Thursday, December 18, 2014

Klassic Rides in Lincoln Co. under new ownership

Three former customers and the founder's son have officially assumed ownership of Klassic Rides, a Lincoln County automobile restoration shop specializing in vintage and classic cars.

Klassic Rides announced its new owners on Thursday.

The business is housed in a 20,400-square-foot facility in Denver with 22 employees, generated about $2 million in revenue this year and attracts customers from the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The shop disassembles, reconstructs and restores muscle, classic and vintage cars from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Employees take pictures of the restoration process and post them online each Friday so customers can track their vehicle's progress.

The new ownership team includes operations manager Billy West, who started Klassic Rides with his father, Floyd West, in 2005; Fred Rice, a 70-year-old retiree; Olindo Mare, who serves as the business' sales, public relations and marketing manager; and Steve Lyon, a "silent owner" who lives in Vermont.

Over time, Floyd and Billy West developed a "difference of opinion as to what the future should be," Rice said.

The new ownership team at Klassic Rides.
 (From left) Fred Rice, Olindo Mare, Steve Lyon and Billy West.
"You have a 30-something year old son and a 60-year-old father with slightly different interests in what the traction should be," he said. "Fathers and sons, they get to the point where they have the contest of who is going to be in charge to go forward.

"As you get older, your risk tolerance goes down a little bit and you want to step back a little," Rice added. Meanwhile, "the young son is trying to put his stamp on the business."

Billy West reached out to three customers to see if they would be interested in becoming co-owners, Rice said. They agreed.

Papers were signed in January and it took the four owners about four days to gather the money to buy out Floyd West, Rice said. In July, they started negotiations to purchase the real estate -- a deal they finalized in November.

Rice declined to disclose the value of the deal, but said it was a "mutually-agreed upon price" with Floyd West, who is no longer associated with the business.

The company's vision, he said, remains the same: Continue to remain true to a commitment for "quality over quantity."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Survey: Small-biz owners upbeat, hopeful for 2015

Small-business owners are feeling pretty good about 2015.

Business owners are more optimistic than they have been in more than six years, and are feeling the most cheerful about the year ahead since the Great Recession, according to the most recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey.

The fourth-quarter survey, which polled private business owners for a week last month, returned a Small Business Index score of "positive 58," up from a "positive 49" in July and up 34 total points from a year ago.

The score is the highest its been since January 2008 when it was a "positive 83."

The survey cites several reasons for their cheery dispositions, including:

  • More than 70 percent of small-business owners feel their company's financial situation will be very or somewhat good over the next year.
  • Hiring will increase as 26 percent of small-business owners reported they plan to increase the number of jobs at their companies "a little or a lot."
  • Business owners plan to make investments in their businesses over the next year with 29 percent of them expecting to increase the amount of money they spend on capital.
  • And, more than 50 percent of business owners expect their company's revenues to increase a little or a lot. Only 14 percent expect a decrease.
But, the survey isn't all smiles. Business owners listed attracting customers and new business among their top concerns for next year, followed by government regulations and financial stability. 

The survey also questioned small-business owners about health insurance coverage, with 56 percent of them reporting that they believe the cost for healthcare in 2015 will result in some kind of financial hardship. In 2015, 25 percent of small-business owners plan to offer health insurance options for their employees, up from 19 percent in 2010.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Customers support Shop Micro Local on its big shopping day

Shop Micro Local vendors say they saw twice the amount of customer traffic this past Small Business Saturday compared to last year.

From left to right: Olive Stewart of Bushelle Seasonings, Caroline Starnes of Guava Love Foods and Leslie Suber of Sadie's Caribbean Fish Cakes. Photo by Alana Dawson.

Close to 30 merchants participated in Shop Micro Local, a coordinated pop-up store housed inside Triple C Brewery in SouthEnd. (Pop-ups are small, temporary businesses that operate in one location for a day or longer, and then leave.)

Here's how Olive Stewart, creator of the marinades line Bushelle Seasonings, described the day in an email to ShopTalk:

"Shop Micro Local was AWESOME! The atmosphere was joyous and PRO local small business. A D.J. kicked off the event and local bands followed. A variety of great food samples was served and many customers shopped while walking around with their Triple C Brew. The event hosted everyone from families to four legged friends with their owners!

The staff of Shop Micro Local, Center City Partners, Triple C Brewery and CPCC did an excellent job in getting the word out. The attendance rate increased two-fold from last year.

The vendors had the ability to have one on one conversation with current and future customers, which we feel is one of the most important aspects of SML. Contacts were made with customers and among vendors. New vendors were able to showcase their product for the first time and they received an overwhelming response. Many vendors agreed that the event was worth participating in financially and would participate next year."

Here are photos from the event. Photos by Alana Dawson:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Check out the Fashion Truck Rodeo on Small Business Saturday

Fashion trucks are headed to South End for Small Business Saturday. Here's how Tobe Holmes of Charlotte Center City Partners describes the event:

"We’ve all heard of food trucks… but fashion trucks? No better time to debut South End’s first fashion truck rodeo than Small Business Saturday on 11/29 in the parking lot of the Shu and Brief storefronts located at 1426 South Tryon Street.

These mobile fashion purveyors are the first step for many entrepreneurs who aspire to a bricks-and-mortar storefront. Don’t think that because these fashion boutiques operate out of the footprint of a campers, buses or delivery trucks they can’t bring some serous style to the runway. But who are we to judge?

Judge for yourself! Come check out Gypsy Jule, Pink Culture, Motor Couture, L Squared, Sole Addiction and Circa 360 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Small Business Saturday, 11/29, at the corner of South Tryon Street and Camden Road. Make a day of it by catching the Holiday Trolley that will be delivering shoppers there every 30 minutes from other its stops at Atherton Mill and a 30 vendor pop-up shop at Triple C Brewing Company."

You can see what the fashion trucks are saying on Twitter about the event: @gypstjulemerc @PinkCultrTruck @motorcouture @Shop_Lsquared @TheSoleAddictio @Circa360Style

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fifi's Fine Resale in Cornelius donates $5K to support breast cancer patients

Julia Austin, left, owner of Fifi's Fine Resale in Cornelius, presents a check for $5,000 to Beth Medlock of the Pretty in Pink Foundation during a recent presentation.

Fifi's hosted fundraising events throughout October to raise money to help pay for breast cancer treatment for some of Lake Norman's underinsured patients.

The Pretty In Pink Foundation, according to its website, serves people diagnosed with breast cancer who have limited or no health insurance. Fifi's, a men's and women's consignment shop, is located at 20601-A Torrence Chapel Road in the Fresh Market Center.

Friday, November 14, 2014

CPCC celebrates entrepreneurs worldwide with int'l trade workshop

Central Piedmont Community College will throw its support behind entrepreneurs worldwide next week after joining with an entrepreneurial hub keyed in to eight Southern cities.

In time for Global Entrepreneurship Week, the college's Small Business Center has signed on to support StartupPoint, a crowd-sourcing resource for entrepreneurs who want to make connections and collect advice.

Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world's largest celebration of entrepreneurs, innovators and job-creators, starts on Nov. 17 and features more than 140 countries hosting over 20,000 activities, according to a news release.

To celebrate, CPCC and the North Carolina Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program on Nov. 19 will host a workshop exploring the legal aspects of international trade. The workshop, which will teach entrepreneurs how to understand exporting products and the legal framework for international trade, starts at 9:30 a.m. and lasts until noon in the center's Hall Building.

StartupPoint's connectors include supporters with companies in Asheville, Wilmington, Durham, Atlanta, Dallas, Savannah, Ga., and Beltsville, Md.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Edison Nation wants to hear from military inventors

If you're a veteran or a military member on active duty who has a great new invention, Charlotte-based Edison Nation wants to hear from you.
Edison Nation, which operates an online community for innovators and produces the public television reality show "Everyday Edisons," is partnering with Ride 2 Recovery to encourage new product ideas.
All submission fees collected in the search will be donated to Ride 2 Recovery, a nonprofit that helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through cycling programs. (The submission fee is $25 for each new idea submitted; $20 for each new idea submitted by an insider member.)
To participate, military inventors with ideas that are "unique, marketable, patentable, and meet a need in the marketplace" submit their idea at this Edison Nation website.
Deadline is Monday, December 22 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.
The goal is to raise money for California-based Ride 2 Recovery, and also successfully launch a product idea, according to Edison Nation.
To kick off the contest, one of the inventors, Ben Welsh, visited Charlotte on Veteran's Day today to deliver his prototype. His invention, called the "Modular and Portable Lighting System," is comprised of several, identical multi-color LED lighting devices that join together to form a single lighting structure.

In the photos below, Scott Dromms from Edison Nation (in the plaid shirt), Ben Welsh (in the white shirt) and his wife, Jennifer meet at Edison Nation. Photos courtesy of Edison Nation.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

SBA offers entrepreneurs week-long crash course in business

Business owners at every stage, from start up to maturity, will soon get a week-long crash course in entrepreneurship from the comfort of their living rooms if they choose.

To celebrate National Distance Learning Week, the Small Business Administration has launched a blog providing links to a variety of classes on small-business topics, such as how to write a business plan, crowdfunding for entrepreneurs and how to take your business global, according to a news release.

Distance learning is simply attending or participating in a class or educational venture digitally, without the worry of commuting or sitting in an actual classroom.

Starting Nov. 10, each entrepreneur or aspiring business owner will take a class each day tailored to the specific stage their business is in, according to an SBA news release.

Classes start Nov. 10 and end Nov. 14.

Each class is 30 minutes, but require Acrobat Reader or Adobe Flash Player to use. Links and descriptions of each class are available on the SBA's website.

Get your small-business name up in lights

With Small Business Saturday about three weeks away, the City of Charlotte is running a contest that will give a local business one month of free advertising on a digital billboard at the EpiCentre. is organizing the contest, which ends Nov. 17 at midnight.

To enter, small businesses are asked to email their success story to

"Although you’re welcome to attach a Word document or type your story directly in the email, we encourage you to be creative," according to a press release explaining the rules. "Create a video, write a blog, take a picture – do something that fully exemplifies your business and how far it has come."

Don't forget to include your name, an email address, phone number, and business web address.

Small businesses are also asked -- but not required -- to connect with through social media, including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and to sign up for the e-newsletter on its website. You can also find more information there about the billboard giveaway.

Small Business Saturday is on Nov. 29.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Johnson & Wales students to pitch their ventures in spirit of Shark Tank

Taking cues from a reality show in which aspiring entrepreneurs present their ideas to would-be investors, nine students at Charlotte's Johnson & Wales University will pitch their enterprises in front of a panel of judges Wednesday for a chance to win $5,000.

Renaissance Executive Forums, an advisory board of top executives, has partnered with the college to host "Shark Fest," billed as a Shark Tank-like event.

The event starts at 5 p.m. at the Hance Auditorium.

Shark Tank is an ABC reality show in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of potential investors, or "sharks." If a panel member is interested in the product, the entrepreneur can strike a deal. If none of the judges are interested, then the entrepreneur leaves the show empty-handed.

Each student at SharkFest has five minutes to make their pitch. Then, the judges will spend an additional five minutes asking questions about their ventures.

Members of REF raised the $16,000 to sponsor the event at a silent auction at the Duke Mansion last December. REF members have also mentored the participating students.

More than 75 students with 57 ventures entered the competition. The first round whittled the competitors down to 20 ventures. Nine students were eventually named finalists.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winners named in Time Warner Cable's small-business contest

Time Warner Cable Business Class is honoring 25 Charlotte-based small businesses as winners in its first-ever "Small Business, Big Impact" contest.

Winners, who submitted essays on how they've used the cable company's Internet, Wi-Fi, phone, TV and/or cloud services, will be recognized at an awards breakfast Friday. Charlotte Chamber president Bob Morgan will be keynote speaker, and Rob Boisvert, Time Warner Cable News anchor, will be the host.

Here are the winners:

Accelerate Solar: Residential and Commercial Solar Energy Installers
Anointed Flooring, Inc.: Commercial and Residential Flooring
Baker-Pegram Insurance Agency: Personal and Business Lines – Risk Management
Bignon's African Hair Braiding & Weaving, LLC: Full-Service Hair Salon
Carolinas Metro Realty: Real Estate Sales and Property Management
Charlotte Engineers, LLP: MEP Design Engineers
Cloud 9 Smokeshop: Tobacco Accessories and Smoking Supplies
The Dog Knowledge: Service Dog Trainers
Gat3 Productions: Multiple Grammy Award-Winning Recording and Production Studio
Gaylord Bralley Agency: Auto, Home and Life Insurance
HD Products, Inc.: Auto Detailing Supplies
Homes of Hope: Transitional Housing for the Homeless
Martin Holdings, Inc.: Mini Storage Movers and Rentals
Mill Grove United Methodist Church: Methodist Church and Preschool
Minit Maids, Inc.: Professional Home Cleaning Service
Monroe Sewing & Vac Center: Sewing Machine and Vacuum Sales and Service
R.M. Beasley & Assoc., Inc.: Insurance Health Agency
Rochelle Salon Suites, LLC: One Stop Beauty Salon
San Marco Coffee, Inc.: Fresh-Roasted Coffee to Order
The Secret Chocolatier: Chocolate, Confections and Cake Shop
Southern Blossom Florist: Floral – Wedding – Gift Baskets
SPARK Publications: Creative Design and Content for Magazines, Books, Catalogs and Marketing Promotions
Spice Cafe: Indian Food Restaurant
The Ultra Running Company, LLC: Specialty Running and Apparel
US Tax Express: Tax Preparation and Planning

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Doing the hustle: Here's why these Charlotte entrepreneurs are always working

In Wednesday's print edition of ShopTalk, you'll meet business owners who work day or side jobs while making their business dreams a reality.

There's a name for it: the side hustle.

Blogger Nick Loper describes it as something you to do earn money outside your day job.

How do they do it, and what drives them? Here's a closer look at three:

Alexandra Zsoldos

Alexandra Zsoldos' side gig took shape at a young age. She grew up dancing, and choreographed dances for the student dance company in college.

By day, Zsoldos, 27, works for a Charlotte marketing firm. At night and on weekends, she runs FirstDanceCharlotte, which she uses to teach private wedding dance lessons out of her home.

"Everyone does a first dance, but it's probably one of the most dreaded or least considered part of the wedding these days," she said. "I want couples to rediscover how fun and special it is to dance together."

Much of Zsoldos' free time is spent listening to each couples' wedding music, working out the timing and steps that work with the music, writing practice notes and working out the choreography. She works by appointment only, she said, so she doesn't overload herself.

"As to whether I will sleep in the future, who knows," she said.

    Scott Jermyn
Scott Jermyn can say the same. 

"Sleep is hard," said the 41-year-old Jermyn, who has spent the last five years creating ShomoLive, an online service that streamlines booking events for local artists and venues.

To stay afloat, he runs a real estate business with a friend and tends bar two nights a week.

"When somebody's entrepreneurial like that, you kind of have it in you to go, go, go and keep pushing it," he said.

Kelly Jo Jefferis
Rodan & Fields

    Hard work was bred into Kelly Jo Jefferis, a 31-year-old mother to a 16-month-old toddler and a self-admitted overachiever. She grew up watching her father work 60 to 80 hours a week at a corporate job.

    "I wanted to follow in his footsteps so I started working at 15 years old," she said.

    She now works full-time as a marketing agent for a national contractor. Earlier this year, she began selling skincare products for Rodan & Fields after meeting a neighbor who decided not to renew her CPA license because selling for the company paid her monthly daycare bills.

    Jefferis spent less than $1,000 to get started. She juggles 12 regular customers, and fits in calls and emails around her day job, often when she's in the bathroom or waiting to pick her daughter up from daycare.
    "I have my rough days, but I am so glad I did it," she said. "I just need a few years to work my business and provide great service and my success will come to me. I'm sure of it."

    Working your hustle

    ShopTalk asked Loper and Jullien Gordon, a New York employee engagement consultant who gave a TEDx Midwest talk on side hustling, about how entrepreneurs should work their hustle. Here's some of what they had to say:

    Know what you like: Loper advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take inventory of their skills.

    "If you've had a job ever you, by definition, have a skill worth paying," he said.

    Scan your resume, he said, and figure out which skills interest you the most. Ask yourself: "Which of those am I particularly interested (in), or can I imagine turning that into a side business?"

    The important thing is to make sure you like what you're doing.

    "If you're an accountant by day and you're skilled at that, but you hate accounting, that doesn't make for a good side hustle," Loper said. "Though you need money, the last thing you need is a second job you hate."

    Adjust your schedule: "We're all dealt the same 24 hours a day," Loper said. His suggestion to making the side gig a little more manageable: Wake up an hour earlier and work in the mornings before your day job.

    Gordon, a father and husband, compares running a side business to preparing for a marathon. People who run marathons, he said, often set time in the mornings and over the weekends to prepare. After work, he said, business owners can dedicate an hour to working their side business at a Starbucks.

    "It's not a piano": That's what Loper's father told him growing up, stressing that mistakes are inevitable. Setting up the side business, Loper said, won't be a flawless endeavor right out of the gate.

    Don't give up, he said, but understand that timing is key.

    "Don't try to be put in a position that it's a life-or-death thing, (like) 'I need to make rent next month,'" he said. "For me, it was three years of nights and weekends before I felt quit my day job." 

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    Do you give freebies? Let us know

    Courtesy of The Write Occasion Calligraphy
    It's the small things that count.

    From complimentary peppermints to handwritten thank-you notes, many small businesses provide something extra that help customers feel special -- and make them want to come back.

    Do you use these or other gestures at your business?

    Let us know for an upcoming story.

    Contact Jonathan McFadden at or at 704-358-6045.

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Dr. Oz to launch community walk at Merinos in Mooresville

    Dr. Mehmet Oz
    A Mooresville business is the launchpad for a series of events this week in which Dr. Mehmet Oz will throw his support behind free health clinics in the Carolinas.

    On Thursday, Oz, who hosts "The Dr. Oz Show" on ABC-TV, will launch a community walk from Merinos Home Furnishings at 500 South Main St., the once-abandoned textile mill that served as the bedrock of the community.

    The walk is part of Harmony in Health, a fundraising event hosted by Mooresville's HealthReach Community Clinic and Walgreens.

    During the kickoff, Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins will present Oz with a NASCAR jacket. Participants will walk a mile to the Charles Mack Citizen Center and an optional second mile back to Merinos.

    Michal Bay, who owns Merinos, said he's not hoping the walk and subsequent exposure will be a boon to his business.

    "I think when you're doing something, you do it because you want to do it, not because you want to benefit out of it," Bay said. "We're doing it without expecting anything whatsoever."

    Organizers chose Merinos as the spot to start the walk because of its size, Bay said, adding that he often allows the community to use space at the retrofitted mill. He jumped at the chance to host Oz at his store.

    The fact they're both Turkish, he said, is just mere coincidence. Bay was born in Turkey, then moved to London, England and then returned to Turkey before he moved to the U.S. and started selling furniture.

    The Turkish-American Oz was born in Cleveland, Ohio.
    Michal Bay

    "I personally love Dr. Oz," Bay said. "I only know him through the press. I never met him. I don't know him. I love the way he explains medical (things) to everybody."

    The walk starts at 10 a.m. in Merinos' parking lot on College and Church streets. Thursday's walk is just one part in a series of daylong activities for Oz that will include a health fair, black-tie dinner and an event at Mooresville High School.

    Friday, October 3, 2014

    So, what's your side hustle?

    Corporate worker by day, busy entrepreneur by night?

    Toiling away at your office desk 8 to 5, but selling merchandise out of your call 6 till midnight?

    For an upcoming ShopTalk story, we want to talk to small-business entrepreneurs who are working both their day jobs and their side hustle.

    What's a side hustle, you ask?

    Nick Loper, who runs a blog called Side Hustle Nation, defines it as "something you do to earn money outside your day job."

    Previous generations called it "moonlighting," says Loper, who started a footwear comparison-shopping website while working a corporate job.

    Eventually, he walked away from his day job in 2008 and went into full-time self employment.

    So maybe you're like Loper and have a gig on the side. Or two. Or three.

    What did you do to get it started? How are you managing a full-time job and a side gig? Is the business successful? Do you sleep?

    We want to hear from you. Tell us your stories about how you bring home the bacon using more than one stream of income.

    Contact Jonathan McFadden at (704) 358-6045, or via email:

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    Fast growth spurs tech startup's move to Packard Place

    The latest company to take residence in Charlotte's swelling incubator for technology start-ups started two years ago on a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    SpendBoss, which provides businesses and retailers with technology helping them easily order supplies, has moved to Packard Place on South Church Street to accommodate its growth.

    The company started in 2012 when a dozen retail executives gathered at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville and began collaborating on how to best develop a solution for managing indirect spend, the purchases a business uses for supplies that are not directly related to the products it sells or services it provides, according to its website.

    The group that would make up SpendBoss created a cloud-sharing software that allows business owners to budget, communicate with suppliers and create reports, graphs and spreadsheets on one platform.

    Company officials said in a news release that Packard Place has the "right elements to foster the growth of a revolutionary startup." The company has more than doubled its size within the past year, officials say.

    SpendBoss is now among more than 100 tech-startups in Packard Place, said Dan Roselli, Packard Place co-founder. The company is one of the largest in Packard Place and has agreed to mentor newer startups in Packard Place's QCFinTech program, a financial services technology incubator.

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    Charlotte entrepreneur's granola becomes part of news Emmys

    DeeDee Navarro with her packaged granola

    It would make DeeDee Navarro's day if Diane Sawyer took a bite out of her granola.

    There's a chance the former ABC "World News" anchor will next Tuesday.

    Navarro, founder of Charlotte's Bungalow Picnic Company, was selected among a pool of more than 1,000 businesses nationwide to provide products that will be stuffed inside gift bags distributed to news media executives, reporters and filmmakers at the 35th annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards Sept. 30.

    For the past six years, Off the Wall Gifts, a New Hampshire advertising and product placement company, has given small businesses nationwide the opportunity to submit products for the Emmy gift bags, company founder Val Wilson said. This year, products from 32 businesses will be distributed in 800 gift bags.

    A research team examine each business' website, social media efforts and consider how recipients will react to the products. Wilson said she liked the look of Bungalow's website and felt the granola was nicely packaged and Navarro's brand not too gender-specific.

    Navarro, mother to two college-aged daughters, said she dreamed of starting a healthy grab-and-go or snack food company for years, but she didn't know "exactly what that was going to entail."

    As she brainstormed on what her niche could be, she made granola for her children and their friends. It was a hit. The owner of a local bakery agreed to help her make and package her own granola treats.

    She began with basic ingredients --oats, bran and flaxseed-- but decided to also add coconut oil, an ingredient she didn't see used in most granola products. She mixed together a combination she grew up with --peanut butter and banana-- and created her first flavored granola product, which also includes almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries and banana chips.

    She has since added sunflower seed butter granola to her flavor repertoire.

    Navarro negotiates with store owners to get her granola on their shelves. Bungalow Picnic granola can be found in Whole Foods markets throughout the region, Reid's Fine Foods, EarthFare and the Fresh Market. She wants to continue marketing to specialty food stores, she said, before eventually moving to big retailers.

    She hopes the added exposure will bolster business. It wouldn't hurt if some of her favorite TV reporters savored her products, either.

    CNN's Anderson Cooper would be awesome, but Christiane Amanpour would be "just amazing," she said.

    "It would be just amazing if I thought she was eating granola as she's reporting live from Syria," Navarro said. "She'd take a break to eat my granola."

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Pilot's advice to business owners: 'Lead from where you are, then you will fly'

    Elizabeth McCormick ran just as many miles, did just as many push-ups and hovered in a helicopter just as horribly as any male pilot when she enrolled in a U.S. Army flight school in 1993.

    The difference: She was the only female in her class.

    So, what does her experience have to do with running a business?

    When someone tells you no, say, 'why not?'" McCormick said to a conference room full of female veterans, businesswomen, spouses and active military personnel. "You've got to be your own cheerleader in life."

    McCormick on Tuesday was the keynote speaker at a Central Piedmont Community College conference focusing on women veterans becoming business entrepreneurs.

    She encouraged attendees to dispel negative thoughts. If you don't feel smart enough to run a business, figure out what it takes to feel smart, she said: Take a class. Hire a coach. Find a mentor.

    Her other tips included:

    • While brushing your teeth in the morning, speak five positive words to yourself that represent what you aspire to be while you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror.
    • Practice makes permanent. Practice, she said, determines how you perform in your life and your business, and how you'll find gumption to show up everyday. 
    • Rest. Peak performance, McCormick said, "doesn't get the job done." Optimal performance does. "You deserve your best. It's up to you to make 'you' a priority. You have gifts that the world needs. What you have has value."
    • Take a risk: She dared attendees to do something different
    • Your 'flight plan' is your business: "You've got to own it," she said. "It's yours. You decide where it determine your determine your goals."
    An unhappy wife, McCormick caught what she calls a case of the "if he can do it, I can do it too" bug and enlisted in a U.S. Army flight school program. There, she had eight weeks to learn the ins and outs of operating a Huey helicopter.

    Elizabeth McCormick
    She faced a misogynistic flight instructor who often belittled her, calling her stupid and telling her each day that a monkey could fly better than her because she --and nearly every male student-- had trouble mastering helicopter hovering. Her requests for a new instructor were denied.

    "Every place I went, opposition," she said. "Every place I went, it was 'no.'"

    She finally met an instructor who taught her the right way to hover. She learned not to give up. The reason why, she said on Tuesday, rests with her "belief zone" -- the things she needed to tell and believe about herself to overcome her obstacles.

    "I knew I was meant to be more than just a wife," she told ShopTalk after the conference. "I wasn't willing to settle."

    Brenda Robinson

    Much of McCormick's speech resonated with Brenda Robinson, the first female African American pilot in the Navy.

    In 1978, she graduated from flight school and went into the Navy. She didn't make a fuss about her pioneer status, she said, choosing instead to focus 100 percent on her career. 

    "Nobody knows me because I did not want the attention" from the public or her co-workers, she said. In the early 1990s, she began flying commercial airlines but retired after 35 years of flight experience.

    Like McCormick, Robinson speaks across the country, encouraging students and seniors to identify and then achieve their goals. 

    "Lead from where you are," McCormick said. "When you see a need, you must choose to lead. And then, you will fly."

    Her next goal: Become the first female in the top 10 ranking of motivational speakers in the nation.

    McCormick's BBFD acronym for business owners:

    • Can I do it Bigger than everybody else?
    • Can I do it Better than everybody else?
    • Can I do it Faster than everybody else?
    • Can I do it differently than everybody else?

    CAN method for business leadership:

    Communicate: Questions to ask yourself, she said, include: "Is (what I'm saying) clear? Is it concise? Do (employees) know they're understood?

    Aviate: Take action, McCormick implored before relaying details of her harrowing flight amid a 1998 ice storm in New York. "You can't stop when there's a crisis. When things get really hard, that's when you show up."

    Navigate: "Do you know where you're going?" she asked. Business owners, she said, should be comfortable with saying "No" to some opportunities so they can make room for the ones that help them move closer to their goals.

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    First female Black Hawk pilot among guests at women veterans business conference

    The first woman to pilot a Black Hawk helicopter will tell women veterans in Charlotte next week how they can use skills they learned on the front lines to boost their bottom lines.

    More than 100 female veterans and active-duty military personnel are expected to spend about six hours with Elizabeth McCormick, a panel of four female business owners and vendors at Central Piedmont Community College on Tuesday as part of "A New Mission: How Military Women Become Entrepreneurs" conference.

    Elizabeth McCormick
    The event, a joint effort by CPCC's Sm
    all Business Center and the Women's Business Center of North Carolina, starts at 8:30 a.m. in the Harris Conference Center, 3216 CPCC Harris Campus Drive. It's expected to end at 2:30 p.m.

    Also on tap: an expo featuring vendors from the city of Charlotte, economic development officials and Charlotte SCORE (Service Corps. of Retired Executives), and sessions offering tools to help veterans start businesses.

    All women, including female military veterans, active-duty women service members, veteran spouses and active-duty service members, are invited to attend the event. The event is free, but registration is required.

    The rising number of female-owned businesses and an influx of military personnel in the area motivated organizers to focus the conference around women, said Renee Hode, executive director of CPCC's Small Business Center.

    The federal Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 770,000 veterans live in North Carolina. A recent OPEN State of Women-Owned Business report shows that an estimated 1,200 new American businesses a day were started by women over the past year, up from 740 a day a year earlier.

    Veterans also have several skills that are transferable to business ownership, Hode said, such as resourcefulness, strong leadership skills and adaptability to change.

    "They work with things on the fly," she said. "Things that happen in a business everyday are not routine."

    McCormick, an author and inspirational speaker, will deliver a keynote address during lunch. She has spoken at women's retreats, religious conventions, seminars, youth groups and Girl Scouts troops, according to her website.

    On Tuesday, she will draw from her own challenging experiences and explain how she used them to start her own business.

    The four panelists, all military veterans who own businesses that vary from product innovation to providing services to the community, will talk about the challenges they faced starting their business post-military service. Some of them have owned businesses for more than five years, while at least one is still at the two-year startup level, Hode said.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2014

    Charlotte bus shopping tour offers 'swag bag,' discounts for $30

    For $30, shoppers can go home with a "swag bag," peruse tons of discounted merchandise and be chauffeured to about 10 Charlotte boutiques and a dozen pop-up stores.

    Fifi's of Lake Norman, a fine resale and consignment shop in Cornelius, will host on Sept. 27 its second annual Shop Charlotte Bus Tour. The tour, in a limousine bus, starts at 9 a.m., ending at 4 p.m.

    Guests who purchase the $30 tickets will be bused to 13 area boutiques, including Fifi's, Avalilly's in Cornelius, the Cheeky Bean in SouthPark and The Boulevard at SouthEnd.

    The tour is the brainchild of Julia Austin, owner of Fifi's Fine Resale, as a way of drawing business to local boutiques. Jennifer Malone and Jessica Horton of J. Leigh Events are the event's organizers.

    Julia Austin
    This year, each guest will receive a "swag bag," according to a news release, and discounts at each stop along the way.
    There's lunch, too.

    As they feast, shoppers will also have the opportunity to peruse about a dozen pop-up stores, shops that owners set up at a location temporarily and then leave, said Jennifer Harrison, a store manager at Fifi's of Lake Norman.

    A Fifi's sales associate doubling as a stylist will join the bus ride, offering tips and help to shoppers.Tickets can be purchased here. The sale ends Sept. 26.

    By Tuesday morning, 15 seats were left on the bus. If the tickets sell out, event organizers are willing to get a larger bus, Harrison said.

    The Charlotte pick-up location is at the Cheeky Bean boutique at 720 Governor Morrison St., Suite 160, and the Lake Norman pick-up is at Fifi's, 20601 Torrence Chapel Road in Cornelius.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Charlotte entrepreneur launches app verifying signatures with audio, video, photos

    While developing a "robust" tool for entertainers and athletes that would allow them to snap pictures while signing documents, business owner Kyle Taylor grew tired of printing paper and emailing agreements.

    He searched for programs that would help him sign documents digitally and deliver them to the right people with a simple touch.

    Trouble is, those programs weren't cheap. He told himself: "I'm not going to pay $30 to $50 a month to sign documents." More, financing his first product --which became so convoluted it was like a "Swiss Army knife"-- and getting it to market didn't work out the way he hoped.

    So, Taylor, 30, did what became second-nature in the years he worked through college, paid his bills and lived on his own in New York City and then Philadelphia.

    He "refocused, regrouped...brainstormed and focused on what the other competitors in the industry are not offering," he said. "You have to be able to shift focus, have to be able to pivot."

    After researching what other companies in the E-signature industry offered, Taylor spent 12 to 16 months developing the Agreed App, an easy-to-use application allowing users to sign documents on a mobile device and then verify who or what is being signed with audio, pictures and video.

    The app is different from other E-signature devices he said, because users can add audio clips for verbal contract commitments; take pictures and upload them as proof of identity; and enable real-estate agents to embed pictures and video of a property for-sale into a document before a potential buyer signs the dotted line.

    It eliminates the occasional trouble with faxing and emailing documents, he said, and cuts down on paper-use.

    The app is marketed to real-estate agents, independent contractors, lawyers and other professionals requiring signed time-sensitive documents. It's available on the Apple App Store, where users can download the app to access storage and verification services for three full documents per month. For users who want more access, they can pay $9.99 per month or $89.99 a year.

    He funded the app's development by cashing out stocks and blending the money with funds from his 401(k) savings at previous jobs, spending between $30,000 to $40,000 to take the app to market.

    Taylor found a developer for the product at Packard Place, the city's incubator for start ups. After months of testing the product, he submitted his code work to Apple, which reviewed the app and placed it on the market.

    Last month, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise capital for testing and developing the app for Android devices.

    Staying focused

    Taylor's journey to launching his own business and app started in a single-parent household in New Jersey. Raised by a mother who stressed education, Taylor said he focused on staying out of trouble and investing in his future.

    He attended St. John's University in New York City, but left three years later as tuition costs kept increasing. He enrolled at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he worked 40 hours a week and attended classes at night, during the summer and on weekends.

    Having always had a keen interest in money, he began conversing with his mother's stock broker and reading books on the stock market. He invested refund money from his student loans into shares of FedEx and Synaptics, Inc.

    He worked at Comcast in Philadelphia before moving to Charlotte at his mother's suggestion. Here, he hired a development team and started The Redkomodo, LLC --a name he chose because red is an aggressive color and the Komodo dragon is strategic, watching its prey until it notices a weakness and strikes.

    "That's what we did," he said. "We (take) our time to figure out the market, see what the competitors were doing or not doing and then we can approach with an attack with what we can offer to the table."

    Monday, September 8, 2014

    Sports marketing veterans start specialized firm

    Lending their clients a listening ear helped Greg Busch and Mike Boykin find a gap in the sports entertainment marketplace and make a move out of what they call the "big agency world."

    An executive at a global sports marketing agency, Busch said clients wanted to see senior executives work "hand-in-hand" with brand clients versus the more "organizational-chart approach."

    Earlier this year, Boykin and Busch stepped away from jobs as top executives at GMR Marketing, based in Milwaukee with offices in Charlotte, and created Bespoke Sports & Entertainment, a marketing solutions agency aiming to offer its clients consulting and marketing services tailored to their
    specific needs.

    Bespoke's offices on West Morehead Street, just west to the Bank of America Stadium, opened last week.

    "It's not about a right or wrong model," said Busch, Bespoke president. "The large agency model certainly works for some brands that are looking for scale or global reach. It was really more about giving (clients) options. It's really a customized approach."

    Busch, who worked at GMR Marketing for 15 years, left as the company's executive vice president for global sports and entertainment consulting. Boykin departed as the executive vice president of sports marketing. Together, they blend more than 50 years of sports and entertainment marketing experience.

    "Through our big agency experience, we identified an opportunity in the marketplace to provide brands a personalized service offering," Bespoke CEO Mike Boykin said in a news release. "Our goal is to provide senior-level counsel to create customized brand solutions that drive tangible business results."

    The firm will help clients market products, such as signs or advertisements specifically associated with a sports brand, as well as allow spectators at sporting events to interact with the brand via vendors and brand ambassadors, Busch said.

    Bespoke will also offer clients strategy and consulting services, brand and sponsorship activation, creative solutions and digital engagement services reaching into social media.

    When looking for a company name, Busch said he and Boykin wanted a moniker that emphasized what the firm would strive to do. They settled on "bespoke," an adjective referring to something made-to-order or customized to fit a particular person or thing, such as a "bespoke suit" or "bespoke medicine," he said.

    Partners in the company include John Compton, former president of PepsiCo. and current operating advisor to Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, a New York private equity firm, and Gordon Whitener, former president at Host Communications and CEO at Action Sports Media, and current primary member of The Whitener Company, LLC.

    Thursday, September 4, 2014

    Charlotte small-biz incubators win $50K in national competition

    Two Charlotte small-business incubators are among 50 accelerators in the U.S. to receive a $50,000 prize rewarding programs that help develop start-ups and entrepreneurs.

    City Startup Labs, a 15-week entrepreneurship school geared toward young African-American men, and RevTech Labs, a three-month program that gives free mentoring, work space and programming to new technology start-ups, will both receive the cash prize from the federal Small Business Administration.

    The winners were chosen from a pool of 800 applicants as part of the first Growth Aceelerator Fund competition. Recipients come from 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico according to a SBA news release.

     The competition aimed to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the "entrepreneurial ecosystem," the release states.

    Charlotte resident Henry Rock founded City Startup Labs last year, taking cues from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Young Men's Initiative, an effort to close the achievement gap between young black and Latino males and their counterparts.

     Hoping to help black males embrace entrepreneurship, Rock sought help from the Urban League of Central Carolinas, and received a $100,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

    A launching pad for startups, the RevTech Labs give hopeful business owners and startups 4,000 square feet of shared work space without charge. The lab offers financing help, programs focusing on growth and connections with local and regional investors.

     Both City Startup Labs and RevTech Labs are based in Packard Place, uptown's startup hub.
    As part of accepting the Growth Accelerator funds, City Startup Labs and RevTech Labs will have to report to the SBA several metrics, such as the number of jobs created, money raised, startups launched and corporate sponsors obtained. The SBA will use the information to create a database that evaluates each incubator's impact.

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Close-out sale continues for Matthews holiday shop going out of business

    There's still time to grab baby's first Christmas ornament at the same Matthews shop where customers can buy a rabbit cookie cutter for Easter and an American red gingham beverage napkin for the Fourth of July.

    Connie Kleinberg told the Observer in July she will be closing Matthews Holiday Haus gift shop on North Trade Street after a recent hospitalization.
    A close-out sale, touting bargains that cut prices on some merchandise by 30 to 70 percent, continues with no clear end in sight, but Kleinberg said this week she hopes all the store's inventory is out of her store by the beginning of December.

    Talking about the shop's closing is difficult for Kleinberg, who kept it going for 17 years. She and her husband, Al, started the business together when they retired to North Carolina from New York.

    After a year of "watching the lawn grow," Kleinberg said she sought something to do. "A New York City girl" at heart who "always liked Christmas...and always liked pretty things," Kleinberg decided to open a shop selling Christmastime decor, along with trinkets from every other holiday. 

    "It became a very unique place to shop," she said. "It just grew."

    Once all the merchandise is off the shelves, Kleinberg plans to sell the building, which still has its original cabinetry, ceilings, floors and walls. 

    Decorations for St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Christmas and everyday home decor are still available. 

    --Jonathan McFadden

    Tuesday, July 8, 2014

    Charlotte's JJ's Red Hots to hit college campuses

    JJ's Red Hots, with locations in Dilworth and Ballantyne, announced on Tuesday a new business partnership that will bring the hotdogs to college campuses.

    JJ's is partnering with Chartwells Higher Education, a division of Compass Group North America, to get its food served at higher education institutions. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton will be the first spot to get the hotdogs, as well as a customized menu and a special FAU DOG designed for the university.

    “The high energy of a university setting is right in our sweet spot, because we like to have fun with our brand and we don’t take ourselves too seriously," JJ's owner Jonathan Luther said in a statement.

    JJ’s Red Hots was honored in May for making Fast Casual’s list of the year’s top 50 restaurants, the only Charlotte-area brand to receive recognition. It finished 43rd on the publication’s annual “Top 100 Movers & Shakers” list.

    Monday, June 9, 2014

    Say hello to Food Truck Wednesdays in SouthPark

    Fans of the Food Truck Friday gathering in South End now have a mid-week option in SouthPark: Food Truck Wednesday.  Starting June 11, a group of local food trucks -- comprising the SouthPark Eats Alternative -- will serve lunchtime customers "gourmet cuisine on the go" from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
    The spot is the parking area of 5960 Fairview Road (in a parking lot behind the office buildings), and this Wednesday, the lineup will include: Chrome Toaster, Comfort Food on Wheels, Cupcake Delirium, Maki Taco, Maryland Crab & Co. and MasterBacon.

    Parking is free. For more details, visit the website here or email
    On Twitter: @SouthParkEats

    *Clarification: a previous version of this post said that the gathering was in a parking lot behind Panera. It's not in the Panera parking lot -- it's behind the office buildings behind Panera on a map (see below) -- and the trucks will be next to a free parking deck. Referencing Panera was just to give you an idea of the vicinity. Don't try to park in the Panera lot. I promise you will not find a spot. 

    Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Olde Mecklenburg Brewery prepares for move to $8M facility

    The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has started brewing test batches of its signature beers at a newly renovated facility between South Tryon Street and Yancey Road, just one-tenth of a mile from the brewery’s current home on Southside Drive.

    The new facility, with a price tag of nearly $8 million (including the property), will house a 60-barrel brew house -- four times larger than the previous space. Founder John Marrino, who started OMB in 2009, says the new space makes it the largest craft brew house in the state.

    The new building will also feature a larger taproom and restaurant, a natural Biergarten (outdoor area) and flexible public/private event space with a total capacity of close to 500 people.

    OMB will have a grand-opening party for the public July 19. 

    In 2013, Marrino announced plans to buy the 25,000-square-foot former American Crank Shaft warehouse, which sits on 3.5 acres as well as an adjoining wooded 5-acre property. 

    OMB adheres to the oldest purity guidelines in the world -- the German “Reinheitsgebot" --  which says there can be only four ingredients in beer: barley or wheat malt, hops, yeast and pure water. 

    "The Car Chick" named Women Business Owner of the Year

    LeeAnn Shattuck of Women’s Automotive Solutions has been named the 2014 Woman Business Owner of the Year by the Charlotte Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
    Shattuck and her business partner Michelle Lundy co-own the Fort Mill-based business that helps women -- and men -- navigate the stressful process of buying a car. 
    For $500 to $1,000, they help clients determine and find the car they want within their budget. Then Shattuck and Lundy do the dealership visits, price haggling, trade-in negotiating and paperwork scrutiny. 
    All their clients have to do is test-drive the vehicle, sign papers and take the keys. 
    The annual Woman Business Owner of the Year award is given to a female business owner in the NAWBO community who exemplifies success and strong leadership within her business, her life and her community.  The business must be at least three years old, and the owner must also demonstrate skills in volunteer and civic activities. 
    Shattuck -- a finalist in the 2013 Charlotte NAWBO chapter competition -- also is an automotive expert, a performance driver and a host of the internationally syndicated "America's Garage" radio show, which airs locally at 7:30 a.m. Sundays on ESPN radio. 
    Shattuck is also an automotive expert, radio and television host, keynote speaker, author and champion race car driver.   She is passionate about educating women about cars and about empowering them to make informed decisions when purchasing, selling and servicing automobiles.
    Lundy, who used to run a car dealership, founded Women's Automotive Solutions in 2004. Shattuck left management consulting to join her in 2006. 

    Monday, June 2, 2014

    DoncasterCharlotte owner celebrates 20 years in business

    Local businesswoman Marguerite Rupar is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her wardrobe-consulting business, DoncasterCharlotte, with special events on Tuesday.

    She'll host a sample sale at her studio, located at 228 E. Park Ave., and serve appetizers and beverages. Prizes and chair massages will be offered.

    Rupar started DoncasterCharlotte in 1994 from her home. She describes her business this way:

    "DoncasterCharlotte focuses on the busy professional woman to help her create the perfect wardrobe for her busy life. Each season, the client makes an appointment to come in touch, see and try on the current collection and decide which pieces are right for her. Maybe she needs a power suit, maybe she needs a business casual look or is going on a trip and just needs some fun clothes, we can find it all in the collection and make the most of each piece she purchases. There is lots of personal attention but no pressure! I love giving women a few minutes to relax and have fun while accomplishing a difficult task! DoncasterCharlotte is the best way to find quality clothing for any occasion in just one hour!"

    According to its website, the Doncaster concept started in 1931, as the Doncaster Collar and Shirt Company in Rutherfordton, about 70 miles west of Charlotte. With encouragement from the Junior League of Charlotte, the business eventually evolved into direct sales. These Junior League members were the original 'Doncaster consultants', providing personal service and in-home shopping experiences. The idea quickly spread to other parts of the country, according to Doncaster.

    Rupar says she started DoncasterCharlotte without knowing much about owning a business. Through on-the-job training, and help from the National Association of Women Business Owners and other mentors, she grew her business.

    Rupar says she was able to move her home-based business to a Fourth Ward studio in 2002. In 2007, she moved to a studio on Providence Road that she shared with other Doncaster consultants. Then in January 2014, she moved her business to her current studio location in Dilworth.

    Most of her clients followed her through every move, and even referred clients, Rupar says.

    While featuring stylish clothes is part of DoncasterCharlotte's appeal, Rupar says it's the easy shopping experience that keeps clients coming back. "The service part of it never changed over the 20 years," she says. "It's the ease of the shopping. They like me, they like the experience, they like the clothes. It's something they come back to all the time, because it's easy."

    Learn more about DoncasterCharlotte by emailing Rupar at

    Friday, May 30, 2014

    The boy, the bow ties and the billionaire

    In this earlier blog post, we introduced you to Jake Johnson, a Davidson teen who was a finalist in the "Grow Your Own Business" challenge - giving him the chance to present his business idea to investor Warren Buffett.

    Turns out Jake won the competition held earlier this month, impressing Buffett with his business, Beaux Up, a line of bow tie halves in different patterns that can be mixed and matched, using a clip to connect the separates.

    You must read this delightful story by reporter Caroline McMillan Portillo about Jake and his sisters, Lachlan and Erin, and how the family's longtime entrepreneurial endeavors prepared Jake for his face-to-face pitch with Buffett.

    And watch this video by photographer Jeff Siner featuring the trio talking about their earlier appearance on "Shark Tank" to pitch another business idea so impressive that millionaire Daymond John became a mentor.

    Thursday, May 22, 2014

    NoDa Brewing plans to expand locally, do own canning

    NoDa Brewing Company, recently recognized as one of the top brewers in the nation, is planning to expand operations locally and pursue its own canning, says owner Suzie Ford, who started the company with her husband, Todd, in 2011.  

    "We need additional space," Ford said. "We have four more tanks coming, and that will max out our capacity at this facility," which is located at 2229 N. Davidson St. 

    The Fords haven't decided on a second brewing location yet, but are looking for spaces. Then the next step: "Buying our own canning line," she said. 

    Right now, NoDa Brewing contracts the canning process. But if the business were to buy its own canning line, the process would go faster, Ford said. 

    They hope to make that leap over the next year. 

    NoDa Brewing recently earned international attention by winning a gold medal at the World Beer Cup, one of the nation's biggest beer competitions, in April. 

    The winning brew was NoDa's Hop, Drop 'N Roll IPA and the medal they won is the most sought-after of the competition. The American IPA category is the hottest, with 224 entries. 

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    7th Street Public Market gets new neighborhood butcher

    The 7th Street Public Market will soon welcome a new neighborhood butcher, What’s Your Beef, owned by local butcher Vic Giroux. Giroux will move into the location previously held by Meat & Fish Co., which is expanding and moving to another site.

    "What’s Your Beef will offer the highest quality custom-cut, pasture-raised beef, chicken, lamb, veal, and pork at competitive prices – just like an old-fashioned butcher shop," according to a press release from uptown economic development group Charlotte Center City Partners and market sponsor Carolinas HealthCare Systems. 

    The shop offers dry-aged Angus beef and 100 percent all-natural chicken. All of the meat prepared and sold by What’s Your Beef is hormone-free.

     “I like to know my customers by name,” Giroux said, in the press release. “The difference is in the taste, so I make sure that once customers come and experience the difference in the quality of our meat, they are hooked.”

    The Market location will be the second site for What’s Your Beef. The shop’s first location is in Ballantyne at 14021 Conlon Circle. In addition to fresh-cut meats, What’s Your Beef will offer hot dogs, Italian sausages and sub sandwiches, grab-and-go homemade meals, freezer packs and homemade pasta.

    What’s Your Beef is scheduled to open in early June, with a grand opening celebration June 21 as part of the 7th Street Public Market ‘cue and brew giveaway and promotion.

    Friday, May 9, 2014

    Inside TechCrunch Disrupt, courtesy of three RevTech startups

    Charlotte-based accelerator RevTech Labs sent three promising startups -- eCampus, Paradine and Inovance -- to New York City this week for the TechCrunch Disrupt, a technology conference for startups. 

    The conference is a magnet for angel investors and venture capitalists looking to find the next big thing, said local venture capitalist Amish Shah, the companies' adviser through RevTech. 

    "It was amazing for them," Shah said. "Being around investors, going nonstop...People loved their products." 

    See all of the companies in RevTech Labs at Demo Day, 2:15-6:30 p.m. at Packard Place, 222 S. Church St.

    Here's more on the three who went to TechCrunch Disrupt: 

      e-Campus co-founders at TechCrunch Disrupt:
       Dan Thibodeau (left) and Justin Gaither (back)
    • E-Campus, a Charlotte-based company founded by Justin Gaither and his college fraternity brother Dan Thibodeau in 2009, has drawn national attention and hundreds of thousands of users with its three operations:, which helps college students find compatible roommates, and, a price-comparison site for textbooks. And on April 19, it launched JoinU, a app to connect students with classmates who have interests in common, whether it’s a major or dreams of starting a band. More than 8,000 students have already installed the app across the country, Gaither said. 
     JoinU was developed with the $25,000 prize money eCampus won in the Charlotte Chamber's 2013  Power Up Chapter Challenge, a Duke-Energy-sponsored competition between promising area startups and small businesses. 

      Paradine co-founders:
      Jake Farmakis (left) and Chuck Casella
    • Paradine, based New York City and founded by Jake Farmakis and Chuck Casella, is designed to change the way professionals save and share restaurant recommendations. 

    Inovance co-founder Tad Slaff
    Inovance Financial Technologies, founded by Tad Slaff and Justin Cahoon, offers an automated trading program that gives individuals the ability to adjust their trading strategy based on goals, without the arduous and risky process of manual trading. 

    • Read more here:

    These are three of the 10 companies selected to be in the third class of RevTech Labs, Packard Place’s 12-week startup incubator and accelerator program. For the first time, eight of the 10 participating companies are from outside the Charlotte region, hailing from Silicon Valley, New York, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    And now, accredited investors eying RevTech companies have a new way to fund their operations: a 506(c) index fund created by Dan Roselli of Packard Place and Shah of Sierra Maya Ventures. Shah, who moved to Charlotte in 2008, runs a venture capital firm that was recently ranked as one of the top early-stage firms in the world.

    The fund will allow accredited investors – with either an annual income of $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million – to invest a minimum of $2,500 across all 10 companies, increasing their chances of a higher return.

    Read more here: