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Entrepreneurs receive inspiration at VGCC summit in Warrenton

Representatives of area businesses and non-profit organizations gathered at the Warren County Armory Civic Center in Warrenton on Oct. 20 for a Small Business Summit and Expo, organized by the VGCC Small Business Center in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Warren County , the Warren County Economic Development Commission , the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Warren County Center , and the Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center .

The event, entitled “Weaving the Fabric of a Thriving Economy,” featured guest speakers, discussions and opportunities for local entrepreneurs and business leaders to network with one another. According to Small Business Center director Tanya Weary, the fourth annual event was the largest, best-attended to date.

Attendees were welcomed by Ken Bowman, director of the Warren County EDC, which is based at the Armory Civic Center. They also received greetings from Larry Lyles of CenturyLink, the summit’s presenting sponsor. Lyles is also a small business owner and client of the VGCC Small Business Center. He expressed his appreciation for the assistance he had received from Weary in that endeavor.

The keynote speaker was Susan E. Harris, owner of Quilt Lizzy in Warrenton, whose topic was “Why Your Small Town is a Great Place to Do Business.” Harris encouraged attendees to see all the advantages of small towns, where there are certainly needs for various products and services and overhead is low. “Small towns have charm,” she said. “People shop in small towns for the experience, and many people are tired of the noise and traffic in cities.”

Harris gave each attendee a map of the region for an exercise in which she helped them expand their notion of where their potential customers may live. “Shoppers will travel for their passion,” she said. She concluded by noting the importance of a cooperative, positive spirit among small-town entrepreneurs.

Following Harris’ presentation, attendees chose from among several breakout sessions on different topics. These included “Creative Opportunities for Arts and Crafts Businesses in the Community” with professional artist and educator Theresa Brown; “Making Your Business Model Work in a Small Town” with Warrenton town manager Robert Davie; “Turning Your Passion Into a Business” with Adam Fields, owner of AF Wake; “Farm to Fork Enterprise” with Crystal Smith and Paul McKenzie of N.C. Cooperative Extension and Gabe Cummings of Warren FoodWorks; “Emerging Consumer Markets for Agriculture” with Debbie Hamrick, Director of Specialty Crops for the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation; “Social Media: The Black Hole” with Dave Blodgett of Buggs Media; “Financing Opportunities for Small Businesses” with Barry Ryan of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and Lou Grillo of the Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments; and “USDA Loans & Grants Program” with Rhonda Pope, USDA Farm Service Agency’s Strike Force Coordinator and County Executive Director at large, Michelle Winslow, Dock Jones and Rob Satterfield, all of USDA/Farm Service Agency, and Lyn Millhiser of USDA/Rural Development.

Between breakout sessions, attendees browsed through booths set up by representatives of various resources for small businesses. These included CenturyLink, Carter Bank & Trust, Ag Carolina Farm Credit, N.C. Rural Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension – Warren County, Warren County EDC, USDA, Kerr-Tar Regional Council of Governments, Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald, Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center, Vance-Granville Community College, the Small Business Center, Halifax Electric Membership Corporation, North Carolina Farm Bureau, N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development, The Daily Dispatch, WARR, and The Warren County Chamber of Commerce.           

In addition to CenturyLink, co-sponsors of the event were Halifax Electric Membership Corporation, The Warren Record, Hundley's Greenhouses, Inc., The Lake Gaston Gazette-Observer, WIZS, the Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald, The Daily Dispatch and WARR.

For more information about the services provided by the Small Business Center, call Tanya Weary at (252) 738-3240 or e-mail her at smallbusiness@vgcc.edu .   


Above: Susan Harris, owner of Quilt Lizzy in Warrenton, delivers keynote remarks at the Small Business Summit & Expo. (VGCC photo)

More photos on Flickr !