Small business is big-time in McAllen.
Studies show it in rankings and numbers, and small business owners themselves testify to it through bottom lines and longevity. For many reasons, McAllen offers the ideal location for smaller companies and entrepreneurs.
“McAllen is a better quality-of-life city,” says Neil Westerman, third-generation owner of The Man Shop and Man Shop Shoes. “We have a healthy manufacturing business here, and that helps the economy. We also have a lot of winter Texans, ‘snowbirds’ who come down from the north each winter."
McAllen’s rich climate for small business is partly borne out in a 2012 survey by The Business Journals. McAllen-Edinburg ranked fifth in the publication’s list of cities in the South with the healthiest small-business climates. The metropolitan area received top 5 rankings in four out of six categories, including top rankings for one-year growth in concentration and one-year growth in small businesses.
Findings such as these don't surprise the staff at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, which uses several programs to help small businesses thrive and offer assistance to startups.
“The majority of our members are small businesses, at least 75-80 percent,” says Blanca Cardenas, the chamber’s vice president of membership services. “We want every business to succeed, and we are here to help our members make money. Small businesses are what keeps our economy thriving.”
One program the chamber has implemented is Innovation Grants, awarded each year to businesses that create new and innovative ideas.
“We’re always striving for new innovations,” Cardenas says, “and we’ve had some real success stories out of that.”
The chamber also has small business grants and a program known as the I & E Network, designed to help chamber-member inventors and entrepreneurs exchange ideas with other members.
“It’s great because you’re connecting with the right people,” Cardenas says.
Other chamber programs and innovations include the Idea Lab, where members and nonmembers can exchange business ideas; mobile apps for displaying coupons for area retailers and restaurants; a “scanning game” that allows members to share virtual business cards through a QR code; and Business Power Network, a sort of “speed-dating” activity that allows members to network.
Knowing the Customers
The success of small businesses in McAllen can also come down to just plain good business sense by owners. The Man Shop, for instance, has been offering top-notch men’s clothing and service since Westerman’s grandfather, Adolf Westerman, opened the store in 1926.
“We get so much competition from all these big-box stores, so really the only way to separate us is on our service and knowing the customers,” Westerman says. “It’s key to know the area, and we do.”
Another example of savvy entrepreneurship here is Maurice Welton, a franchise owner of Edible Arrangements in McAllen and three other locations. He received a Top 5 Small Business Award in 2012 from the chamber.
Find out more on the business climate in McAllen, TX.