GREENVILLE — Michele Armock and Deborah Schutter took a negative and turned it into a positive when they opened Twist & Shout in downtown Greenville.
The 1950s themed restaurant opened its doors in June 2008 and is home to many costumers who come in on a regular basis.
Best known for their celebrity-status homemade no-bake cookies, Twist & Shout has a full menu and offers a variety of gourmet goodies.
Armock said Larry Joe Campbell from ABC’s sitcom, “According To Jim,” comes in and gets Schutter’s no-bake cookies every time he is in.
Lemons into lemonade
Opening a restaurant is something that came to both Armock and Schutter after other career plans did not turn out as planned.
Before opening the Twist & Shout, Armock opened and owned the Candy Palace in Greenville for seven months before a remodeling accident closed the business. Schutter had worked at Electrolux for over 25 years before being let go when the company moved to Mexico.
Schutter said she always baked cookies to sell at work to help raise money for Susan G. Komen Foundation walks, in which she has participated five times.
Schutter said she talked with Leslie Wood of Montcalm Community College about small businesses and options Schutter had after Electrolux.
“She hooked me up with (Armock),” Schutter said.
The rest is history.
“I always wanted to open a restaurant,” Armock said.
She learned how to manage a business by herself from previous employers.
“I have an entrepreneur spirit,” Armock said.
Creativity and a plan
With opening a small business, Armock said owners need the creativity tailor their operations. A lot of work went into transforming Twist & Shout from an idea on paper into what it is today.
Marie Elliot, a certified small business consultant at Mid-Michigan Community College, said the process of planning should have measurable milestones and action plans that align with the goals of the company.
“A great plan alone is simply not sufficient,” She said. “Execution of action items is critical.”
To make sure growth and profitability is met, a business has to be flexible to adapt and respond to the changing market.
Developing a menu for Twist & Shout was one difficult item Armock and Schutter had to conquer. Not only did they have to decide what they wanted to sell, but also who were going to be their suppliers.
They had a designer come to the restaurant and help decorate their according to their theme, helping Armock and Schutter paint the walls and make custom metal creations for the walls around the dining area.
Armock said they decided to go with the 1950s theme because there was nothing in town like it.
“It just came to me,” she said. “It’s a blast from the past.”
Hiring with a plan
Elliot said businesses should consider four factors when looking to recruit and train employees.
• Businesses should start with a well-defined job description.
“This will position your company with attracting candidates you want,” Elliot said. “It will also assist the screening committee with rejecting those that are not qualified.”
• Businesses should also create an effective help-wanted ad.
Elliot suggested clearly defining what the business is looking for, focus on skills and qualifications, highlight the mission and consider information on fringe benefit packages.
• She suggested using multiple outlets to minimize missing the perfect candidate.
“Choose the ideal outlets to place your ad,” Elliot said. “The Internet and social media have opened the door to additional options.”
• Once a business has its employees, the business should have an orientation on the first day.
“Welcoming the new employee on the first day is crucial to the employee’s first impression of their new employer,” she said. “Make the new hire feel comfortable with their new setting.”
Finding and retaining talent is extremely important, Elliot said. Plenty of help is available with employment and human resource issues from Michigan Works and Montcalm Community College’s Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC) in Greenville.
Business incubators help new companies provide reduced rates for access to professional services, office space, technology and equipment, Elliott said.
Numerous clients take advantage of the no cost counseling, market research and business education offerings in addition to incubator space, she said.
Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Gae Donovan-Wolfe said the chamber tries to provide local entrepreneurs with tools needed to be successful depending on their needs.
“We connect them with online business assessments and entrepreneur training sessions,” Donovan-Wolfe said.
The chamber also works directly with SCORE, counselors to America’s small businesses, and schedule entrepreneurs for free one-on-one counseling sessions with a trained business counselor.
The chamber goes to work advocating for member businesses after they launch.
“We stay connected at local, county and state levels to provide members with current information and tools needed to sustain their business,” Donovan-Wolfe said.
Words of encouragement
Armock said being a small-business owner is not for the faint of heart. A person has to have a strong stomach and have a strong passion for what they do.
“’Don’t give up’ is the best advice I have received,” Armock said. “’You’ve got a good thing going, so don’t give up.’”
Schutter agreed with Armock and said God will help people work everything out.
“Just keep trying,” Schutter said.