Eighty small business owners and community officials attended the 2013 Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Small Business Luncheon Tuesday at West Jefferson United Methodist Church, where the Small Business of the Year mantle was passed, and Wilkes Community College President Dr. Gordon Burns spoke on the means and measures of small business success.
In keeping with tradition, this year’s Small Business of the Year award was presented by last year’s winners Chad and Randall Scott of Scott Brothers Heating and Air, who had their “second-best year in 20 years” in 2012, according to Randall.
The 2013 Small Business of the Year went to Keith and Denise Woodie of Antiques on Main. Randall said Keith’s persistent salesmanship had taken him “from shining shoes to a 23,000 square foot store in downtown West Jefferson.”
“It’s been an amazing ride,” said Keith, with “people continuing to want space at Antiques on Main.”
Burn’s featured speech took the form of a state-of-small-business-address. He began by congratulating local business owners on their hard-won successes: “To be here, you have overcome many obstacles,” he said.
“Eighty-five precent of businesses fail within the first year,” he said, “and even after 10 years, the failure rate is a staggering…33 percent.”
“But certainly the fact that you’re…staying in business…suggests that you’re doing something right,” he said.
With 806,000 small businesses in N.C. providing nearly half of all private sector employment, and accounting for 45 percent of the state’s gross product, Burns said, “North Carolina’s small business is big business.” “Sixty percent of those small businesses have zero to four employees,” he said.
North Carolina has made some progress creating “the best business climate it can,” said Burns, reducing regulatory burdens and providing greater access to capital. “Revenue is up after a three-year decline…and employment is up in the small business sector,” he said.
Small businesses fared better than larger firms in struggling through the recent recession, he said, and “the number of women- and minority-run businesses is increasing in the state.”
“On the flip side,” Burns cited “disturbing data suggesting that entrepreneurship among young adults is declining.” “We need to engage our young people…if we expect to continue the momentum of growing our small businesses,” he said.
Referring to a 2003 article by entrepreneur and educator Doug Wilson, Burns listed his top six factors of business success: sufficient capital, good choice of business venture, education and experience, good help, good record keeping and an ability to change focus.
Advice, counsel and small business services are available locally from the Wilkes Community College Small Business Center and the Ashe Chamber of Commerce Small Business Consulting Service, he said. In the past five years, these resources have helped 8 new businesses start up in Ashe, providing 67 new jobs, he said.
Burns recognized two “living examples” of entrepreneurs who availed themselves of these services: Rebecca Cox of Southern Style Hair Salon & Barber Shop in Lansing, and Cathy Hardy of Mo’s Boots in West Jefferson.
The new edition of the Ashe County Visitor and Business Guide was rolled out at the luncheon. Sixteen thousand copies have been printed and are available from the Ashe Chamber of Commerce.