Enterprising businesses find essential support
It’s a wonderful time to have a business in Elizabeth City, thanks to all of the different resources available to entrepreneurs, according to Caitlin Davis, director of the Eastern Women’s Entrepreneurship Center (EWEC).
Indeed the EWEC, which opened in October 2017 and provides technical assistance, one-on-one coaching and workshops and training to entrepreneurs, is but one of several game-changing resources that help enable sustainable growth and job creation in northeastern North Carolina.
“I usually do a coaching session to see where the entrepreneur is starting from and what their needs are,” says Davis. “If they are a good fit for me, I keep them with me. Or I’ll refer them to the Small Business & Technology Development Center or the [College of The Albemarle] Small Business Center. We all have our own specialties but also work together in the best possible ways.”
One way in which all three entities work together is via a “training crawl,” Davis says.
“Instead of having entrepreneurs come to us, we bring one-on-one assistance and coaching to them,” says Davis. “We go to their businesses, assess what they need and then follow up throughout the year to help them reach their goals. They get to say, ‘These are the issues I’m having; can you please help me overcome them?’ And we put together a plan to help them address those issues.”
One of the businesses that has enlisted the help of all three of the above-named entities is Fine Tuning Guitar Repair. Owner Dan Glass says that the coaching he has received during his training crawl meetings has been invaluable.
“They really opened my eyes to things I might want to change or enhance or start doing,” he says.
College of the Albemarle Small Business Center
For its part, the College of The Albemarle Small Business Center (SBC), which is under the umbrella of the community college system, is focused on counseling startups and existing small businesses and works with 40-60 clients per year.
“The majority of clients who find me are startups,” says Ginger O’Neal, director of the SBC. “They are typically operating out of their home but have a product and are now ready to move into a brick-and-mortar location.”
To that end, O’Neal commonly helps them with their business plans by providing templates, assisting them with writing and helping with cash-flow projections.
At the same time, the SBC also provides assistance via the 90-plus training events it offers each year.
“All are geared toward helping entrepreneurs,” says O’Neal, “whether it’s social media marketing, record keeping, financial survival or business-plan writing. All of the events are free and very well attended. It’s our goal to help small businesses jump through all of the processes as easily as they can.”
One of the businesses that SBC has assisted is The Carolina Center at Corporate Drive, a standalone venue that hosts wedding receptions, holiday parties and corporate meetings.
“I can honestly say that because of Ginger O’Neal’s investment in assisting us, we were able to launch our business on time and with much more ease and confidence than I would ever have imagined,” says Michael McDaniel, co-founder of The Carolina Center. “Without her we may have eventually found success, but because of her direction and involvement we were able to realize our entrepreneurial dream more quickly than we would have otherwise.”
Small Business & Technology Development Center (SBTDC)
Meanwhile, over at the SBTDC the focus is on assisting existing businesses, to whom it offers one-on-one business counseling as well as workshops, disaster planning, succession planning and market research services.
“There is a fine balance between the risk and reward line in any business environment,” says Michael Twiddy, university program specialist at the SBTDC. “That line can only be fully appreciated by participating in educational and training opportunities that help business owners understand and prepare for ongoing changes.”
One local business that has taken advantage of the SBTDC’s services is Ghost Harbor Brewing Company in downtown Elizabeth City, a part of town where there has been strong interest in adding a brewery and restaurants, says Twiddy.
According to Ghost Harbor co-owner Thomas Reese, the SBTDC provided assistance with the brewery’s initial business plan and continues to provide advice concerning marketing.
“The city was hoping for a brewery to come in, and we saw this as an opportunity to become that brewery,” says Reese, who adds he is encouraged by the many prospects for further growth and development in the district.
“It’s a good place to open a business because it’s on the rise. You can feel that there’s a buzz going on in the area, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of it.”