RALEIGH – The N.C. Community College System Small Business Center Network (SBCN) announced the winners of the Centers of Excellence Awards during its Professional Development Conference.
The annual statewide awards honor small business centers and center directors for Innovation, Service/Collaboration and Programs/Seminars; Business Success Story, Most Impact and Overcoming Challenges; as well as State Director of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Center directors are also recognized for years of service and professional credentialing.
“Our small business owners continue to meet the challenge as they navigate through the uncertainty of the pandemic. N.C. Community College System Small Business Centers are doubling down on their efforts to support existing small businesses while helping entrepreneurs. Through leadership and strategic collaboration as one of North Carolina’s primary providers of entrepreneurial support, each are generating strong measurable impacts across the state, in both rural and urban communities. They are reaching the most underserved markets through their outreach, confidential counseling services, and targeted programming. Because of their outstanding service and results, we are pleased to recognize the ‘best of the best‘ and bring accolades to these deserving center directors,” said Thomas Stith, president of the N.C. Community College System. “Through their dedication to excellence, they help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams of starting businesses. Those businesses create jobs and have a significant economic and social impact in their local communities.”
The small business centers, located at all 58 community colleges, contribute to North Carolina’s economic development, starting an average of 650 small businesses and creating or retaining more than 5,000 jobs each year.
Director of the Year
Jeff Neuville, Catawba Valley Community College
The Director of the Year is recognized for going above and beyond in providing significant support, time and service to small businesses in the center’s service area as well as in support of the Small Business Center Network mission at the state level.
Jeff Neuville serves as Small Business Center Director at Catawba Valley Community College. He also serves as the Regional Director for the Northwest Region, providing leadership, coaching and mentoring to the six Small Business Center directors in the region. His leadership at the Regional level has helped each of the SBCs lead successful centers, supporting their efforts with enhanced counseling services provided through additional CARES Act funds and mentoring and providing leadership for a statewide business resiliency partnership at the same time. Jeff also provides leadership in two other key areas for the statewide network, including the oversight of the network’s financial analysis tool and support of the network’s client relationship management tool. Jeff’s ability to provide mentorship not only in his region but to also extend that to all SBCs during the network’s response to businesses impacted by the pandemic, helped lead the network to successful outcomes in fiscal year 2021.
Rookie of the Year
Tierra Norwood, Nash Community College
Directors who have been in their position for two years or less are eligible to receive the Rookie of the Year award. Tierra Norwood is recognized for her efforts to successfully lead her center’s enhanced counseling activities, known as the R3 program, “Reboot, Recover, Rebuild,” after only being in her new position as director for one month. She created a unique approach known as the Small Business Wellness Clinic to augment the R3 program and assisted over 95 small businesses through the program and overcame numerous challenges to initiate the Launch Rocky Mount program and also implemented an Ice House Entrepreneurship co-hort.
Norwood received high praise for her skillful implementation and collaboration with other college and high school programs, thereby bringing entrepreneurship training to support the student’s employment and business start-up goals. She has added several new collaborative partners to the center’s resource list, helping to establish the Minority Economic Development Committee, serving as a board member for the Board for Preservation Rocky Mount, working with the Rocky Mount Housing Authority, the City of Rocky Mount’s purchasing department and numerous other organizations. She generated significant economic impact, working with over 158 total clients in FY2021, starting 25 businesses and creating and retaining 70 jobs.
Innovation Award – Programs and Seminars
Terri Brown, Central Carolina Community College
Terri Brown, in collaboration with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance – Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Inc., has created an innovative program known as RISE, an acronym for “Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs.” The program uses a specific eight session training program for existing and potential business owners. Participants in the program attend the series of seminars, create a business plan, have their business plans reviewed, and prepare a pitch to a review committee.
Graduates of the program who open a retail business in downtown Sanford, Jonesboro or Broadway may also apply for a $5,000 start-up grant. The program, which has been in existence since early 2020, has generated six retail businesses and two home-based businesses. The businesses have created 23 new jobs. Beyond these significant impacts, the synergy created by the collaboration is far-reaching, with the domino effect that comes with passionate entrepreneurs and the involvement of strong, committed partners. This response to a community need has helped revitalize these downtowns, creating not only economic growth, but community engagement as well. This includes financial support from a local bank and a private donor.
Innovation Award – Services and Collaboration
Brandy Bell, Carteret Community College
Brandy Bell, Small Business Center Director at Carteret Community College, formed the For ME Network in collaboration with area partners DREAM, SCORE and existing minority business owners. The idea was born from an identified need in the local community and Brandy did not hesitate to put all of her effort and passion into bringing it to fruition, despite the challenges of the pandemic and the limitations of the more rural parts of the county. The idea was to connect established minority businesses with minority entrepreneurs for mentoring and coaching, provide technical assistance and create a trusted network, which has now grown to over 120 members.
The success of the newly implemented For ME Network led to the development of a highly successful Minority Business Expo, allowing each participating business the opportunity to market their products and services in a setting that allowed for both B2B and B2C exposure. Weekly meetings provide members with a dynamic environment to share resources, provide networking opportunities, and create even more synergy for business success.
Business Success Story – Most Impact
Butch Farrah – Richmond Community College
Richmond Community College is recognized for their work with Tedder Trash Solutions. Harold and Donna Tedder needed a business plan and solid financial projections to secure a bank loan for their new business, which offers trash collection services in Richmond County. The Richmond Community College Small Business Center Director, Butch Farrah, helped the Tedders navigate the local business landscape and gain access to the resources they needed for success. The SBC also provided enhanced counseling support to help the Tedders complete demographic and financial projections, create an effective marketing plan, and build a website. The SBC worked closely with the clients, and connected them with the business advisory team at EDPNC, to secure proper approvals and pay license fees specific to their trash collection business.
As a result of the assistance, the Tedders secured the funding needed to acquire a truck and provide working capital. The business became an instant success, enrolling new customers at a rate five times their first-year projections. Tedder Trash Solutions currently employs six people and is projected to more than meet their revenue projections in their first year in business. In addition to offering a much-needed service, the Tedders are creating jobs and economic impact in their rural community.
In a year of intense challenges, many business owners overcame unbelievable hurdles to start their businesses. Among them all, these three business success stories stand out. While these clients had deep challenges, their respective Small Business Center counselors were more than a knowledgeable and experienced business advisor offering technical assistance, but also a coach and an advocate, offering their expertise as a trusted advisor.
Mitchell Community College and SBC Director Gregory Cain are recognized for assisting Sharon Owenby, owner of Music Together. Owenby was an orchestra member and teacher at one time and she never stopped hearing the music in her heart even though the abuse she suffered kept her from being able to teach, perform, or practice. After eight painful years, she gained the courage to end the abusive relationship and was able to start a Music Together franchise to bring her love of music to little ones in her community, showing that the heart can always sing when compassionate allies support that song. Thanks to the business counselor at Mitchell Community College’s Small Business Center, Owensby was able to start her business. With the guidance received through counseling and attendance at seminars and webinars, she learned vital information to navigate the variety of steps needed to launch. As a result, she is now able to share the joy of music with a new generation, while providing an income for her family.
Catawba Valley Community College and SBC Director Jeff Neuville provided assistance to husband and wife Jorge and Sara Mora, who started two businesses. Jorge and Sara are immigrants from Costa Rica. Jorge worked for 13 years, while his future wife was still in Costa Rica, to build his own CNC manufacturing business. He was working full time in his day job while attending machining classes. At the same time, he began purchasing his own equipment while developing his client base for quick turn-around projects. When Sara emigrated to the United States in 2013, the two married and began attending SBC classes together with Jorge taking notes for Sara who was still learning English. After the challenge of coming to a new country, working to receive citizenship, working to save money in a full-time job, while doing the business on weekends and during off hours, and then getting hit with all the pandemic challenges and tightening their belts, the couple has been able to overcome all of these challenges. They are now both successful business owners after using SBC counseling and support to develop PQ CNC and SariCakes. Jorge makes food-grade decorations for Sara's cakes and they both have more work than they can keep up with. They credit the classes at Catawba Valley Community College and the SBC counseling they received with helping them achieve their entrepreneurship goals as independent business owners.
Credentialing and Service Awards
Credentialing awards are presented to small-business center directors who have achieved the required training milestones in Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 of the credentialing program. The following small-business center directors were recognized with credentialing awards.
Level 1 credentialing awards were presented to John Hardison, James Sprunt CC; Brandy Bell, Carteret CC; Tierra Norwood, Nash CC; Megan Smit, Rowan-Cabarrus CC and Reese Linnell, Stanly CC.
Level 2 credentialing awards were presented to Brandy Bell, Carteret CC; Sheri Jones, Vance-Granville CC; Mark Harden, Surry CC and Reese Linnell, Stanly CC.
Level 3 credentialing awards were presented to Butch Farrah, Richmond CC; Reese Linnell, Stanly CC and Teresa Reynolds, Sandhills CC.
Service awards recognize the number of years a center director has served the Small Business Center Network. Recognition for 20 years of service was presented to Mark Hagenbuch, Guilford Technical CC. Recognition awards for 15 years of service were presented to Jill Sparks, Asheville-Buncombe Technical CC and Jim Ensor, Pitt CC. Five-year service awards were presented to April Scott, Brunswick CC; Jerry Coleman, Cape Fear CC; Mari-inetta Pavlic, Central Carolina CC; Teresa Reynolds, Sandhills CC; Kim Gamlin, Wayne CC and Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, Wilkes CC.