Small but Mighty

Experienced professionals guide fledgling entrepreneurs as their dreams take flight

Linda Kim recently launched Evergreen Adult Day Services in Cary. Her father-in-law, who had Alzheimer’s disease, spent three years going to a similar service in Pennsylvania. “It provided him with cognitive and social interaction with other men,” she says.

When Apex resident Linda Kim was looking to transition from bedside nursing to community-based nursing, she couldn’t find a job. Kim, who has a bachelor’s in nursing from Duke University, was surprised.

“I never thought I wouldn’t be able to find a job,” said the 49-year-old Kim. “There’s a nursing shortage everywhere.”

So she created her own by starting Evergreen Adult Day Services in Cary. The business provides a safe, group setting for seniors and adults who need help managing daily activities independently because of disabilities or other medical issues.

Kim received valuable guidance at Wake Technical Community College’s Small Business Center in Cary. To help area residents start or grow their business, the center offers free services including workshops, seminars, webinars and confidential one-on-one counseling.

Early on, Kim recognized that her expertise was from her medical background.

Business mentor Jim Walsh helps Starr Smith with her fledgling delivery service during a LaunchCARY class held at Dorcas Ministries.

“We helped balance her out by giving her business resources and building her business acumen,” said Cherith Roberson, director of the SBC.

In 2014, Kim started attending seminars like “How to Start a Business,” “Develop a Business Plan that Works for You,” “Pricing Your Products and Services,” “Setting up your Small Business Accounting System.” All the introductory seminars are taught by professionals and experts in their fields.

“Some of these courses were over my head at the time,” Kim said. “Without practical experience, I had no idea what would be relevant. So, you may need to revisit the same information multiple times to really absorb it.”

LaunchCary is a partnership between Dorcas Ministries, area Rotary Clubs and the Wake Tech Center for Entrepreneurship. Modeled after a program in Detroit, the entrepreneur counseling program aims to help people with limited access to financial and business resources.

Partnering with the SBC through one-on-one counseling sessions, Kim filled out a loan application and fleshed out her business plan. By fall 2015, she had identified a location for her day care, created a pricing strategy, done her market analysis, and strategized ways to bring clients in the door.

Kim opened her business in May 2017. “God shut all the doors except the one he wanted me to open, and that was this business,” she said.

In addition to her own employment, Kim hired two full-time certified nursing assistants and three part-time staff.

Over the past three years, the SBC has assisted in the creation of 500 jobs, 152 businesses, and has had 7,483 attendees at its seminars and workshops.

As a new business owner, Kim continued to face challenges, so she joined the 2018 inaugural class of LaunchApex. The entrepreneur training program is part of the county-wide LaunchWakeCounty initiative that helps small businesses start and grow by providing access to business development services, loans, mentoring and networking. Wake Tech is the training partner for the LaunchWakeCounty programs.

Kim worked closely with a peer group of Apex residents who were also starting or growing their business. It was through LaunchApex that she realized how important it was to market her business to consumers.

“I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Kim said. “I didn’t think little businesses needed to advertise.”

Katie A. Gailes, director of Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Wake Tech, says the community-based economic development movement is being run by teams who are committed to growing healthy small businesses in their towns. This spring, there are several Launch programs going on in Wake County.

“Their efforts and the enthusiastic support from their local town governments, Chambers of Commerce, and established businesses fuels the growth and sustainability of LaunchWakeCounty,” she said.

Bob Stapleton, the class facilitator and co-program manager of LaunchCary, says he has 15 entrepreneurs ranging from their late 20s through 30s in his program now. Their business ideas range from selling clothes and jewelry to driving services for children and elderly.

Bob Stapleton leads a business class at LaunchCARY at Dorcas Ministries.

“This is primarily young people and mostly female,” he said, of his program participants.

The group meets once a week for nine weeks and works with other entrepreneurs and mentors. Participants focus on preparing their business launch and their business plan.

“This gives them the leg up to assure the success of their business,” said Stapleton, a retired head of human resources for several grocery and food companies. “We help teach people know what they don’t know about communicating their message, branding and cash flow.”

After a few weeks getting feedback from their peers and mentors, Stapleton says participants often shift their approach.

Wake Tech Small Business Center

For details on free business counseling, seminars, upcoming Launch programs, or support for current and aspiring entrepreneurs, visit waketech.edu, search “Start & Grow a Business.”

For more information on the SBC, call (919) 335-1019.

“Sometimes they change the name of their company,” he said. “We have a personal chef who wanted to advertise African food. In Cary, N.C., what does that mean?”

Participants are then paired with a mentor, who will work with them for six months. The mentors are mostly Rotarians.

Starr Smith, a 28-year-old entrepreneur in the LaunchCary class, says the program has helped her refine her fashion delivery service, It’s Beauty Rush, which she expects to launch this spring. The business will sell party dresses, elaborate blouses and fancy jumpsuits — perfect for special events — and deliver them right to doors all over the Triangle.

“I didn’t know how important having a business class was,” she said. “I was going to have a little bit of everything. It helped me narrow my focus to event wear.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *