Fred Shuman opened his business, Say it with Stitches, in Bedford in 1989. He’s seen the business community change over the years. Bedford is bigger now, encompassing new neighbourhoods such as Bedford South. There are still challenges for Bedford businesses. Shuman says taxes remain an issue, as does access, notably parking for those businesses along the Bedford Highway or along Hammonds Plains Road. And mail-order options and big-box stores have changed the way consumers shop and do business.
But there is strength in numbers, too. Shuman serves as the chair of the Bedford Business Association (BBA), a non-profit dedicated to the growth of the business community in Bedford. Launched in 2011, the BBA offers networking, marketing, and advocacy.
It also hosts community events and streetscape programs. Shuman joined about four years ago.
“I think it’s an attempt for us to maintain some uniqueness, diversity, and camaraderie amongst the business here in Bedford,” Shuman says. “I’ve met people that I would not otherwise have met. There are businesses and individuals who have given me a better understanding of who’s here in Bedford. I’m surprised at how many businesses are tucked away in different locations.”
Membership costs $100 a year. The BBA hosts several luncheons where members can network and listen to guest speakers who share knowledge relevant to the business community in Bedford and beyond. Previous guests have talked about everything from business taxes to the Ivany Report. Members often get a chance to pitch their products and services at the luncheons.
“You get a lot more bang for your buck,” Shuman says.
He says there are at least three reasons to join the BBA: access to a support system of fellow business owners, networking, and advocacy to government and other bodies on members’ behalf.
“We are non-profit; we try to spend all the money we can get,” he says. “Additionally, we try to draw people that may shop in other locations to either stay in Bedford or to come into Bedford to do their shopping.”