For over 32 years Midwest Office (formerly BJ Office Products) has been supplying St. Joseph with 50,000 office supplies, from tiny paper clips to the substantial desks they sit upon. Beyond the typical office supplies and furniture they also sell computer accessories, safety items, janitorial products, and supplies for the break room. The thriving business has expanded beyond its walls so it can showcase more furniture for customers.
Midwest Office president, Barb Burns, knew the value of being a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the great opportunities it could provide for her business from day one. Her father was a leader of the Chamber in the 1960s and she saw what a valuable organization it was to local businesses.
Barb became a member of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce when she first opened her business 32 years ago. Burns says, “I feel strongly that small businesses gain a lot of help from the Chamber.” She knew the challenges that small businesses had in marketing and resources compared to corporate businesses. With the Chamber’s networking opportunities and assistance, Burns could give her business a solid foundation of local support.
Burns thanks the Chamber for many of the business contacts her business has made over the years. In the early years, the Chamber did not have the valuable mixers that it does now. Burns attended all the Chamber ribbon cuttings and would introduce herself to the business owners. A business relationship would develop and Burns would introduce the services of Midwest Office to help the new business get started. The effort that Burns put into attending the ribbon cuttings for new businesses helped her make business contacts that would last for years.
While ribbon cuttings were an opportunity that Burns used back in the 1980s, today the Chamber offers multiple ways for the local business community to engage and interact with each other. Burns mentions that these new opportunities like Lunch and Learns and mixers are wonderful opportunities in which to meet new contacts.
Over the years Burns has gained a loyal following of customers that have helped her business keep thriving, even among the shadow of some of the big box office supply stores. Even so, as the Chamber keeps evolving and adding new ways for businesses to meet others and to network. Midwest Office keeps getting its name out there to new customers through these venues.
The employees of Midwest Office pride themselves as local small business owners who get to know their customers’ needs and provide professional, friendly service. Midwest Office offers a service where a few of its salesmen go out with its office supply catalog and make office calls for the convenience of its customers. Burns likes for her company to retain that personal relationship with her customers. She wants her customers to know that she cares for them and will try to help them as best her business can.
Through Midwest Office’s membership with the Chamber, its reputation of friendly, caring, professional service has spread throughout the community. Burns says that their involvement and association with the Chamber has helped her business earn respect as a great business to turn to for office supply needs.
Burns said that her company says that nothing but positive things come from their membership with the Chamber. Through the contacts she has made and the networking experiences she has had, she says, “You can always find someone you want to do business with by contacting the Chamber.” She confidently asserts that the Chamber will always help her figure out who to call.
Thirty-two years after Midwest Office joined the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, Burns and her employees are still meeting new business owners and new clients with each passing year. The customer base does not fizzle out as long as Burns and her crew keep working with the Chamber. They have come a long way since the days of attending ribbon cuttings and now explore multiple ways to meet new business partners and customers. New building projects will draw new businesses, which will move into blank spaces that need to be completely furnished with office products. Learning of these new projects through the Chamber can help Burns and her employees meet those business owners right away and help them get their business off the ground.
Midwest Office is stronger than ever and with its growth came the need for expansion. It recently moved to 2207 N. Belt Highway, Ste. J. in the Anderson Ford Plaza.