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:

Local students getting face time with Warren Buffett

Four local students are finalists in the "Grow Your Own Business" challenge - and will present their business ideas to investor Warren Buffett later this month.

It's a competition sponsored by the Fairholme Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization that invests in education. Winners will be announced in Omaha on May 19, and will receive $5,000.

The national finalists -- made up of five individuals, and three groups -- will present to a panel that includes Buffett. Online voting plays a role, too, and the public can cast votes through May 13 at

Here's the local contingent:

-Individual finalist Jake Johnson, who attends Woodlawn School. His business, Beaux Up, is described on the website as "a new twist on the classic self-tie bow tie allowing a completely customizable experience for the wearer - a patent pending clip that separates the bow tie into two halves."

-Team finalists Aiden Farren, Joel Perez and Logan Etienne, who attend Hornets Nest Elementary. Their business idea, called Helping Fields, "hopes to solve two problems," according to the website.

"The first problem we hope to solve is to create a place where people in our community who do not have their own land can grow a garden." "...The second problem we hope to solve is for our school's backpack program...the backpack program sends those students home with backpacks of food so they have enough to eat. Even though the backpacks give those students food to eat, the backpacks do not have fresh, healthy foods, like what would be grown in our garden."

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The best times to post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more

Running social media for your small business can be time-consuming. So don't waste energy posting at non-optimal times of day. Here's your guide, courtesy of marketing blog SumAll.

While the best times will vary based on the type of business, audience and schedule, here's a general sense of when is best to post, according to SumAll:

Twitter: 1-3 p.m. weekdays.
Facebook: 1-4 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. weekdays.
LinkedIn: 7-8:30 a.m. and 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Tumblr: 7-10 p.m. weekdays and 4 p.m. Fridays.
Instagram: 8 p.m. Monday, 5-6 p.m. other weekdays, sweet spot at 6 p.m.
Pinterest: 2-4 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. weekdays. But weekends are the best time.
Google+: 9-11 a.m. weekdays.

Read more here. The main takeaway: get people's attention during their downtime, whether it's in the morning during the commute, during a lunch break or during even rush hour.

The site also has interesting posts on e-commerce trends and getting the most out of analytics.
Side note: I like that SumAll gives you the estimated time it will take you to read a post. Interesting concept.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Documentary screening, training, awards for Small Business Month

Small Business Month in Charlotte is underway, and there are a host of events designed to celebrate and educate local small business owners. 

Over the course of the month, the City and its partners will provide local business owners with networking opportunities, access to forums where they can discuss business strategies, and awards ceremonies to celebrate local small businesses and minority-owned businesses.

Here's a list of Small Business Month happenings around the city. For more details, visit

Monday, May 5

"Startupland" screening (5:30-9 p.m.)

Hosted by CPCC’s Small Business Center at Tate Auditorium, CPCC Central Campus. Exclusive screening of "Startupland," a documentary series that captures the journey of five startups alongside interviews with legends of the technology industry. There will be networking and local food trucks starting at 5:30 p.m. The screening beings at 6:45 p.m.

Tuesday, May 7 

Mayor’s International Community Awards (4-7 p.m.)

Hosted by the City of Charlotte in partnership with the Charlotte International Cabinet at Booth Playhouse. Event honoring foreign-owned firms and three individuals or organizations for their outstanding contributions to the international community. 

Monday, May 12 

City Council Recognitions 

- The Small Business Week proclamation will be read at the Council business meeting, along with 

recognition of the Charlotte Business Resources Consortium. 

Staying in the Game: Unwritten Rules for Small Business Success (10 a.m.-2 p.m.)

Hosted by Pride Communications at Wake Forest School of Business Charlotte Campus. Event to educate small business owners about best practices, provide helpful resources and allow business owners an opportunity to interact directly with industry experts and other successful small business owners. 

Tuesday, May 13 

Think Global, Act Global 2014 Small Business Conference (7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) 

Hosted by Central Piedmont Community Colleges Small Business Center at Harris Conference Center. Keynote speaker, James Foley, will share personal experiences, tips and techniques to reduce risks and take advantage of global opportunities. 

Mega Marketing Event for Small Businesses (1-5 p.m.)

Hosted by Charlotte SCORE at the Renaissance Charlotte SouthPark Hotel. Small businesses can learn simple strategies for online marketing from Constant Contact. 

Thursday, May 15 

Power Up Challenge – NorthWest Chapter Luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Hosted by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Competing for a cash prize and package of in-kind services, local entrepreneurs and small business owners will present how their businesses can support the growth of Charlotte's economy through innovation and entrepreneurial skills. 

Tuesday, May 20 

Capital Ideas: Entrepreneurs, Expansion and the New Financing Landscape (7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) 

Hosted by the Charlotte Business Resources Consortium at UNCC Center City. Conference to network and learn about small business financing options. 

29th-annual NAWBO Charlotte Awards Gala (6-9 p.m.)

Hosted by National Association Women Business Owners at The Charlotte City Club. This event applauds the success of honorees, provides visibility and recognition of their leadership and innovation, and recognizes best practices in business. 

Wednesday, May 21 

Grow Your Business While Growing Your Staff: On-the Job Training Grants 

Hosted by Charlotte Works at the Charlotte Works Employer Engagement Center. Impact your bottom line while improving the skills of your new hires with a WIA On-the-Job training grant. Awards up to $15,000 per trainee are available to qualifying companies to train their new hires in skilled to professional positions. 

Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte Monthly luncheon (11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.)

Hosted by the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte at Johnson C. Smith University. After networking and lunch, keynote speaker Mayor Dan Clodfelter will speak on current issues that affect Charlotte. 

Starting and Growing Your Small Business (5:30-6:30 p.m.) 

Hosted by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Check the online calendar for locations and other dates. Get good, solid advice about business plans, lessons learned about developing your business, and free SCORE support services. Free library research services can help small business owners collect reliable information on competitors, prospects and suppliers, get market area data, and more. 

ReferenceUSA: A Powerful Tool for Your Business (5:30-7:30 p.m.)

Hosted by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Check the online calendar for locations and other dates. Find new business leads, company info, news articles, addresses, phone numbers, and conduct job searches and market research. Presenter: David Turner from ReferenceUSA. 

Thursday, May 22 

Think “BIG” – Business in Government (1-7 p.m.)

Hosted by the City of Charlotte’s Business INClusion Program and Mecklenburg County at the Charlotte. Mecklenburg Government Center, Room 267. 
Procurement representatives from a variety of entities will be on-hand to talk with business owners and provide guidance and best practices on how to do business.