It's difficult enough to reopen a closed business – reopening one that didn't originally have local support is nearly impossible. It's definitely something you have to love doing every single day, and when you stop, then hand the reins over to somebody else who does." Creating a tech startup might eventually lead to millions of dollars in your bank account, but building a small-town movie theater up from closure probably won't.
Wheeler recognizes why she runs Agawam Cinemas, and other small business owners should take note. She's more concerned with keeping a part of her childhood alive and ensuring the venue is around for other Agawam residents to craft special memories.
[See related story: 5 Tips for Crowdfunding Success] "People were starting to get really frustrated, thinking that I just kind of took the money and ran away," Wheeler said.
"We had to post pictures of the construction, and the little that was actually going on, we had to make sure we visually communicated that to everybody, so they could see I wasn't in Mexico drinking a margarita." By keeping your backers involved in the process, it's much easier to reduce the pressure and potential backlash associated with crowdfunding campaigns.
For example, Wheeler's backers became frustrated when the construction took much longer than anticipated.
Wheeler originally expected the theater to open about a year before it did.
There was no heat or air conditioning, and seeing a movie there during the Massachusetts winter wasn't for the faint of heart.
Wheeler wasn't signing up for a minor project; she was taking on a massive task.
More than three years later, the movie theater remains open and is once again a popular destination in the community.
Through Wheeler's unconventional journey, she's learned how to run a business and the adversity you face when trying to reopen a closed business.