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Small Business competitions: Everyone wins

John Faulk of Sylva works on a group project with other participants in the Dillsboro Business Plan Competition during a recent seminar at Southwestern Community College’s Macon Campus.
The way Tonya Snider sees it, there are no bad outcomes for participants in the Macon County and Dillsboro business plan competitions.

The winning business plan will yield $5,000, but even aspiring entrepreneurs who walk away realizing they need to start over will have saved themselves a countless amount of money and aggravation.

The grand prize in each contest will be announced in April.

“Some of our students will go out and have a lot of success with the business they’ve been planning through our series of seminars, but others won’t start the business they had been planning,” said Snider, who oversees the learning sessions at Southwestern Community College’s Macon Campus. “Either way, they’re coming out better than if they’d not come here and figured out whether their business plan was feasible.”

“Once you’re in business, mistakes are a lot more painful,” Snider added, “so it’s good to figure out if your business idea makes sense – and the right way to do it.”

Roughly 20 aspiring entrepreneurs have regularly attended the free weekly sessions at SCC’s Macon Campus. They’ve covered topics ranging from “Am I Entrepreneurial Material?” and “Business Simulation” to “Marketing Mix” and “Financials for Small Business.”
Christy Kelly of Highlands works on a group project with other participants in the Dillsboro Business Plan Competition during a recent seminar at Southwestern Community College’s Macon Campus.
Organized by SCC’s Small Business Center, the series was a result of the collaboration between the Macon County Certified Entrepreneurial Community Leadership Team, Western Carolina University, the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership Committee and SCC.

“We are so pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to the community,” said Tiffany Henry, director of SCC’s Small Business Center. “And we’ve been pleased at all the positive feedback we’ve received.  Developing this series and watching the level of engagement, growth and networking amongst the group has been very rewarding.”

Throughout the series, students work through real-life scenarios and learn how to make their business ideas come to life.
John Faulk of Sylva has found the process useful even though he’s been running his own businesses for more than 15 years.

“Working in the catering business, I’ve noticed a need to move people in groups – either from the airport to the hotel they’re staying in, or from the hotel to the location where they’re having an event,” said Faulk, 62, who runs B & Al’s Grill in Sylva. “My business idea is for a small transportation company that could move between 10 and 100 people from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ in Macon and Jackson counties.

“Going through these seminars has allowed me to review the nuts and bolts of what goes into a business plan,” Faulk added. “You always have to evolve. The economy changes. You need to be looking at where trends are going. These seminars have emphasized for me that the key is relationships. You make sure your clients are getting what they want, a wonderful experience – which they’re predisposed to anyway – then it’s only going to help you grow your business.”

Christy Kelly of Highlands, who’s worked in non-profit management for the past two decades, has found the seminar series indispensable while developing her business plan for a consulting firm that would help non-profit agencies increase their capacity for mission delivery.

“I’ve enjoyed these seminars; they’re a tremendous help, and they raise a lot of important questions,” Kelly said. “They’ve provided tremendous resources and also networking. They’ve connected me with the Small Business Center, the Economic Development Board, Tiffany Henry (director of SCC’s Small Business Center) and Tommy Dennison (of WCU’s Small Business and Technology Development Center).

“One thing I appreciate is the wide variety of topics,” Kelly added. “And the way it’s taught is very interactive.”

For more information about the Small Business Center at SCC, contact Tiffany Henry at 828.339.4211 or t_henry[at]southwesterncc[dot]edu.