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By Jim Giammarinaro

President & CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce


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FRAMINGHAM – Small businesses maintain significant standing in our economy. Nearly 59 million people (which is 47.5% of our country’s working population) work as part of a small business.

Last year, 25 million Americans had either started or were running a small business. Interestingly, that means the average small business consists of approximately 2 people.

Our chamber of commerce supports all type of organizations (entrepreneurs, large business, and non-profits) but the vast majority of our 400 members are small businesses with small staffs and they can use any support they get.

Many of our upcoming articles will tell the stories of our chamber entrepreneurs and hopefully provide insight as to the why’s and how’s related to running a small business. Given that so much of our economy relies on this business segment, taking a deep dive into individual stories will hopefully provide guidance to budding entrepreneurs.

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Surveys of entrepreneurs indicate that 39% chose to start their own business to pursue their passion.
An additional 25% chose to start their own business to get out of corporate America. Another 25%
jumped into small business because an opportunity presented itself while the smallest category (4%)
related to various life events.

In 2001 I started a printing business with my business partner Neil Henderson. I chose to jump into
the small business world because of life events. My background had been primarily corporate, working
at Raytheon, Gillette, and Avery Dennison in a variety of areas including finance, operations
management, and new business development.

Although I have an MBA from Babson and went to school with several individuals with entrepreneurial aspirations, it was never my intention to start my own business. The reason I chose to go to graduate school was to aid in climbing the corporate ladder.

Two events led me to pursue entrepreneurship. I jumped from the corporate world to a GM position at a
small publishing/printing company and oversaw a team of 60 people. Although this was a “larger” small
business it was certainly different than working for a large company. Thankfully, having a work
background of varied experience and advanced education came in very handy in handling all the
challenges a small business had to offer. This experience also helped me gain the confidence that I could
run my own small business.

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The need to have my own small business was also dictated by a life event as it became apparent that the young boy my wife Marion and I adopted from Russia had learning disabilities. Raising our son Nick was going to require the flexibility one can sometimes provide themselves when having their own business. This led to the jump into entrepreneurship in 2001.

Immediately after starting our small business the anxiety of not having a fixed salary began. The
equipment we were leasing had a fixed price tag of $250,000 annually and the rent was another $50,000
annually. We had to have $300,000 in revenue before we could event think about paying ourselves.

Although the digital printing world provided some technical challenges, we did have a background in
printing so we were confident we could get out a quality product in a timely manner in a cost-efficient
way. Creating a revenue stream (sales) proved to be quite challenging as although I had significant
customer contact throughout my career, I was never individually responsible for selling. It was just Neil
and myself and I was the more likely candidate to be the salesman.

As I ventured into the world of sales, I knew one thing form the beginning, we wanted “customers for
life” and did not want our sales to be just transactional. When you start a zero and realize how difficult it
can be to make a sale you want that customer to come back time and time again for more products. Our
sales strategy was based on putting myself in enough places to build long-term business relationships.

I joined as many groups as I could to put myself into face-to-face contact with as many potential
customers as possible. Although there were refinements as time moved on, we never strayed away from
the “customers for life” strategy. It was also a natural fit for me as I had an appreciation for what my
customers were going through just to keep their businesses afloat. Choosing to pursue “customers for
life” also creates a feeling that “we’re all in this together” as opposed to just trying to get what you can
from people who purchase your product.

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Year #1 was difficult as we only hit $250,000 in sales to help offset our fixed cost. Year #2 was
significantly better as sales were nearly $600,000, but our costs did go up because we had to add staff.
We were fortunate to have sales go up significantly every year which put us in a position to fight off the
impact of the recession in 2008. We gained a good “rhythm” and successfully ran the business until we
sold in 2019.

Most importantly having my own business provided me with the flexibility I needed throughout those years to handle the ever-evolving school situations due to my son’s special needs. There were many days where I needed to jump out of my workday for a while to address situation which were happening at Nick’s school. I’m quite sure I would have not been afforded the flexibility I needed if I had worked for someone else.

In 2014 my wife and I opened a second business (Putts & More Family Fun Center) which employs
and provides internships for adults with disabilities. This was again a choice to start a small business due
to life events. My son Nick and other individuals needed to find employment so they could show all the
things they are capable of. Having been able to learn from the many experiences at Freedom Printing
made it easier to handle the challenges of this new business. My wife Marion runs this business
successfully as our team at the chamber helps support the many entrepreneurs we have as members.


Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column will run on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.