A Leland woman is building business relationships in the northern Brunswick County area, all through a Facebook page.
Lara Bair, founder and administrator for the Leland/Belville Small Business Facebook page, has been taking on efforts to bring small businesses to the forefront of the Leland business scene for about a year.
Bair, an emergency dispatcher for nearly 27 years who currently works at the Wilmington International Airport, is volunteering for the effort and is the sole organizer of its events and social media page, which she launched in April 2017.
Bair said she began the social media effort because she grew up around her father's small business in Ohio, an Italian restaurant, that did very well until some of the larger chain businesses moved to the area and "he just couldn't compete any longer," she said.
"He had it from the time I was born until I was in my 20s and his restaurant was a staple in our community," Bair added.
Now in Leland, Bair said has begun to see larger chains opening or on the way to the small business community in northern Brunswick County.
"With such unprecedented growth that the Leland area is having right now ... I just wanted to do something to keep our small businesses in the forefront. And help them advertise and get their names out there because they don't have the advertising budgets that the big businesses do," she said.
Bair generates support for local businesses by adding a few posts about them to the Leland/Belville Small Business Facebook page each day, while allowing businesses to post to the page as well, she said.
"It's pictures of the location, menus, services that they have to offer ... I don't make any money off of it. To me that kind of defeats the purpose of what I am trying to do for the small businesses. I'm trying to help them financially succeed without spending their resources," Bair said.
Businesses are also notified through the Facebook page about monthly gatherings, she said. The first business event she organized last year drew more than 120 participants from various businesses in the community.
The Facebook page targets small businesses in the Leland, Belville and Winnabow communities. Since April, she has generated more than 1,200 followers on the page and has no plans to start a webpage.
"Social media is so incredibly impressive right now to reach so many people," Bair said about the page.
This weekend, she will host the Facebook group's first Leland/Bellville Small Business Expo on March 3, for which more than 40 businesses have registered to participate.
"We are completely full. We booked up within the first week of me announcing the expo. We actually had to expand," she said. "And I still have a waiting list ... the response just has been overwhelming."
The event is being held at Blossoms Restaurant off Tommy Jacobs Drive in Leland. Bair charged $20 for booth rentals to cover costs of the event, she said, adding that the event is free to visitors. Bair said the expo is also drawing support from leaders in the community, including members of Leland Town Council.
“Lara has done an absolutely fantastic job,” said Pat Batleman, Leland town council member and mayor pro-tem. “She has brought more people together … and I’m just so impressed.”
Batleman said she thinks Bair's efforts are something that the community needs with all the growth that it’s experiencing.
“It’s something that is absolutely needed and she just stepped right in. And it just took off like crazy,” Batleman said. “We’re happy it has been successful and we wanted it to continue to be successful. We want to help her any way that we can. Her efforts really help bring everybody together and that’s needed in a growing region like we have here.”
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