Small business was in the spotlight Wednesday at Brunswick Community College’s Leland campus. As part of the college’s celebration of National Small Business Week, local officials gathered to cut the ribbon on the campus’s new co-working space. It is the first such facility in Brunswick County.
At the dedication ceremony, BCC President Susanne Adams reminded her audience of the role small businesses play in the U.S. economy.
“Small businesses create one of every three new jobs each year,” she said. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What are we doing for our small businesses?’”
She cited the discouraging statistics: only half of small businesses make it to their five-year mark, and only one-third survive their first 10 years. By connecting Brunswick County startups with the right resources, Adams said, BCC's Small Business Center hopes to improve those odds.
Adams and April Scott, director of BCC’s Small Business Center, decided to turn a large room in the campus’s business and light manufacturing incubator into a place where entrepreneurs can launch their ventures. Wednesday, they unveiled the space, named CINErG (Center for Innovative Networking and Entrepreneur Groups).
Scott said that many area entrepreneurs work at the kitchen table at home, or at local coffee shops, or even meet others in supermarket parking lots.
“I have nothing against coffee shops, but now, here at the center, they can collaborate and network,” she said. “Small business is the backbone of Brunswick County: 98 percent of our ventures are small businesses.”
CINErG has a small conference area, several work cubicles and upholstered chairs with attached writing desks. A larger, private conference room is available on the second floor of the incubator building.
Scott said she has signed tenant agreements from eight start-ups; CINErG can accommodate 20. “So far, it’s a good mix of different kinds of businesses,” she said.
One of those applicants, Dave Berkheimer, was at the dedication. Berkheimer, owner of Healthy Green Solutions LLC, represents a variety of holistic wellness products, including a pulsed electro-magnetic field device. He looks forward to having a spot in the co-working space.
“It’s a place to meet with people, and there is room for my device,” he said.
Officials also got a look at BCC’s business incubator space itself, which was opened two years ago. All three of the tenant bays are occupied and the businesses are thriving, according to Velva Jenkins, BCC’s vice president of continuing education, economic and workforce development.
The longest-term tenant, Celebration Candles, is approaching its third year and will “graduate” from the incubator when that year is up. Faye and Harvey Madgitz, who make, sell and distribute the special-occasion candles, have benefited from more than just the light manufacturing space at the incubator, Jenkins said.
“They were hand dipping the candles until one of our volunteer mentors showed them a better way,” she said, explaining that some of Leland’s many retirees provide help to incubator tenants.
The other two tenants are also light manufacturers: Luke’s Furniture makes and sells high-end handcrafted furniture and employs four people full-time and one part-time,
according to Jenkins. The newest tenant, Heirloom CFM, builds cabinets and furniture and does millwork. Owner Raleigh Morris said his customer base to date includes several Landfall homeowners and a luxury spa in Wilmington.
To remain in the incubator, a start-up business must create jobs and show revenue growth, Jenkins said.
When funding is available, BCC would like to build two more light manufacturing incubator bays, Adams said, adding, “I wish we had more land, but that’s all we have room for, and we’re now having parking issues.”