Friday, March 28, 2014

Coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk

In this video preview of Wednesday's ShopTalk, meet a Monroe entrepreneur who has formed a network to boost small businesses. Also, meet an owner growing her company through exporting.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Startup accelerator program wants college students

Calling all college-age entrepreneurs with innovative, viable ideas or prototypes who want to launch or scale a startup. ImpactU, a program through social entrepreneurship hub Queen City Forward, is accepting applications for its 10-week program to get your startup off the drawing board and into the market. 

The program starts June 2, and the deadline to apply is March 28. (Here's where to do it.) 

Participate in the accelerator and here's what you'll get: 
  • Co-working space at the Garage at Packard Place, an uptown startup hub in the heart of the Charlotte business scene. 
  • Connections with mentors, experienced entrepreneurs and business professionals who are dedicated to helping new entrepreneurs learn the ropes.
  • A fast-paced, hands-on environment. 
  • Demo Day: at the end of the program you'll pitch to a room full of potential investors, media, strategic partners and customers. Should be the first week of August, says Charles Thomas, director of Queen City Forward. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meet the family behind Lebo's

Not too many small businesses have been around for nearly 100 years in Charlotte, and few of those have remained in the family for that long. That's one of many reasons why 91-year-old Lebo's -- a retailer selling Western wear, shoes and dance gear -- is worth studying.

 Meet Jerry Levin, the 89-year-old son of the founder, and Brian Goldsmith, Jerry's grandson and the fourth generation to be involved in the family business. And for a look at Lebo's through the years, check out this slideshow.

Monday, March 17, 2014

DEADLINE TODAY: Nominate a biz (or yourself) for 'Crowns of Enterprise' awards

In celebration of Charlotte’s Small Business Month, the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are now accepting nominations for the 2014 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crowns of Enterprise Awards, which recognize small businesses demonstrating "exemplary leadership and sound business strategies."

There are three categories: Small Business Enterprise of the Year, Minority Business Enterprise of the Year, and Woman Business Enterprise of the Year.

Businesses interested in being considered should submit a nomination by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 17. The city encourages you to self-nominate as well. 

For more Crowns of Enterprise information or to download the nomination form, click here.

Submit the completed application -- including the signature page -- via mail, email or fax. 

For mail: 
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crowns of Enterprise Awards
Attention: Krystle Hampton
600 East Trade Street, Suite 300
CharlotteNC 28202

For email:
For fax: 704-336-7944

All businesses applying must be headquartered in the Charlotte Combined Statistical Area (CSA*), which includes the following counties: Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Union, Cleveland, Iredell, Stanly, YorkChester and Lancaster.

 Past winners are ineligible for nomination for until five years from their award year.

Friday, March 14, 2014

VIDEO: Coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk

Photo by Todd Sumlin
Read how Charlotte mainstay Lebo's footwear keeps in step with the times. And get your sweet fix at Nothing Bundt Cakes, a bakery franchise hitting the Charlotte region:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Griffin Home Health Care updates business model

Already in business in the Charlotte area for more than three decades, the family-owned Griffin Home Health Care made some changes this year.

Richie Griffin, left, is COO of Griffin Sports,
Health and Wellness. William "Bill" Griffin, right,
founded Griffin Home Health Care, Inc.
In January, the company added a new division -- Griffin Sports, Health and Wellness, providing services that "encompass wellness and healthy living," says COO Richie Griffin.

The updated business model marks a change for the company, founded in 1983 by Richie's father, William (Bill) Griffin, who launched the business as a health care equipment and supply company. The business typically focused on providing products and services to assisted living centers, nursing facilities and hospices.

Griffin also reaches customers seeking health care products through its two retail locations -- in Charlotte at 4231 Monroe Road, and in Gastonia, at 2515 E. Ozark Ave. Bill's brother, Jim, manages the Gastonia store.

Charlotte location at 4231 Monroe Road
To boost its revenue stream in recent years, Griffin enrolled in Medicare's competitive bidding program. Under this bidding process for the government insurance program, suppliers submit bids to provide certain medical equipment, such as hospital beds, according to Winning bidders get contracts as exclusive suppliers of specific equipment.

It's a formula that guarantees business, but it can be restrictive, Bill says. For example, a previous company contract to provide oxygen meant that Griffin Home Health couldn’t provide walkers to patients at facilities.

Bill says that prompted a reassessment of their business model: "What can we do as an organization to stay vital?"

The answer was launching the new division to reach a different set of customers.

"We were missing a big chunk of your family," with the focus on geriatrics, Richie said. "We were missing the folks who were well."

Housed within the company's Charlotte location, the new division takes up one side of the retail store. There are shelves lined with "wellness" equipment, including braces, exercise equipment and products for pain management. The other side of the store features Griffin's traditional offerings of medical equipment and supplies -- walkers, therapeutic shoes, a demo hospital bed.

Richie says several factors make the wellness division different from other sports-themed stores. Customer service staff receives manufacturers' training to fit braces and other equipment. Because the company is affiliated with the medical community, Griffin gets doctors' referrals and can file insurance claims, Richie says.

To get word out about the new wellness division, Griffin Sports is sponsoring the Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association, and has participated in event such as last year's Thunder Road Marathon expo and the Greater Charlotte Health & Fitness Expo in January.

New offerings are being considered, too -- including selling nutritional supplements, and providing short-term rentals of rehab equipment, such as treadmills.

Says Richie: "This is a market or niche that hasn't been filled in the past."

Check out video of the Griffins explaining both sides of the family business:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Celebrate small biz during upcoming Charlotte Craft Beer Week

If you like beer, like small businesses that brew their own beer, and like businesses that serve locally brewed beer, then say hello to a week of more than 100 beer events at craft breweries, bars and restaurants around the city, from March 14 to March 22. 

During Charlotte Craft Beer Week, restaurants and breweries around Charlotte will be offering drink specials, hosting events and giving away beer swag, from pint glasses to koozies to bottle openers. Saturday's all-day "Craft Crawl" in South End will feature free trolley rides through the district. 

Here's a line-up of events: 

Friday, March 14

Saturday, March 15
Sunday, March 16

Monday, March 17

Tuesday, March 18
Wednesday, March 19
Thursday, March 20 
Friday, March 21
Saturday, March 22 

Friday, March 7, 2014

VIDEO: Coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk

Coming up in Wednesday's ShopTalk: The best business advice you've ever received. And get to clicking for our upcoming selfie contest.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Are you an accredited investor interested in startup investing? Come to this event Wed night.

If you're an accredited investor looking to invest in local startups, head to Packard Place, 222 South Church St., at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a primer, as local angel investors will answer questions in a town-hall discussion format. 

(Note: Meeting is only open to accredited investors. There will be another session for entrepreneurs and other community members on March 26. )

Panelists include: Greg Brown of IMAF Charlotte and Charlotte Angel Fund; David Moore of; Dain Dulaney, a partner at  Bishop, Dulaney & Joyner; Dan Roselli, founder of uptown startup hub Packard Place and a partner of RevTechLabs and QCFinTech; and George McAllister, the director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center of Charlotte

What's an accredited investor? 

 --Individual net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person.
--Individual with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000.

 For a full SEC description, click here

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

City's business resources site gets makeover

The City of Charlotte is touting it newly restructured and revamped website,
The site was recently redesigned to include a better search feature, a more detailed calendar, a resource navigator, blog and quarterly e-newsletter. 

Website visitors can eve  talk to an expert to get answers to their business questions through social media, and read about local business owners' experiences and success stories. So whether you're in the early stages of starting a small business, or already immersed in financing and contracting, the city hopes you'll turn to them for assistance, says Katie Sparrow, spokesperson for Charlotte's Neighborhood and Business Services department. 

My two cents: I haven't perused the whole thing, but I like the concept. Here's a screen shot.