PITTSFIELD —Al and Auric Enchill are small-business owners who certainly have dealt with their share of adversity.
The Enchills, immigrants from Ghana, started Elegant Stitches, a custom embroidery and vinyl printing business, in the basement of their Pittsfield home five years after arriving in this country.
A devastating arson fire in the dead of winter in 2004 destroyed the building at First and Fenn streets, where the Enchills'first bricks-and-mortar store was located. But the Enchills kept going, relocating first to Tyler Street, then to their current location on First Street, where Elegant Stitches serves more than 5,000 individual clients and companies across New England.
On Thursday, the Enchills were among four Pittsfield small-business owners who provided tips to those looking to start businesses in Pittsfield. About 35 people attended the forum called "Doing Business in Pittsfield: Sage Advice and Savvy Tips from Local Pros" at Framework at 437 North St.
Al Enchill had words of advice for entrepreneurs at the forum, sponsored by the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. and the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp.
"My point was to start small and have a business plan and follow your dream, because there are adversities along the way," he told The Eagle after the meeting.
"Businesses don't grow like a mushroom; it takes time," he said. "If you have the passion, you will succeed."
The panel of Pittsfield small-business owners also included Scott Kirchner of Mad Macs, an Apple sales and service center; Steve and Evan Valenti of Steven Valenti's Clothing; and Jessica Rufo of Dottie's Coffee Lounge. Linda Dulye of Dulye & Co. and The Dulye Leadership Experience served as moderator.
"This was a conversation that needs to keep going," Dulye said. "The key themes that kept getting enforced is that everything is in constant change.
"How do you keep your business fresh and inviting to your costumers over time?" she asked rhetorically. "Learning from setbacks; they're going to happen in every business. Everyone's had a setback. Adversity s going to be part of the game somewhere. You need to go on from there, have courage and keep moving."
Laurie Mick, a community development specialist for the city of Pittsfield, said the forum was held for two reasons: "To reach out to anybody trying to start a business and to small-business entrepreneurs and educate them on the number of small-business resources that are available through the city and bring them together," she said.
Representatives from the Pittsfield office of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, Downtown Pittsfield Inc., Berkshire Community College, 1Berkshire and PERC, among others, were in attendance, along with state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Pittsfield Mayor Linda M. Tyer.
"By bringing them together, there's good synergy to make them more effective," Mick said, referring to the business resources.
Tony Dobrowolski is the business editor of The Berkshire Eagle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-496-6224.