Rose Padfield was never thinking about turning off the lights on her business even during the challenging times the COVID-19 pandemic brought to small businesses throughout New Hampshire. She just wanted them to stop flickering.

We’re talking about the lights for the sign that stands outside Rose’s Manchester business, Paul’s Car Care on Elm Street, that is.

“I just could never get them lit right,” Rose said. “I felt like I had to babysit them all the time. They were high maintenance.”

Losing time and money replacing bulbs was becoming a way of life for Rose, but during the pandemic, she was able to solve her problem with a little help from her advisor at the Small Business Development Center.

When Rose first met Andrea O’Brien, an advisor, and director of the SBDC’s Business Sustainability Program, she was asked about her businesses’ pain points. Somewhere on the list was the finicky sign.

Rose had just completed an extensive project of switching out the lights in her workshop to the more energy-efficient, better performing LED lights, but the company that did that job does not work on signage. With Andrea’s help, Rose was able to identify an electrical company that was familiar with the process.

And now? Rose no longer drives by the shop after hours to see if the sign is on. Better yet, through the two projects, she estimates she is saving 15 percent a month on her electric bill.

“I don’t even think about the sign anymore,” Rose says.

For Rose, it’s a great way to celebrate Energy Awareness Month.

“October is perfect timing for Energy Awareness Month," Andrea says. "As we start transitioning into the colder months, this is a good time to look at the many ways businesses can be more energy-efficient."

According to ENERGY STAR®, a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, commercial buildings can average energy savings of 30 percent with “no-cost actions, strategic investment, and smart operations and maintenance.” The program has even produced a workbook to help small businesses start reducing energy costs.

Beyond helping her business be more energy-efficient, Rose says having SBDC advisors such as Andrea and Rita Toth have allowed her to grow as a business person and build a network of peers she can turn to.

“The peer group is invaluable,” Rose says. “No one in the group tells you what to do, but they point you in the right direction when you have questions. We may have different businesses, but we share similar pain points.”

Rose is the head of a family-owned company operating for almost 40 years, growing from a mobile detailing business to an established business that employs 10 people and not only details, but also buys, sells, and appraises cars.

“I have been involved in the nuts and bolts of the business for so long that I never spent time developing my own skills,” Rose says. “The programs I have been involved in have helped me understand myself better.”

Through the SBDC and partners that include the UNH Center for Family Enterprise and the UNH Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics, Rose has gained valuable guidance. She has taken part in programs such as the CFE Leadership Program, UNH Voice Z digital marketing, and the SBDC's Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.

For instance, Rose said Andrea recently helped the business secure a COVID-related grant she initially didn’t think she qualified to earn.

"It's refreshing to know there are programs and advisors available to small businesses throughout New Hampshire and not just start-ups,” Rose says. “This a free program. I tell other small business owners about it every chance I can.”

Now that’s a message you can put up in lights.

We would like to thank Eversource Energy for sponsoring SBDC’s Business Sustainability Program. The BSP advises companies on environmental management, energy efficiency assessment and funding, and employee safety. As businesses adopt best management practices, they reduce operational risk, increase profitability, and thus enhance the value of the company. Eversource’s sponsorship has helped SBDC build and distribute information and content on lowering energy costs and reducing impact on the environment.