Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hagan taps Charlotte entrepreneurial leaders for committee

Two leaders in the Charlotte entrepreneurial scene will serve on U.S. Senator Kay Hagan's recently formed Small Business Advisory Committee, according to a press release emailed today. 

 Serving as one of four co-chairs is Paul Wetenhall, president of of Ventureprise, a nonprofit business incubator affiliated with UNC Charlotte (formerly known as The Ben Craig Center). 

Astrid Chirinos, president of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce, is a committee member. 

The Small Business Advisory Committee is comprised of small business owners and advocates around the state who will advise Hagan on legislative issues and assist her in the developing policy proposals to support North Carolina's small businesses. 

Read more here:

 The list of other committee co-chairs and members is below: 
Other committee co-chairs: 
  • John Cooper, Mast General Stores, Boone
  • Andrea Harris, NC Institute of Minority Economic Development, Durham
  • Oscar Wong, Highland Brewery, Asheville

 Other committee members:  
  • Brooks Bell, BrooksBell, Raleigh
  • Leah Brown, A10 Clinical Solutions, Cary
  • Jeff Frushtick, Leonard Automatics, Denver
  • Sam Funchess, Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship, Greensboro
  • Christopher Gergen, Forward Impact, Durham
  • Nancy Gottovi, STARWorks/Central Park NC, Star
  • Jim Johnson, UNC Kenan Flagler Center, Chapel Hill
  • Victor Lytvinenko, Raleigh Denim, Raleigh
  • Louise McColl, McColl & Associates, Wilmington
  • Sandra O'Connor, Allen Tate Realtors, Greensboro
  • Bernice Pitt, Ace Hardware, Tarboro
  • Larry Shaw, Shaw Farms, Wallace

Hagan was in Charlotte several weeks ago, touting a bipartisan bill she's sponsoring that would allow businesses to write off more of their commercial improvement projects each year. Here's that story. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And the "Crowns of Enterprise" awards go to...

 Four local businesses were honored Thursday night at the second-annual Crowns of Enterprise Awards ceremony, hosted by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The businesses that won the award were recognized for demonstrating "exemplary leadership and sound business strategies." 

Here's are the winners and who accepted the award:

Small Business Enterprise of the Year: Tobin Starr + Partners, David Tobin and Steve Starr
 The Charlotte-based architectural and design firm, which was founded in 1999, specializes in community, corporate and consumer planning and design.

Minority Business Enterprise of the YearR.J. Leeper Construction, Ron J. Leeper
The minority-owned general construction company mentors subcontractors and involves minorities in all areas of projects. 

Woman Business Enterprise of the YearCrescent Construction Services, Traci Williams 
The minority and woman-owned firm specializes in commercial and industrial commissioning and project management.

Rising Star Business of the Year: Red Rooster Contractors, Milagritos Aguilar
Red Rooster Contractors is a small, minority, woman-owned residential and commercial roofing firm. The Rising Business of the Year award was presented to a nominated firm that demonstrated 
exceptional business practices and promising growth by the five member judging board of local small 
business community leaders.

"Small and minority owned businesses make-up the heart of our community and stepping-out to recognize them is the best way to encourage more entrepreneurs to step forward.," said Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioner's Vice Chair Kim Ratliff, in a statement.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Get the free 'How to Really Start a Business' guide

Want to start a small business? Check out the free e-book "How to Really Start Your Own Business." 

The updated guide was recently released by SCORE, a nonprofit that offers mentoring and workshops to new and growing small businesses, and The Company Corporation, which offers incorporation and business compliance services nationwide. 

The 30-page guide offers advice on the following: 
  • testing your idea to determine viability as a business.
  • securing a patent, copyright, trademark or service mark. 
  • establishing a compelling company name and URL
  • creating a business plan that will increase your chances of securing capital.
  • choosing the right business structure for company.
  • issuing shares and stock.
  • controlling cash flow and inventory. 

 Download the free e-book here

For info on the local SCORE chapter, visit

Friday, May 17, 2013

Upcoming event: Developing Your Exit Strategy

Anyone launching a startup, should be considering their exit strategy from day one, says Terry Cox, president of Business Innovation Growth (aka BIG), a Charlotte-based advocacy group for entrepreneurs. 

That's why BIG is partnering with UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business to host a "Developing Your Exit Strategy" event May 20 at UNCC's Center City Building. 

A series of panel discussions will highlight what to do to prepare for a strategic exit, as well as succession planning for a family-owned business. 

Topics include: 
  • What's happening in the merger and acquisition market.
  • What keeps deals from happening and how to get your house in order. 
  • Common mistakes entrepreneurs make when selling their business.
  • The sales process and determining a realistic valuation.

When: 1:15-5:30 p.m., followed by a networking reception at  Dixie's Tavern. 
Where: UNCC's City Building, second-floor auditorium, 320 E. 9th St.  
Cost: Free for BIG members; $65 for guests in advance; $75 at door; $30 for students. 

Details: RSVP to or register at www.bigcouncil.comParking directions will be sent with registration confirmation email. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Small-business owner confidence rose in April

After a drop in small-business confidence last month, the April Index of Small Business Optimism rose 2.6 points to 92.1, just above the recovery average of 90.7, according to a report from the National Federation of Independent Business released Tuesday. 

And yet, far more of the business owners surveyed still said they expect conditions to be worse in six months. 

“Small-business confidence saw an uptick this last month, but it was a ho hum, yawn, at-least-it-didn’t-go-down reading," said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg in a statement. "The sub-par recovery persists for the small business sector.” 

Corporate profits, on the other hand, are at record levels and the stock market hit new highs, Dunkelberg said.

Courtesy of the NFIB
The 1,873 business owners (all NFIB members) who responded to the survey in April were asked to identify their top business problem: 23 percent cited taxes, 21 percent cited regulations and red tape and 16 percent cited weak sales. 

Only 2 percent said financing was their top business problem. A quarterly break-out of top business problems by sector will be released next week. 

Here's a summary of business responses in various areas: 
  • Job creation: Positive, but lackluster. Small employers reported increasing employment in April by an average of 0.14 workers per firm -- a bit lower than March's reading. Six percent of respondents said they plan to increase total employment. 
  • Hard-to-fill job openings: Forty-nine percent of owners surveyed said they hired or tried to hire in the last three months. Of those trying to hire, 38 percent said there were few or no qualified applicants for their open positions. 
  • Sales: There are still more firms reporting declines in the first quarter of 2013 than those reporting gains. But the net percent of all owners is smaller than it was in March (-4 percent in April, versus -7 percent in March.)
  • Earnings and wages: Only 19 percent of small employers reported raising compensation. Three percent made reductions in worker compensation. 
  • Credit markets: Of the respondents, 31 percent said all their credit needs were met. Fifty percent said they did not want a loan. Only six percent reported that their credit needs were not met, only two points above the record low.
  • Capital outlays: The frequency of reported capital outlays over the last six months fell 1 point to 56 percent, after rising steadily in small increments since January. Twenty-three percent have capital outlays planned for the next three to six months, a decrease of two points. 
  • Question of expansion: Only four percent of respondents said the current period was a good time to expand -- a historically very weak number, unchanged from last month. Of those who said it was not a good time to expand, 62 percent cited economic conditions and 24 percent cited the political climate. 
  • Inflation: Twenty percent reported price increases (up two points) and 15 percent reported reducing their average selling prices in the past three months (down two points). Looking at the next few months, 21 percent plan to raise average prices and three percent plan reductions -- both unchanged from March's report.
Download the complete report here

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Local startups project more jobs, nearly $1 billion in revenue

The results from the second annual Charlotte-area Entrepreneurial Growth Index came out Tuesday morning, and the numbers are encouraging, says Terry Cox, president and CEO of Business Innovation & Growth Council (BIG), which conducted the study. 
The index is a measure of the health of the region's entrepreneurial companies, and this year's findings are based on the responses of 120 local startup companies. 
Here are some key findings: 
  • Projected revenue for 2013 is $960 million, an 18 percent increase over 2012 revenue of $817 million  and a three-year average growth rate of 37 percent. 
  • a 24 percent three-year average growth rate in employment, including full-time, part-time and contract positions, with a projected 928 employees. Forty-two percent of those are contractors. 
  • The average headcount per company is now 49 employees, with an average weighted salary of $54,000. In 2012, the average headcount was 30 employees per company with an average salary of $55,000. 
  • Funding sources for businesses surveyed:
    • 56 percent: self-funded. 
    • 19 percent: angel investments. 
    • 13 percent: bank financing. 
    • 5 percent: private equity.  
    • 2 percent: grants. 
  • Twenty percent of the companies were founded in the past two years. Fifty-two percent are less than 5 years old. 
  • Of the respondents, 84 percent are located in Charlotte, while 16 percent are in the outlying cities and towns. 
  • The breakdown by sector: 
    • 47 percent: technology.
    • 11 percent: business services.
    • 8 percent: technology-based education.
    • 7 percent: health care.
    • 5 percent: retail.
    • 5 percent: marketing.
    • 4 percent: transportation and distribution.
    • 14 percent: other.