The University of North Carolina Wilmington on Friday hosted the Cape Fear Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference, part of a week-long event that brought together minority business leaders and organizations in the region.
This year’s conference had 125 registrants, plus 80 at attendees at its reception Thursday, according to Christina Schechtman, media relations specialist at UNCW.
“MED Week recognizes the achievements of local minority entrepreneurs, provides opportunities for networking, and presents workshops to help grow and strengthen businesses,” stated UNCW’s website.
One of the events held today at the conference was “Getting Comfortable with Capital Acquisition,” with a discussion on how startups should prepare for getting funding.
“For startup businesses [funding] is more difficult because there is no history. There is a lot more that goes into starting that business, so the risk associated with that is higher from a lender perspective,” Diane Lantz, business counselor at the Small Business and Technology Development Center, said. “So, you really have to sell your story. One of the things that I always recommend to people who are looking to start a business is if you don’t have a relationship with our lender, develop a relationship. It's not just ‘I’m going in a getting a loan and never talking to them again,’ use them as a resource.”
Members of that panel included John Hunter, owner of Green Clean Auto Spa; Gia Long, owner of Wine & Design in Leland; and Leslie Lewis, business development officer and disaster resiliency specialist with Carolina Small Business Development Fund.
The panel was moderated by Robert Campbell, senior pastor at New Beginning Christian Church. Campbell is also a member of the advisory board at BB&T Bank Wilmington.
For those looking for first-time business loans, the U.S. Small Business Administration can be a good resource, Hunter said.
“When we first started, we used the SBA and the SBA interest rate is high, but the good thing is you can have a lot less collateral with the SBA,” Hunter said. “If you don’t have a lot of collateral, the loan as a whole is more restrictive, but you can go to the bank with less collateral.”
Long said she used Coastal Women’s Ventures as a resource to open Wine & Design, a paint-and-sip wine franchise.
The conference also included different breakout sessions with topics on how to do business with the government, avoiding human resources nightmares and social media marketing.
The keynote speaker at the conference was retired U.S. Army Gen. J.R. Gorham, who spoke about leadership in his “Getting Unstuck, Reaching the Next Level” address.
Minority business owners who might not have experience with opening a business can take the matter into their own hands.
“Become a student in whatever craft you are trying to go into,” Hunter said “Go to whatever seminars you need to go to, whatever conventions you need to go to. When I opened my first car wash, I didn’t know anything about it. They had a car wash show in Las Vegas and I came back with a bunch of business cards and a suitcase of brochures. I spent a long time going through that stuff to really understand the business.”