Thanks to the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Block Grant Program, the Small Business Administration’s PRIME Grant and its Women’s Business Center Grant, Community Ventures has been able to augment the work of local chambers by providing business training and assistance to support businesses through the pandemic. These partnerships allow Community Ventures to work with partners on the ground to created tailored strategies that meet the needs of each local business community. In Bourbon County, the Paris Bourbon County Chamber of Commerce has been one of the key partners, helping us to maximize our impact in Paris, KY and in the town of Millersburg (home of Mustard Seed Hill). Lauren Biddle, Executive Director of the Paris Chamber, works closely with our team at Community Ventures and Mustard Seed Hill to maximize every opportunity for community growth and development.
With Community Ventures’ growing presence in the area, Lauren has worked closely with Mustard Seed Hill President, Shawn Burns, to find new ways for the two organizations to support community development in Paris, Millersburg, and the surrounding towns that make up Bourbon County.
“Shawn is a wealth of information when it comes to community development and building things. First, we started Small Business Workshops where Shawn or another expert talks about business development for our members. Those workshops have been very well-attended,” says Biddle. Once the pandemic hit, they were forced to pause the workshops, but their collaborative efforts did not stop.
Because of the aforementioned grant programs with USDA and the SBA, Community Ventures had the resources to pivot its business support strategy to meet the unique challenges created by the pandemic. “During the shutdown, Shawn went around to different businesses and made videos for the businesses to use on their social media to promote their products and services and give them a different light.” Since last Spring, Shawn Burns, and others at CV have focused on helping businesses create videos, develop an online presence, and explore new ways to generate revenue. “Right now, we’re focused on getting videos made for the local bed and breakfast businesses to help them with promotion. We also recently did Valentine’s Day promotion to spread the word about local businesses for Valentine’s Day,” says Biddle.
For the Paris Chamber, the presence of Mustard Seed Hill has also been beneficial to their efforts. “There were 60,000 that came through Bourbon County last year just because of Mustard Seed Hill – that’s a huge impact alone. So what can we do in Bourbon County and Paris to complement that? Business owners are thinking about how they can complement what Mustard Seed Hill is doing in the area. For example, our businesses are setting up pop-up shops at Mustard Seed Hill at their annual Christmas event. That has helped because now our businesses are getting noticed.”
The Chamber also recognizes the opportunity that Mustard Seed Hill through the traffic it generates for the surrounding areas, and looks to the future of Bourbon County with optimism. “People see how every year, a lot of guests are visiting Millersburg to have weddings and to look at the Christmas lights. It’s having an economic impact. I don’t think it’s there just yet, but it feels like they are gearing up for things to happen in Millersburg, for it to be a productive downtown, for other industries to move to the area.”
The Paris Chamber hopes to build upon the momentum of their recent work to create new opportunities for the area. “Lack of foot traffic has always been an issue. The city of Paris has roughly 9,500 people, so our Main Street is quite extensive which is great. It makes a beautiful, quaint small town. But 9,500 people alone can’t support thirty stores in the downtown district. That’s why we’ve worked to promote our downtown district to Mustard Seed Hill so that those visitors can also see and experience what we have to offer in Paris.” Biddle noted that businesses have seen improvements to their bottom line, and attributes this improvement, in part, to the work of Shawn Burns and Community Ventures.