Now that the five year milestone of owning my own business has been reached, it is interesting to ponder the past, and also the future, of doing business in Benicia.

In January 2006, I attained my dream of re-entering fashion retail. When I purchased the store it was the only women’s clothing boutique in town. Now, there are five. In 2006 there were a handful of salons and spas; now there are over 40. What a ride it has been. The ups and downs of retail are scary enough – but to be dealt the worst economic downturn since the great depression was not in the business plan!

The good news is that most of us have been able to weather these challenges as we enter a new decade of the millennium. Loyal customers have continued their support, along with a growing number of new shoppers who have discovered the stores and services that make Benicia unique. A key message to all Benicia residents: Shopping locally keeps the lights on in the independent stores that line First Street, Southampton, the Arsenal and Columbus Parkway. According to the Small Business Administration, small firms:

— Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms
— Employ half of all private sector employees
— Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll
— Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years
— Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP

Through the efforts of the new tourism marketing program, Benicia Main Street’s events and programs, the vision of the Benicia City Council, publications like Benicia Magazine and hard-working local businesses, the town continues to attract entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in the American dream of owning their own business.

Some things to look forward to in Benicia and beyond for 2011:

Brad Kilger, Benicia’s new City Manager, has a strong background in economic development and land use. His expertise in these areas will be invaluable in looking for ways to generate new revenue sources. There is hope that with his guidance, growth in the downtown core and in the Industrial Park will be achieved. Mr. Kilger is a cyclist, so you may see him biking up (or down) the hills in your neighborhood.

The Tourism and Marketing Program is in full gear with advertising that targets a specific market throughout the Bay Area. Radio spots, print ads, articles and public relations are all components of this campaign, which will continue into 2011. Many businesses are seeing an uptick in new visitors since the program started 7 months ago.

Across the pond, the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29 will set off trends in wedding dresses, auburn hair, dimples and the color blue. I’m waiting for my invite.

Fashion trends for Spring 2011 are wide legged pants, sheer fabrics, bold color and minimal white dresses and separates. There are also several period themes from the 50’s and the 70’s. Women are continuing their demand for clothing that is functional and fun. “Contemporary Corporate” is the new dress for success. Savvy women who like to look appropriate in the office, with an edge, are identifying with this trend.

It takes faith, courage, passion and maybe a touch of insanity to want to be your own boss. What makes it worthwhile is knowing that you’re making a difference in how customers perceive themselves. Selling clothing is more than just making a sale—it’s building a lasting relationship. I am looking forward to the next five years of relationships, fabulous fashion and the continuing evolution of business in Benicia.