Librarians can find themselves in difficult positions when budding entrepreneurs, in search of answers that may determine the fate of their businesses, rush into the library.
Steven Assarian, a business librarian at Grand Rapids Public Library, is well familiar with this scenario. Not only is it Assarian’s job to provide consultation for entrepreneurs in need of business plans, but he’s also responsible for teaching business research techniques to classes of between ten and twenty people. The ability to locate and use relevant information during the formation of a startup is a determining factor in whether the business will succeed. The pressure on librarians like Assarian to link entrepreneurs with current and rich data can be great.
Now when entrepreneurs come to Assarian for business advice he immediately directs them to DemographicsNow (DemoNow), a cloud-based collection of business-focused reference materials that provides patrons easy access to real time demographic, purchasing, and consumer behavior data. Besides helping entrepreneurs start businesses, the DemoNow tools are also attracting existing business owners who are looking to expand. For instance, users can easily access a suite of demographics, statistics, and census data.
Not only does DemoNow allow business owners to accurately identify the location of a particular demographic they wish to target but it also provides insight needed to make intelligent business decisions. For instance, Assarian says one of the most useful features are the CEX reports, or consumer expenditure reports, which illustrate purchasing behavior.
Access to side-by-side expenditure and demographics comparisons is yielding rewards for entrepreneurs in and around Grand Rapids. In fact, as more people start businesses, Assarian says entrepreneurs who initially came to the library for guidance often return to share their experiences and how DemoNow helped them succeed.
The impact DemoNow is having is reaching well beyond the library and traditional business community in Grand Rapids. Besides helping businesses succeed, Assarian says library staff are using the databases internally to plot a new course. Part of the plan is to make sure all community members know about the opportunities associated with using DemoNow. It’s why Assarian increasingly finds himself away from the library’s reference desk and out in the community speaking about the virtues of DemoNow to groups like the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “It’s just a huge benefit because everyone wins,” Assarian said. “We’re getting more people who are starting businesses and they are often more successful because of the information we give them.”