Do you have an awesome idea that you could possibly turn into a business serving the Charlotte and Mecklenburg County community? Or are you relocating to the area and need to re-establish your business here locally? I’m here to tell you that the business community here is ready to welcome you with open arms. You just need to know where to find the right people with the tools to get you going. Read on for three simple tips small businesses can adopt when they’re just getting off the ground here in Mecklenburg County.
1 – Choosing the right business
First, you want to choose the right business for you. The County’s population is growing quickly and has over one million residents to date. Growth in our community adds to the business climate and to the pool of potential customers. When you’re just getting started, ensure that your business not only fits in within your area of expertise, but also that you’ve established a proof of concept. Customers, investors and pretty much anyone will support a business that solves a problem or provides value. Once you know your vision, purpose and market, then you can begin to establish yourself in the local marketplace.
2 – Networking as a small business owner
Secondly, get to know the small business ecosystem in the County. Networking is a great way to get your business in front of potential clients and there are lots of free and low-cost programs available to facilitate your learning. The County’s Office of Economic Development launched the Small Business Concierge Program in 2018 to provide free assistance in supporting entrepreneurs through guidance and expert advice on a variety of business topics. Your small business can receive customized help through an education series in partnership with the Women’s Business Center and the Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) Small Business Center. Or, you can visit one of seven library locations who have partnered to host educational workshops throughout the year.
The County also has a wealth of other networking and learning opportunities in a variety of fields like technology, healthcare, hospitality, finance and construction through organizations like SCORE, Start Charlotte and BLKTECHCLT, all offering free advice, workshops and events for startups.
- SCORE is comprised of active and retired businessmen and women, providing clients with free and confidential business counseling.
- Start Charlotte is a networking organization that shines a spotlight on local entrepreneurs and supports the monthly Pitch Breakfast to provide area startups a chance to practice their pitch in a challenging but supportive environment.
- BLKTECHCLT is Charlotte’s first and only inclusive tech hub for entrepreneurs of color.
Mecklenburg County and local partners offer networking events and resources and are all a good place to start with your small business networking journey.
3 – Funding your small business
Last but certainly not least, you need to become an expert on what makes a revenue-generating business. A great resource for access to capital in the County is the Carolinas Small Business Development Fund. The Fund creates economic opportunities across North Carolina through their small business loan programs. They have loan programs specifically meant to help historically underutilized enterprises like women-owned and minority-owned businesses gain access to capital as well. The Mecklenburg County Economic Development Office has staff to help those who are eligible to get certified to apply for such opportunities. Learn about the statewide and local certification programs by visiting the Minority and Small Business Enterprise Office. Depending on your eligibility, you could get automatic access to County contracting opportunities, help expand your network of small business contacts and help enhance opportunities for minority and women owned businesses in general.
Bonus tip! The Main Library’s best kept secret
Did you know that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library is also a great resource for small business owners just starting out? Mimi Curlee at the Main Library helps business owners obtain market research using detailed and specific library databases available to anyone with a library card! Schedule an appointment with Mimi or any of our skilled librarians today.
The more you get out there, the more likely you are to land the clients and customers you’re looking for early on. And if you try to make everything perfect before you launch, you may never get around to starting the business at all! With these three tips, hopefully you’ll be off to a good start!