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BUILDING CONNECTIONS: Amber Brand, left, created nonprofit Marshfield Area Small Business Association. Sully Loves Sugar owner Amanda Stroup, right, is a member of the new group.
Heather Mosley | SBJ
BUILDING CONNECTIONS: Amber Brand, left, created nonprofit Marshfield Area Small Business Association. Sully Loves Sugar owner Amanda Stroup, right, is a member of the new group.

Biz-focused nonprofit launches in Marshfield

MASBA aims to aid company owners with events and education

Posted online

A nonprofit seeking to be a cheerleader and educator for small businesses has launched in Marshfield.

The Marshfield Area Small Business Association, a 501(c)(6) organization, is the brainchild of Webster County native and business owner Amber Brand. She said forming MASBA stemmed from a desire to offer a resource for small-business leaders, such as herself.

“For the last several years, I’ve been wanting to start an organization that’s focused on small businesses in the area. I’ve had a small business myself,” Brand said, noting she serves as MASBA president, a volunteer position, and owns Clay Street Boutique, which she started in 2018. “I’ve always had a passion for small businesses and trying to help them work together as a community. I finally was like, ‘OK, we’re doing it now.’”

MASBA hosted a pair of events at the Marshfield Community Center upon its launch – a Christmas open house and holiday gift market in late November, and an artisan gift market in early December. It’s part of a desire to provide community connections for the businesses and potential customers, Brand said.

“A part that is important when you own a business is getting out in the community, which is sometimes hard because you’re tied to the storefront or don’t know where to go,” she said. “Our mission is to help bring small businesses together. When one is successful and we work together, we can all be successful. We also want to help small-business owners focus on things they can do to grow their business.”

Through planned quarterly educational sessions with expert speakers on topics such as website design and filing taxes, MASBA also aims to provide education to business owners. Brand said the first session is expected to be held in March with Talia Cassell, owner of Talia Cassell Photography, who plans to share social media tips.

“There’s so many sources of social media and it’s really hard to understand all of them and how each of them can be important in your business,” Brand said.

Brand served on the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors for roughly 10 months before starting the nonprofit. However, she said exiting the board wasn’t directly connected with creating MASBA, adding she shut down her brick-and-mortar shop on the Marshfield square in October. The now home-based business has turned its focus more toward e-commerce.

The boutique also isn’t Brand’s only job.

“I write part time for The Marshfield Mail, so I kind of needed to step away from the commitment of a storefront for a while,” she said, noting she wanted to devote more time to family.

“I’m very involved in the Marshfield community, and I’m stocking in a store there,” she said, adding she rents space for an undisclosed rate at The Wild Honey Boutique LLC, which is next door to her former shop’s home. “They’ve been kind enough to let me come in one day a week so I can keep that personal connection with my customers, which is really important.”

No competition
Brand stressed she envisions MASBA as a complement to the local chamber, noting her organization has a narrow niche. She said the chamber has a responsibility to serve all businesses, no matter their size.

“They have to focus on all the businesses, whether it’s a bank or someone who bakes cookies and sells out of a shop,” she said. “Where we come in is we can really focus on the small businesses, the ladies who have the bakery, boutique or antique store. We can gear our mission toward small businesses and the chamber can keep doing what they’re doing, knowing they have a partner in us, so to speak.

“I 100% believe that what we’re doing and what we’re focused on is not going to be in competition with the chamber,” she added.

Rachel Andrews, Marshfield chamber coordinator, said the chamber has no conflict with MASBA.

“There is no affiliation nor competition with the association that has been formed,” she said via email. “We continue to serve our chamber members, whether big or small. Our goal is to serve our community and businesses well and if that can be done through various platforms to benefit them, we are happy.”

Andrews didn’t respond to a request for updated chamber membership numbers by deadline, but the organization reported 195 members in July – up slightly from its 190 in 2021 – and an annual membership fee of $63-$250, according to Springfield Business Journal list research.

Advocacy activity
MASBA isn’t the only business advocacy nonprofit in the area to launch in the past year.

The Springfield Council of Better Business, which organizers say has a goal to improve the community for businesses through advocacy work and events for members, started in early 2022. It began a podcast dubbed Elevate 417 in February with the most recent episode airing in July, according to the SCofBB website.

The organization formed by Executive Director Jacob Ruder, previously a credit analyst with Legacy Bank & Trust Co., and businessperson Bruce Caison, CEO at Advanced Facilities Services Inc., did not have an office or a board of directors upon launch, according to past reporting. The website doesn’t include a membership list and messages left for Ruder and Caison were not returned by press time.

MASBA currently has 10 members, Brand said. Its annual membership fee ranges $75-$500. Its top membership tier includes Facebook promotion, Facebook Live sessions with board members, event and open house access, quarterly education lunches and a promotional video created for the business.

“We’re barely a month old, so we’re trying to get our feet underneath us and get going,” she said.

The MASBA Board of Directors meets the third Monday of each month, Brand said.

The board is still being filled out, she said, but consists of Joseph Mitchell as vice president; Crystal Hilton, secretary; Jason Hankins, treasurer; Robbie Tackett and Tabatha Clift, board members; and Amanda Stroup, advisory member.

The organization, which has no office or employees, has more events in the offing this year, Brand said. Those include a spring expo in April that focuses on the service industry, such as construction, landscaping and lawn care, she said.

MASBA also plans to join the Marshfield chamber this year.

“As small businesses join the chamber, they can refer them to us and say this group is focused on helping you grow,” Brand said.


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