Companies benefit from business center

MOUNT HOLLY – Jeff Lee, owner of The Vintage Nest in Mount Holly, specializes in hand-painted vintage furniture, handmade gifts and home accessories.
Lee started out by selling his products from a booth at an antique mall. When he decided to open a storefront about three years ago, he realized that he needed some advice on how to proceed.
“I create – I’m not really a business person,” Lee said.
On the recommendation of the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce, he contacted the Gaston College Small Business Center.
Brad Rivers, director of the center, offered suggestions on establishing distinct product categories to facilitate revenue tracking and inventory reports, creating an online presence, and building a support team of reliable contractors.
“Brad convinced me that I didn’t have to do everything by myself,” said Lee, who also benefited from the small business classes at Gaston College’s Belmont campus.
Rivers meets with Lee every four or five weeks and they talk through various aspects of operating and growing a business, like advertising and social media.
“It’s great to have a resource to sit down and talk with,” Lee said. “I’m not sure where I’d be without this support.”
Sales at The Vintage Nest have more than doubled since Lee began working with the center.
The Gaston College Small Business Center has provided valuable services and support to numerous small businesses in Gaston and Lincoln counties, including Facet Foundry and Distinct Beat Car Audio in Gastonia, and Fatback’s Tire and Auto in Dallas.
Among the services available through the center are how-to seminars, one-on-one counseling and a business resource center. More than 4,400 attendees have participated in the 480 seminars that the Gaston College Small Business Center has offered since July 2007. Since that time, the center has counseled at least 1,000 individuals, helped start 51 small businesses, and created nearly 400 jobs. The businesses that have consulted with the Small Business Center have made capital investments of more than $14.8 million and have seen revenue increases of at least $14.5 million.
“It is very gratifying to know that we have been instrumental in helping so many people get their businesses off the ground,” Rivers said. “And the business owners know that we are here to provide additional support and advice as those businesses evolve.”
Mark McManus, owner of Grape and Barley wine shop and tasting bar in Gastonia, worked with the Gaston College Small Business Center on the development of his business plan.
Its assistance included obtaining industry data and understanding of the competitive environment McManus would be up against.
Rivers was also a resource for obtaining financing for the business. Grape and Barley opened in December 2011.
“I continue to reach out to Brad and the Gaston College SBC for support and have taken advantage of the free small business seminars the college provides,” McManus said. “I would encourage any current or potential small business owner to utilize the vast resources of Gaston College.”

INFOBOX: Want to learn more?
The Gaston College Small Business Center offers free one-on-one confidential business counseling, referrals to local experts and partner agencies, assistance with developing business plans, a resource library with computer access, books and research tools, and free seminars and workshops. Details: Brad Rivers, 704-922-6449 or rivers.brad@gaston.edu.

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