Public Libraries support local business

Entrepreneurs Lack the Resources Necessary to Start Successful Businesses

Librarians can find themselves in difficult positions when budding entrepreneurs, in search of answers that may determine the SteveAssarianfate of their businesses, rush into the library. Steven Assarian, a business librarian at Grand Rapids Public Library, remembers well the day he found himself in such a situation. “An entrepreneur obviously interested in serving tourists came in and asked very specifically whether a particular town was a resort town,” Assarian recalled.

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 10-20  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.

“Usually these are people who really need help,” Assarian said. “They just don’t know what’s available or where to begin the process.”


  • Connecting entrepreneurs and startup founders with the reference materials necessary to make smart decisions in a competitive business environment
  • Strategically expanding the library’s reach and role in the community by targeting underserved populations in need of resources and opportunity


DemoNow Connects Entrepreneurs with Digital Collection Of Business Reference Materials

Now when entrepreneurs come to Assarian for business advice he immediately directs them to DemographicsNow: Business & People (DemoNow), a highly customizable, cloud-based collection of rich business and demographic data
provided by MeL. at no cost to all citizens, libraries, and businesses in Michigan.

DemoNow provides patrons seeking business and entrepreneurial research assistance with easy access to real time demographic, purchasing, and consumer behavior reports, to name a few.

“It’s a solid database,” Assarian said. “It’s a workhorse and we get a lot of use out of it and it really helps our customers build solid business plans.”

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. Remember the patron who asked Assarian for help in determining whether a specific location might be considered a resort destination? Assarian used DemoNow to quickly access seasonal population data and the number of resorts in the area to determine how the entrepreneur should proceed.

“I can use DemoNow to look at the neighborhood level or census data over several neighborhood blocks,” Assarian said. “Then I can compare those locations with others the entrepreneur is considering to help them really hone in on a decision.”

DemoNow Empowers Entrepreneurs to Transform Startups into Successful Businessessteve1

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. “It allows us to find things you’d never expect to be able to find,” Assarian said. “For example, I can help patrons find out how many homes have bottles of ketchup in the refrigerator, which is extremely useful.”

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.

“It’s just really awesome,” Assarian said. “If you could only go with one business database I would absolutely recommend DemoNow because there is no other that can do what it does for entrepreneurs.”

Library Poised for Growth and Extends Reach into Underserved Communities

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. “We are currently working on a strategic plan for Latino populations,” Assarian said. “DemoNow helps us better target our efforts and really lets us back our business plans with real numbers.”

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.


  • Startup founders and executives discover database that help them intelligently locate businesses and target relevant markets
  • Library helps businesses succeed by promoting digital reference tools and expands its community footprint by engaging entrepreneurs in underserved communities

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