Ventura restarts Business of the Month program
Ventura city leaders are working to improve the city’s image as a good place to do business by honoring some of the most outstanding local companies. A newly revamped Business of the Month program has been launched and the first three winners were recognized by Mayor Joe Schroeder at the Jan. 23 city council meeting.
The first businesses honored were Café Ficelle, a bakery and restaurant that’s expanded significantly in recent years; Island Packers, which has been taking visitors to Channel Islands National Park since 1968; and Scrubs on the Run, a company that sells work clothes for people in the medical profession.
Cary Glenn is a management analyst in the city’s economic development division and told the Ventura County Reporter that the program is a partnership with the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, which used to have a business recognition program that was derailed by staffing changes and the pandemic.
“We kind of reworked a little bit of the nominating criteria and some of the categories. But it was really important for both of our organizations to restart the recognition program as a way to showcase our diverse business community and to express our appreciation for our small businesses, which are really the backbone of our local economy,” Glenn said.
The first three businesses were recognized for the months of October, November and December 2022. The next ceremony will be at the April 24 city council meeting to honor recipients for the first three months of this year. The Business of the Month event will be conducted four times a year.
To be eligible for the award, nominees must be for-profit “bricks and mortar” businesses that have operated in the city for at least three consecutive years and have two or more employees. Nominations are open to the public and self-nominations are also allowed. Areas of achievement include business growth, environmental stewardship, community enrichment, business resiliency and industry innovation.
Glenn said city leaders are aware that Ventura has been viewed as a challenging place to do business in the past and they hope the business recognition program helps change people’s opinion.
“That’s really become a focus of ours and our council and our administration to change that perception,” Glenn explained. “So, you know, we’re really working towards improving our response times and our systems and anything, any way that we can to reduce wait times or uncertainty. That’s really a goal of the city. So we’re really trying to improve that and change that perception that Ventura is a challenging place to do business.”
Glenn said the city also hired the Matrix Consulting Group about four years ago to do a “deep dive” into the city’s development and permitting process. Since then, the firm has made 58 recommendations that are being implemented.
“A lot of that has to do with changing our systems to make us more business friendly, you know, making those processes smoother, quicker, clear, better to understand, and create assurances and certainty around those processes,” Glenn said. “So when you apply for a permit, you know exactly how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to cost and when you can expect that end result. So that’s an effort that’s been ongoing and we’ve been making some really great progress.”
Reyna Chavez owns Scrubs on the Run Medical Uniforms and Accessories, which opened in Ventura 11 years ago before establishing two more locations in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard. She told the Ventura County Reporter that it was smooth sailing for her when she got her business up and running after working as a clerical supervisor at Ventura County Medical Center and realizing there was no place to shop for the uniforms she needed in Ventura.
“It’s been very pleasant owning a business in Ventura,” affirmed Chavez. “It’s been an easy city to work with. I worked in the medical field and so that’s kind of how I got into the business. And I just saw an opportunity for a brick and mortar and went for it. So I’ve had a very good experience with the city of Ventura, never had any problems.”
In fact, Chavez recalled a time about four years ago when city officials helped her with a thorny situation at her business located at 2542 East Main Street.
“A motorhome was parked in our parking lot, and they were, I think, probably drug dealing out of it. So it was kind of very uncomfortable for me and for my employees,” Chavez said, adding that after she got police and code enforcement involved, the people drove off somewhere else. “So yeah, it was handled very well.”
She added that it’s important for people to know that brick-and-mortar businesses still exist at a time when so many people shop on the Internet. “Our biggest competitor is the Internet. So I think it’s really good to have that recognition locally so that people know that we exist and we’re here to serve them. And, you know, we have a shop where you can touch and feel and walk away with your stuff. And we also offer embroidery services. So we’re established and we’re here for our medical community. So it’s just nice to be recognized so that they know that we are here for them.”
Schroeder worked as CEO of the Ventura County Credit Union for 12 years, so he knows a few things about helping businesses succeed. The mayor told the Ventura County Reporter that it’s important for people to know about and patronize businesses in their own community.
“I don’t like it when people say that such and such is the best kept secret. I think we all like recognition, and I think it’s a good thing to do,” Schroeder said. “It builds our identity and brand, and it’s a good idea to reach out and find out the companies that are doing exceptionally well in the city and recognize them.”
Schroeder also said he hopes the Business of the Month program helps burnish the city’s image for providing good customer service to residents and business owners alike.
“I think there’s room for improvement in our city to be more business friendly,” Schroeder said. “Our job isn’t done by just giving awards out. We have to get better at customer service from a retail standpoint. And I think the city is. One of the 13 goals we have this year is to develop service standards for the retail side of the city.”
More information on Ventura’s Business of the Month program at www.cityofventura.ca.gov/1149/Business-Recognition-Program.