Small Business Center helps Creswell business open and thrive

Washington County business owners Sharon and Billy Maitland had a dream - they would open an upscale restaurant in an abandoned grocery store on Main Street in Creswell. The restaurant would augment their funeral home in Creswell by giving families a convenient place to gather for a meal and it would spur other businesses to open and revitalize the town. When an appraisal on the grocery store came in lower than expected and funding for the project fell short, Sharon Maitland began searching for grants to provide the needed capital for the renovations.

“I had ideas about what I wanted to say in the grant application, but I needed somebody to help me put it on paper,” she said.

That’s when Lentz Stowe, director of Business and Industry Services at Beaufort County Community College, stepped in to help with expertise available to the Maitlands. Using the Maitlands’ business plan for the restaurant, Stowe worked with the couple in face-to-face meetings, telephone calls and email exchanges and helped coordinate participation by the Town of Creswell last summer to meet the grant deadline.

With Stowe’s help, the Maitlands met the deadline and secured a grant for $40,000 which enabled the project to move ahead. But she also discovered she had a lot to learn about fine-tuning the restaurant’s operations. That’s when Stowe and BCCC’s Small Business Center stepped in again – this time to link the Maitlands with an expert in restaurant management who can help make their business profitable. “Once you’re a client, you’re always a client,” he said. “If an entrepreneur has an idea for a small business and seeks our help, we’re with him or her for the long run.”