Jumat, 17 Mei 2013

Upcoming event: Developing Your Exit Strategy

Anyone launching a startup, should be considering their exit strategy from day one, says Terry Cox, president of BIG Innovation, a Charlotte-based advocacy group for entrepreneurs. 

That's why BIG is partnering with UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business to host a "Developing Your Exit Strategy" event May 20 at UNCC's Center City Building. 

A series of panel discussions will highlight what to do to prepare for a strategic exit, as well as succession planning for a family-owned business. 

Topics include: 
  • What's happening in the merger and acquisition market.
  • What keeps deals from happening and how to get your house in order. 
  • Common mistakes entrepreneurs make when selling their business.
  • The sales process and determining a realistic valuation.

When: 1:15-5:30 p.m., followed by a networking reception at  Dixie's Tavern. 
Where: UNCC's City Building, second-floor auditorium, 320 E. 9th St.  
Cost: Free for BIG members; $65 for guests in advance; $75 at door; $30 for students. 

Details: RSVP to terry@bigcouncil.com or register at www.bigcouncil.comParking directions will be sent with registration confirmation email. 

Selasa, 14 Mei 2013

Small-business owner confidence rose in April

After a drop in small-business confidence last month, the April Index of Small Business Optimism rose 2.6 points to 92.1, just above the recovery average of 90.7, according to a report from the National Federation of Independent Business released Tuesday. 

And yet, far more of the business owners surveyed still said they expect conditions to be worse in six months. 

“Small-business confidence saw an uptick this last month, but it was a ho hum, yawn, at-least-it-didn’t-go-down reading," said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg in a statement. "The sub-par recovery persists for the small business sector.” 

Corporate profits, on the other hand, are at record levels and the stock market hit new highs, Dunkelberg said.

Courtesy of the NFIB
The 1,873 business owners (all NFIB members) who responded to the survey in April were asked to identify their top business problem: 23 percent cited taxes, 21 percent cited regulations and red tape and 16 percent cited weak sales. 

Only 2 percent said financing was their top business problem. A quarterly break-out of top business problems by sector will be released next week. 

Here's a summary of business responses in various areas: 
  • Job creation: Positive, but lackluster. Small employers reported increasing employment in April by an average of 0.14 workers per firm -- a bit lower than March's reading. Six percent of respondents said they plan to increase total employment. 
  • Hard-to-fill job openings: Forty-nine percent of owners surveyed said they hired or tried to hire in the last three months. Of those trying to hire, 38 percent said there were few or no qualified applicants for their open positions. 
  • Sales: There are still more firms reporting declines in the first quarter of 2013 than those reporting gains. But the net percent of all owners is smaller than it was in March (-4 percent in April, versus -7 percent in March.)
  • Earnings and wages: Only 19 percent of small employers reported raising compensation. Three percent made reductions in worker compensation. 
  • Credit markets: Of the respondents, 31 percent said all their credit needs were met. Fifty percent said they did not want a loan. Only six percent reported that their credit needs were not met, only two points above the record low.
  • Capital outlays: The frequency of reported capital outlays over the last six months fell 1 point to 56 percent, after rising steadily in small increments since January. Twenty-three percent have capital outlays planned for the next three to six months, a decrease of two points. 
  • Question of expansion: Only four percent of respondents said the current period was a good time to expand -- a historically very weak number, unchanged from last month. Of those who said it was not a good time to expand, 62 percent cited economic conditions and 24 percent cited the political climate. 
  • Inflation: Twenty percent reported price increases (up two points) and 15 percent reported reducing their average selling prices in the past three months (down two points). Looking at the next few months, 21 percent plan to raise average prices and three percent plan reductions -- both unchanged from March's report.
Download the complete report here

Selasa, 07 Mei 2013

Local startups project more jobs, nearly $1 billion in revenue

The results from the second annual Charlotte-area Entrepreneurial Growth Index came out Tuesday morning, and the numbers are encouraging, says Terry Cox, president and CEO of Business Innovation & Growth Council (BIG), which conducted the study. 
The index is a measure of the health of the region's entrepreneurial companies, and this year's findings are based on the responses of 120 local startup companies. 
Here are some key findings: 
  • Projected revenue for 2013 is $960 million, an 18 percent increase over 2012 revenue of $817 million  and a three-year average growth rate of 37 percent. 
  • a 24 percent three-year average growth rate in employment, including full-time, part-time and contract positions, with a projected 928 employees. Forty-two percent of those are contractors. 
  • The average headcount per company is now 49 employees, with an average weighted salary of $54,000. In 2012, the average headcount was 30 employees per company with an average salary of $55,000. 
  • Funding sources for businesses surveyed:
    • 56 percent: self-funded. 
    • 19 percent: angel investments. 
    • 13 percent: bank financing. 
    • 5 percent: private equity.  
    • 2 percent: grants. 
  • Twenty percent of the companies were founded in the past two years. Fifty-two percent are less than 5 years old. 
  • Of the respondents, 84 percent are located in Charlotte, while 16 percent are in the outlying cities and towns. 
  • The breakdown by sector: 
    • 47 percent: technology.
    • 11 percent: business services.
    • 8 percent: technology-based education.
    • 7 percent: health care.
    • 5 percent: retail.
    • 5 percent: marketing.
    • 4 percent: transportation and distribution.
    • 14 percent: other. 

Selasa, 30 April 2013

Baker Furniture Co. going out of business

Baker Furniture Co., a large retailer of furniture, bedding and accessories in Gaston County, will soon close its doors after 64 years. 

According to a press release, the current owners, Sandra Baker VanPelt and her husband, Jim, are retiring. 

Floyd “Red” Baker started the business in a garage in 1949. Located about 14 miles west of uptown Charlotte, the store now occupies a 40,000-square-foot brick building at 225 Market St. in downtown Cramerton. 

The store carried wares for the living room, dining room, home office and bedroom. Everything in the store is on sale.

The store owners could not be reached by phone, but a store employee said the Baker Furniture doors won't close until all furniture is sold. 

Sandra and Jim have shared the day-to-day operations with their grown children, Greg VanPelt and Holly Hite. 

The Van Pelts and Bakers are lifetime residents of Gaston County. 

Jumat, 26 April 2013

From gang member to multimillionaire entrepreneur: a Q&A with Ryan Blair

Ryan Blair, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller "Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went From Gang memer to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur," will be in town at noon today at the Concord Mills Books-A-Million, 8301 Concord Mills Boulevard, for a book-signing. 

His book chronicles his unlikely path to entrepreneurial success. He grew up in an L.A. gang, lived with a meth-addicted father, went to jail, dropped out of high school and yet, thanks to the help a mentor-turned-stepfather, Blair was able to transform his life. 

Blair, 35, is the co-founder and CEO of ViSalus, a lifestyle and health company that just announced a total of $1 billion in revenue. Even at ViSalus, he experienced big mistakes and great gains. 

ShopTalk spoke with Blair about his former life on the streets and his new life as an entrepreneur. 

Q: Tell me about your life as a gang member on the streets of L.A. 

A gang is simply a group of illegal entrepreneurs. They don't have the formalized training, but generally the way it works is there are individuals at the top of the economic tree, determining how the gang profits and where it focuses its time. 

I was young when I was involved. I was forced in when I was 13 years old. Eventually I went to a continuation high school, essentially a school for kids that get kicked out of school. I'd hang out with the gang members, try not to get arrested. I ditched school, started to get arrested, was put on probation and was forced to start modifying my behavior. 

Ryan Blair 
It was really when I wrote a letter to a judge begging for leniency and the judge told me I should be writing in college, not in jail. I'd had no career counselor, no probation office, police officer, anyone who said "Ryan, you could go to college." And no one had told me I could write. I'd always journaled, but never shared them with anyone. That was the seed of an idea that I could one day be a writer, one day go to college. And as a result of my mentor, I ended up getting my high school diploma through a GED program and I went to community college. 

Q: What did you journal about? 

I still have a lot of those journals. I wrote fantasy stories about living a different life, about being wealthy, rescue stories. When I was in juvy, I would write letters to my mom and grandma. Writing was my favorite thing to do. My only outlet. It still is. 

Q: There's one part in the book where you mention having to fire your friend Michael because the venture capitalists financing your company told you to. What is it like walking that tight rope between running a company and being beholden to the people writing the checks?  

One of the chapters I I wrote about was on raising money, and I share all the provisions and little compromises I said yes to that I shouldn't have. If you don't have money, you need it, so you have to do your best to get it. But you have to be extremely smart. You can't trust anyone. Trust your gut, your instincts. And the best way to keep the sharks at bay is to perform well. I learned the hard way. That's why I was so transparent in my book about the bad deals, the million-dollar mistakes. I was swimming with the sharks and was so green. 

Q: In your book, you chronicle a number of difficult business decisions you've had to make. How do you make them? 

It's a skill you have to build. You have to assess your own decision-making tendencies, the cost and consequences of each. You have to put a price tag on the decision you're making. You have to take your time with it. I'll often go away for a couple of days just to think and analyze every different variable of the equation: Is this best for our brand? Is this best for our employees? For our promoters in the field? For our customers? 

Q: Do you speak to at-risk youth who deal with similar issues you dealt with when you were young? 

I speak to kids all over the place. Thursday I was in Orlando at a juvenile detention center. It felt like a flashback. The guards were telling the kids to pay attention, and I'm seeing kids just like me, scrawny little kids who have made dumb decisions, sitting there on lock-down in a bad environment. I was marveling yesterday as I was signing books for them and taking questions because I was that kid. 

Q: What kind of questions did they ask you? 

If you're a kid in "juvy" you're most likely money-motivated. So they were asking me how much money I had, what celebrities I know, what cars I drive, do I live in a mansion -- those are the questions a lot of people have but never ask. I answered their questions because I'd rather show them something entrepreneurial, rather than them watching rap videos and following the instructions of common rap songs that say you can get (rich) through criminal activity. I was showing them that you can have exactly what the rappers have with legal entrepreneurship. 

I have a son now, an 11-year-old boy. I was at that juvy thinking, "I do not want my son to turn into this." I wanted to grab these kids without fathers with bad attitudes and bad role models. They're one mentor away from potential success but they don't have them in their homes. 

Q: Your son has autism. How do you handle that stress?
I have to make sure I'm constantly learning about autism. I'm able to invest in his life. I can't say I'm a pro at it yet, but I will help my son take his disadvantages and turn them into his advantages. I'll help him find the gifts he has as a result of it. 

Q: What's your day-to-day life look like now? 

Well, right now I'm on day 80 of my book tour, so my day-to-day routine is quite dynamic. I get on a jet, go to a city, a charity event, a book-signing and various events in the evening. It's almost like I'm running for president. 

Q: So all the proceeds of your book go to charity. Which one? 

A bunch of different charities: Big Brothers, Big Sisters, churches, Urban Born (an L.A.-based education nonprofit devoting to making a paradigm shift in urban communities nationwide). We specifically funnel all proceeds to charities that focus on at-risk kids. I've added a charity event on each of the book-tour stops. 

Q: You say your best advice for entrepreneurs is to find a mentor. How should they do that? 

That's the key to the success I've had. They're all around us. It's easier to create a relationship now than ever before. Leverage social media. Connect with people on Facebook, Twitter and a variety of social outlets. There are hundreds of potential mentors out there who want to help people. I reach out to people all the time on social media. 
For example, I'm studying martial arts and I've created relationships with some of the greatest online. Now they're teaching me a thing or two. 

Q: There's a chapter in your book when you talk about a dream-come-true, when you were invited to speak at a church in Detroit, at the same pulpit where Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, and President Bill Clinton had stood before. What was that moment like? What did you talk about? 

I shared my testimony, my path to getting where I am. Praying. I share specific stories about how we can make an impact in the community. My grandmother was a Christian and she gave me a lot of lessons. I didn't start applying them until later on, after I got on my feet, and I realized the adversity I'd been gifted with was a blessing, not a curse. 

Jeweler Ernest Perry gets national award

Ernest Perry, president and owner of Perry's Fine, Antique and Estate Jewelry, recently received a national 2013 Communitas Leadership Award that recognized him for "changing the how (he) does business to benefit (his) community."

For more than 30 years, Perry has been an auctioneer for charitable events, helping raise more than  $30 million for local nonprofits, according to a company press release. He averages about $50,000 raised per event.

The release says that in 2012, more than $115,000 worth of Perry’s jewelry was donated and sold at auctions for various local and national charities, such as Make A Wish Foundation, Second Harvest Foodbank of Metrolina, Allegro Foundation, Fight Night for Kids, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Dress for Success and more.

Jumat, 19 April 2013

Alexander Michael's snags "2013 Settler's Award"

Uptown mainstay Alexander Michael's Restaurant & Tavern received the "2013 Settler's Award" by Charlotte Center City Partners during the 2013 Vision Awards Thursday evening. 
The Settler's Award "honors the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of Center City businesses, institutions or retailers who have been key contributors to Center City's quality of life," the award description says.
The award coincides with Alexander Michael's 30th anniversary next week. 
"I'm grateful to my staff, to the Fourth Ward community for being great neighbors and good customers, and to everyone who walks in our door every day from all over," said owner Steve Casner, who bought the restaurant in 2005 but has run it since it opened in 1983. 
Alexander Copeland III and A. Michael Troiano Jr. (hence "Alexander Michael's") opened the store in 1983 in the newly revitalized Fourth Ward neighborhood. The building is the former Crowley-Berryhill Store that originally opened in 1897.