With a successful day in Tampa under their belt, CEO Noah Breslow and SVP of Marketing Andrea Gellert headed north to the Washington, DC metro area to continue their mission of visiting as many small businesses as possible in one week.

The first stop was to Denise Medved of Metro Cooking in Annandale, VA. A seasoned food services and trade show veteran (she’s even written a book called The Tiny Kitchen – check it out!), Denise decided to strike out on her own 8 years ago to start her own business, the Metropolitan Cooking Show. The business puts on cooking and artisanal trade shows throughout the country.

Here are Denise’s 4 best pieces of small business advice:

  • On becoming profitable: As a business owner, you can make a lot of expensive mistakes— just don’t make them twice. Part of how you do that is by being willing to scrap underperforming initiatives as early as possible.
  • On vendor relationships: You need to develop very strong relationships with your vendors. When the time comes that you need their support, you want a strong foundation to ask for a favor.
  • On managing your reputation: Sometimes, things happen that are out of your control. Over the summer, one of our featured speakers at a conference was having some PR issues, and our sponsors started dropping out. When something like this happens, you need to really focus on the core elements of your business and honor your obligations. People will always want to see how you act in a crisis.
  • On being an OnDeck customer: OnDeck isn’t selling financing, it’s selling is a good night’s sleep. As a business owner, there are times when you really need financing – and fast. With OnDeck, you pay for what you get – which is incredible customer service and a lender that actually cares about your business.

Andrea & Noah then headed to DC-proper to speak with Hector Zarate of Toro Mata, a furniture store that sells hand crafted home goods made by artisans from all over Peru. What started as a weekend stand at local crafts fairs quickly turned into a store that is beloved by DC locals and in-the-know tourists.

  • On choosing a location: It’s really important to think about where you can get the most foot traffic. The biggest challenge for us has been a street fix that was supposed to take 6 months, but actually took 18 months. If we had known it was going to take that long, we would have moved.
  • On giving back: We support native artisans in rural communities by featuring their products – we give a 50% deposit to our artists upfront, which helps support their local economy.
  • On the SBA shutdown: When the government shut down during the Fall, it really impacted our business because the area emptied out. But that was the exact time we were preparing for the holiday season – we needed financing for cash flow and inventory.
  • On being an OnDeck customer: You need a business partner that does more than just provide financing – you need someone that is honest. It was a stressful time during the shutdown, and OnDeck was a straight shooter that did what they said they were going to do.

Tomorrow, Noah and Kimberly Solarz, our Marketing Communications Manager, are heading to Chicago to host a small business luncheon at La Luce Italian Restaurant, and then to Minneapolis to visit Fan Man Lighting. We’re also giving away $2,500 to a small business in each of the 4 cities we’re visiting – you can learn more about our contest on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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