Already the envy of other regions in the nation, Charlotte USA’s innovative entrepreneurial community is positioned for a new wave of growth. Talented people are the key to success, says Jay Faison, president of SnapAV, who started the manufacturer and wholesaler of custom audio/video products and accessories from scratch in 2005 and has grown it to a more than $30 million company.
“Charlotte is an easy sell when you are trying to recruit people,” Faison says. “They like living here because the quality of life is attractive. Being in a place where you can attract and retain the best possible people is No. 1 in the business world.” That talent is working for SnapAV. The company is moving into a new 130,000-square-foot headquarters in the Charlotte area and projects continued growth.
Packard Place Houses Entrepreneurs
In addition to talent, Charlotte offers entrepreneurs specific services to help entrepreneurs get started and succeed. Opened in March, Packard Place is a coworking office-space facility with the mission of developing fast-growth businesses and the professional community to drive them. Co-founding husband-and-wife Dan Roselli and Sara Garces understand the entrepreneurial spirit. They own Red F – a marketing company that has worked with big names such as Time Warner, Geico and Coca-Cola – and its sister businesses Customer Stream and TargetPoint. All three businesses will occupy a portion of Packard Place.
Located in the heart of the city, Packard Place takes its name from its 90,000-square-foot, five-story building, which was constructed as a showroom and parking garage for the Packard luxury car dealership. A ground level cafe, a 200-seat assembly hall, broadband and wireless Internet throughout and shared spaces for video production, digital recordings and more, Packard Place is a cutting-edge facility for startups and entrepreneurs. The building is impressive, but Roselli says it's "not about the brick and mortar, it's about the community and connectiveness." He sees Packard Place as becoming the spark to give entrepreneurs a place in Charlotte to congregate and exchange ideas, while also giving the entrepreneurial spirit in Charlotte a higher profile. Packard Place is partnering with key venture groups that serve entrepreneurs by providing access to funding, technology, education and assistance to help companies design, build, market and deliver innovative solutions.
"Charlotte has so many resources for entrepreneurs – the money, the businesses, the people – and these resources seem to be the perfect ingredients for an entrepreneurial ecosystem," Roselli says. "However, they're scattered all over the city; there's no consolidated center where entrepreneurs can go to take advantage of them. That's why Packard Place is so perfect for the Queen City. We are that center for entrepreneurs.”
Ben Craig Center Boosts New Ventures
Charlotte has what it takes to continue to attract new ventures, says Paul Wetenhall, president of the Ben Craig Center, which helps start-up and early-stage entrepreneurs with business incubation and acceleration services from a 50,000-square-foot building located in the University Research Park and connected to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Wetenhall cites a talented workforce, affordable professional services, a growing angel-investing community, and a strong network of transportation and educational assets. BCC provides space and services ranging from administrative to education to startups, but the access to experienced advice gives entrepreneurs an invaluable edge to succeed.
"I have talked with many of the 115 founders that have grown their ventures at the Ben Craig Center and they consistently talk about how the coaching and mentoring they received improved their strategy, connected them to an investor or helped them realize more value at a liquidity event," Wetenhall says. "Charlotte's best business minds have generously shared their insight as Ben Craig Center mentors for nearly 25 years."