It’s where everybody knows your name.
Due to efforts of President Coty Foster and President-elect Connie Sexton, The Hillsdale Business Association is growing: within the past two years, the association doubled their membership.
The Hillsdale Business Association, which serves not only businesses in downtown Hillsdale but throughout Hillsdale County, is a nonprofit organization that provides services from Facebook advertising to networking events to local businesses. They host events, like the upcoming Awesome Autumn, to attract the community to local businesses.
“The Hillsdale Business Association is trying to bring community and commerce together,” Sexton said. “That’s what we are about, connect the two and grow.”
Jane Stewart, has owned Smith’s Flower Shop since 2010 and served as the president of the association five years ago. Stewart said she believes in the work that Hillsdale Business Association does for the community: bringing people downtown and into stores and showing the community what the city has to offer.
During her time as President-elect, Sexton has reached out to local business owners and welcomed new business owners into the community. She runs the Hillsdale Business Association’s Facebook page, where she posts advertisements for the association member’s businesses. Inspired by old photos of downtown, Sexton said she wants to restore Hillsdale to its “former glory.”
“We need to go back there, give the people things to come downtown for and enjoy,” Sexton said.
Sexton, a Toledo native who moved to Hillsdale permanently in 2007, said she believes that encouraging and supporting businesses through advertisements and events will help Hillsdale to become a tourist destination.
Stewart attributes the recent growth of the Hillsdale Business Association to the business owners, the Hillsdale Business Association executive board, and importantly to Sexton.
“Connie blew into our town and she is just a dream come true,” Stewart said.
According to Foster, the association was formed in 2007 to bring awareness to local businesses. As a nonprofit, all of its workers are volunteers, and the funds they raise from membership fees go toward insurance for the company and their four yearly events.
Foster says the Hillsdale Business Association’s growth is due not only to the increase in the number of businesses downtown, but also an increase in the awareness of the association’s work.
Foster grew up in Hillsdale, graduated from high school, and after five years in Grand Rapids, he knew he wanted to go back home.
“The biggest thing I love about Hillsdale is what most people hate — walking in to local businesses and people know you by name,” Foster said. “Here, everybody knows your name.”
Foster is currently employed by County Bank.
This year, Foster said the association is focusing on a rebranding, emphasizing the importance of business around Hillsdale county, instead of just the downtown area.
Foster extended gratitude toward all members of the Hillsdale Business Association, from the executive board to the members and businesses.
“I want to focus on membership as a whole and everybody who supports the Hillsdale Business Association,” Foster said. “If we didn’t have that we wouldn’t be growing, so thank you to the organization as a whole.