There are a few streets in Houston that have a unique feel. It's a sense of place that feeds the soul. It's an expression of a collection of people and cultures you'll not find in the same pattern anywhere else. And it has a lot to do with the small businesses that make our neighborhoods run.
But, it takes more than just having a new local company set up shop. It's all about the steadfast people who work these jobs and otherwise serve the community. For example, people who work at smaller establishments tend to know the neighborhoods they serve deeply in their bones. It comes out when they provide goods and services because they don't just make what we buy. They create a shared cultural experience.
What it Means to Be a Small Business in Houston
So, what are some examples?
Drive down Bellaire Boulevard, and you'll see one of the most remarkable displays of Asian culture in the country. There are over six square miles of sprawling locally-owned restaurants, nightlife attractions, shopping centers and more. It's an unforgettable sight.
Cruise down White Oak Boulevard, and you'll see iconic Houston murals, traditional Texas ice houses and many local art venues.
In these instances and more, locally owned business feeds community culture and vice versa. But here's where Houston does this differently than almost anywhere in the United States. Houston, it could be said, is many cities within one.
It's a phenomenon that PrimeWay is proud to celebrate and be a part of. The best way to show you how that takes place is to talk about the various communities we serve.
Missouri City has a refreshing rural feel, one that the city makes abundant use of in annual events and festivals. Not only that, thousands of businesses are popping up there, many within the last few years.
The Heights has an edgy urban feel and the local shops reinforce this, especially niche restaurants down Heights Boulevard.
Sugar Land is something special indeed. It wonderfully maintains the balance between big-city amenities and a small-town feel. A great example is the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball field. It's a state-of-art minor league stadium, but it has that classic ballpark magic.
Greater Greenspoint is experiencing a revival with $400M in developments, including $100M in area office space. It also has a massive park sector at over 16k acres.
Cypress has two different nature preserves and its own local boardwalk filled with shops, studios and restaurants. The list goes on.
But, PrimeWay does not just take in this culture. We help to fuel it.
PrimeWay is unique. After all, we grew up here too. So, for us, banking for Houston's small businesses is different. It's about knowing and befriending people behind the companies we serve because we both live and share the Houston experience.
Angelo DeCamps, PrimeWay Group Manager of Business and Commercial Services, breaks down how this works at PrimeWay. And you'll notice that it goes further than simply serving the financial needs of a community with a smile. Here are three unique ways PrimeWay takes part in and builds Houston culture:
Giving out a cell phone number:
It's a surprising way to think about culture building, giving out a personal phone number. But, when working business to business, it shows good faith that each other's needs matter at a personal level. Angelo sees this as an essential building block many times in his work.
You cannot be afraid to share personal advice when it's relevant and timely. Maybe a client hints they are looking for a good local CPA. Perhaps a mom-and-pop business is struggling and could benefit from help evaluating the market. It could be anything. Serving a community means telling someone about what you see in the community as a form of opportunity.
Banking for a community means finding and following its pulse. During the pandemic, PrimeWay reached out to businesses about deferred payments for up to 3 to 6 months. These outreach efforts can be the difference in a company's survival.
The pandemic also exposed another issue. Many larger banks prioritized larger loans, so lots of businesses in the Houston community were left to fend for themselves. By knowing the business climate and recognizing a pattern, PrimeWay could anticipate and help small organizations obtain a PPP loan.
PrimeWay Group Manager of Business and Commercial Services, Angelo DeCamps
The Whole Story Matters
There's a fourth point as well, and this one doesn't get covered enough. This point is: taking a deeper look at businesses in our community that other financial organizations might not. Angelo stresses that you can't just check the box here. You have to read between the lines and take in the whole story.
"There was a logistics company we were working with, and they were very close to growing larger. But, they were showing cash flow shortfalls and could not get approved for financing," said Angelo. "They didn't fit the other bank's 'financial box.'"
But, upon digging deeper, PrimeWay found that the organization suffered a ransomware attack. As a result of the attack, the client spent a lot of financial resources to upgrade their IT infrastructure. It was an unforeseen event and was the underlying reason for the shortfalls. But, this was something you could not read on a piece of paper.
At the end of the day, PrimeWay has a responsibility to its fellow community members. To share in something bigger means taking a closer look at the little things. This is why Angelo's conversation was not case closed before the first word. The rest of the story mattered. The whole story mattered.
So, for this National Small Business Week and any day or week following, lean into the small businesses of Houston. Seek out local staples in Cypress, Sugarland, Missouri City, the Heights, Greenspoint and all of our local communities.
Listen to their stories and honor the ones you love with your patronage. Even explore ones you may not know of and expand your definition of a Houstonian. Then, you'll happen upon that same street again, and you'll be glad you gave back to the city you love.