S.E.A.


Filed under: Economy • Success in Sour Times