Friday, January 31, 2014

Video: In Wednesday's ShopTalk

Small business owners: Are you getting enough sleep? Plus, learn about a new restaurant concept planned for the Queen City, from the founder of Charlotte-based Salsarita's.

City Prints teaming up with Charlotte businesses

When native Charlottean Tony Rodono and his family moved back to Charlotte last year, production for their City Prints map d├ęcor company stayed in Atlanta, where he had lived and worked for a decade.

So customer orders for art pieces were first fielded in Charlotte, via the website. From there, the orders were sent to two other businesses in Atlanta -- first a printer to produce the map art, then a fulfillment company to frame, box and ship products out to customers.

All that changes in early February, according to Rodono, when the family-run company's entire production moves to Charlotte. City Prints' new printing partner will be Boingo Graphics, and the new framing and shipping company will be Frame Warehouse.

"We're improving every aspect of our business by enlisting the help of these Charlotte-based companies," Rodono says.

Soon, a process that typically involved weeks of work -- sending specs, frames and molding back and forth between Charlotte and Atlanta -- will now take considerably less time.

"It's an hour an a half, and I'm done," Rodono says.

"This is a fun company. I want to do fun things to print on different products...The ability to do that in a matter of hours instead of weeks" provides a lot of freedom. "It's really uplifting. I"m excited to see where it's going to take us."

The family-run City Prints, which includes Rodono's wife, Katie, and brother Tim, was the Charlotte Chamber East Chapter's chamber’s 2013 Power Up Challenge winner, a competition involving small businesses and promising startups. The company uses map art to depict everything from where someone grew up, to where they've traveled over the years.

They also make prints depicting sporting venues, such this collection of pro stadiums, below.

See more at

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thoughts on new crowdfunding law? Comment period closes soon.

The 90-day public debate over the new equity crowd-funding legislation officially ends Feb. 3. 

The federal law, part of last year's bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, promises an easier process for raising capital. Under the new legislation, startups and small businesses can gather small amounts of money from non-accredited investors through online funding portals in exchange for small equity stakes in the company. 

However, fearing the new rules could cause small, inexperienced investors to lose money or be exposed to fraud, the Securities and Exchange Commission released nearly 600 pages of rules dictating the new provisions, which they opened for public comment.  

What are your thoughts? Want to comment? Do it here.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tell us: Advice that changed your business

What's the best business advice you've ever received that helped change the way you run your small business or entrepreneurial venture?

Perhaps a family member taught you how to text, and how to use that form of communication to promote your business.

Maybe a mentor encouraged you to seek out customer feedback, and explained how to use that information to get better.

Or perhaps the best tips came from a business class you took, where you learned skills that lead to big improvements in the way you run and promote your business.

Share with us what you've learned -- big or small -- and how this made your business better. Your best pieces of advice may be included in an upcoming story. Email Caroline McMillan Portillo at

Friday, January 24, 2014

Small businesses and Super Bowl strategies

VIDEO In Wednesday's ShopTalk: How local small businesses are using next week's big game to raise their profile.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Video: In Wednesday's ShopTalk

Learn how the small businesses along Selwyn Avenue work together, and more, in Wednesday's ShopTalk:

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Small business center looking for speakers, contest competitors

The Small Business Center at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is looking for presenters who'd like to lead a seminar on a topic related to helping small businesses start and grow.

If interested, send an email to

Here are other happenings at the center:

-The Cabarrus Business Network invites business owners in Cabarrus and Rowan Counties who have a written business plan to enter a local business plan competition for a prize package. The event will be in the format of the popular TV show Shark Tank. The entry deadline is January 31. Go here for an entry form.

-Small business counseling is available for free the second Tuesday of every month at the Gateway Building in downtown Salisbury. Make an appointment by calling 704-633-4221. Other counseling times are available in Kannapolis and Concord.

-There's a free, four-part "Agripreneur Workshop" beginning February 6 at the North Campus in Salisbury. Sign up at

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

'Sweet Joint' celebrates grand opening in Ayrsley on Saturday

Valerie Carrothers want anyone with a sweet tooth to come to the official grand opening of her store, Jaz-Jan The Sweet Joint, which sells an assortment of gourmet cupcakes, cakes and cookies.

The event begins 2 p.m. Saturday at 2026-A Ayrsley Town Blvd., near I-485 and South Tryon. There will be prizes, raffles, price specials and live music performed by Jaz-Jan’s own Sweet Joint jazz band.

Carrothers describes her desserts as bringing back the taste of the old days, "when Mom used to cook cakes and cookies at home."

Carrothers, who is 51, spent years in the corporate world as a contract manager and accounts receivable analyst.

"I've done many things, and now it's time for me to venture out on my own," she said. "If I'm going to work hard, I might as well work hard for myself."

(Photos courtesy of Jaz-Jan.)

Her business -- named after her 18-year-old twins, Jasmine and JaNey -- debuted in 2012 at a kiosk in Carolina Place Mall.

"I enjoyed it, but I figured I needed my own place to expand."

She picked Ayrsley because of the foot traffic generated by the hotels, apartments, small businesses and the movie theater nearby. Products are baked onsite daily, Carrothers said. Jaz-Jan's includes seating and free WiFi, and also serves coffee and Gastonia-based Tony's Ice Cream.

Learn more at, or call 980-237-1223. And check out the assortment of treats at Jaz-Jan's photo gallery, here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Need capital for your business idea? Check this out.

Hear from a group of successful investors and entrepreneurs at the annual event hosted by Business Innovation Growth on "Funding Startup and Early-Stage Companies" from 1-6 p.m. Jan. 14 at UNC Charlotte's center-city campus. 

This event is free, thanks to donations from event sponsors, says Terry Cox, president of BIG, an nonprofit for high-potential entrepreneurs. 

Here's the agenda for the event: 

 1:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.    Opening Remarks

2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.    Pros and Cons of Bootstrapping      

3:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.     Practical Considerations for Deal Structures

3:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.    Lessons Learned Raising Capital from our Prior Year Presenters
4:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.    Successful Crowdfunding Raises

4:45 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.    Making the Investor Pitch

Registration: Register here or email Dress is business casual. 

The address is 320 E. 9th Street. Event will be in the large auditorium on the second floor. 

Visit here for directions and a map. Parking details will be sent with the registration confirmation email. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BlackBerry fans, take note

Bloomberg News reports that struggling smartphone-maker BlackBerry will return its focus to the physical keyboards that fueled its early success among customers in the business and government sectors.

These users find it easier to type out emails on keyboard-equipped phones, rather than touch screens, the story notes.

"I personally love the keyboards," chief executive officer John Chen said in an interview Monday with Bloomberg Television at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Read the full Bloomberg News story here.

What type of smartphone device do you prefer? If you don't use a BlackBerry, does this news make the device more appealing to you? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

(April 2013 file photo of a BlackBerry Q10 smartphone -- Associated Press)

Friday, January 3, 2014

In Wednesday's ShopTalk: Charlotte-based Bellaworks Web Design

Check out this video preview of what's coming up Jan. 8 in ShopTalk: