Have you ever wondered what it takes to own and operate a small business in Rowan County?

As stated in this recent article from WalletHub, “size matters when choosing a city in which to launch a startup.” Fortunately, the city of Salisbury ranked 16th in WalletHub’s list of best small cities to start a business. Key metrics used to determine this list included business environment, access to recourses, and business costs. Salisbury, NC ranked 4th out of 1,200 in overall business costs which took into account office-space affordability, labor costs, corporate taxes, and cost of living.

If you have curiosities about small business ownership here in Rowan County, then the resources and information in this blog may be of help as you consider your next steps.


Resources for Success

Creating a successful business involves many considerations — of the market, of your business model, and of yourself. These considerations must be ongoing. They must guide your every move.

As you consider starting a business, it is smart to take in as much information and guidance as you can. Fortunately, North Carolina is a state where supporting small business development is prioritized, and because of this, potential small business owners have wonderful resources to help them get started.

The Small Business Center (SBC) at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is one such resource in our community. The Rowan-Cabarrus SBC is one of 58 Small Business Centers located at each of North Carolina’s community colleges. The objective of the Small Business Center Network (SBCN) is to increase the success rate and the number of viable small businesses in North Carolina by providing high quality, readily accessible assistance to prospective and existing small business owners, which will lead to job creation and retention.

I spoke with Barbara Hall, Director of the Rowan-Cabarrus SBC. She described the center’s work providing “education, one-on-one counseling, and referrals” for individuals exploring small business ownership.

I asked if there are things that the SBC doesn’t do. Barbara explained, “We try to do our best to be honest with people if an idea isn’t feasible or it doesn’t produce the results that the person is looking for. Some people might not find that helpful. They can feel disappointed. But not every idea makes for good business.”

Addison Davis of the Rowan IDEA Center Foundation shares this sentiment. His organization teaches entrepreneurship behaviors classes in local high schools, hosts occasional workshops in the community, and is building a co-working center for entrepreneurs to share office resources and perhaps even collaborate on projects from time to time. I asked Addison what aspiring business owners need to be thinking and doing as they get started.

“Business Planning. This is the first step in your work,” he said. “Even before revenue building. Ask yourself lots of questions. Ask yourself questions about failure. How can I overcome this problem? That problem? Make sure you build solutions into these plans.”

Where can a person learn how to do a business plan?

Addison smiles, and swivels in his chair to face a desktop computer. He pulls up the Rowan-Cabarrus SBC website and rattles off two classes that teach these skills: “How to Start a Business” and “Entrepreneurial Essentials.”

I spoke with small business owner Thelma Luckey of Thelma’s Down Home Cooking located at the West End Plaza in Salisbury.


Thelma Luckey, owner of Thelma’s Down Home Cooking located at the West End Plaza in Salisbury


“Make that first step for yourself,” she urged. “Learn the traits of what you want to do. Pick up books. Don’t be afraid to leap out there. Start small and see if things are going to work out there. Your journey will take you from small to medium or small to large. You will see.”

Barbara concurs about the importance of research and practice. The three main factors that she believes are very important when starting a business are:

  1. Education: Understanding the market and the industry that you’re going into. Be educated about the potential customer.
  2. Experience: The SBC can’t give you this. They advise people to work in the industry or in a related field of the business that they want to start. People want to start a restaurant, but they haven’t worked in a restaurant. They encourage them to get at least some experience in their industry.
  3. Capital: Savings, having another source of household income, get funding from a lender, or funding from grants (but these are usually only for non-profits). Occasionally you can get a grant from a contest, but it’s a long shot and it’s competitive. Start saving your money if you’re thinking of starting any kind of business.

If people have these three, they can move into the detail of their business. What problem does their business solve? Who needs that solution? Who is solving that problem now? How will my business be different?

Addison described a few other essentials for putting a small business plan in place. “Make sure you have enough cash to begin the process. Establish your banking process. Keep your business banking and your personal banking separate. The type of accounts you choose will be dependent on the business structure you choose. Determine what kind of business it is (sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability, S Corp, C Corp). Establish and maintain professional relationships with bankers, an accountant, and so forth.

These basic requirements are the same, whether the business is a brick-and-mortar business, a lawn service, or a tutoring business. Addison stresses that if you are seeking liability protection, you should choose an LLC, or higher, as you identify your business structure. “The greater your risk for personal loss, the more you need to examine a corporate structure of some kind (LLC or higher),” he said. “Lawn care services should be LLC because there is a great risk with equipment, employees working in strenuous conditions, and so forth.”


Words of Wisdom from Local Business Owners

I asked all three local business owners to share their best advice for new or aspiring business owners here in Rowan County.

Barbara: “If they want to start a business, look at the resources of the SBC. Take advantage of the free stuff first. Don’t spend any money if they don’t have to. There are so many no-cost resources available in North Carolina and Rowan County through the SBC, Rowan IDEA Center, and the Small Business Administration. Start doing that. Start getting to know the community. Many times, people want to focus on the business idea. Inward. Focus outward on the customers, market, and environment.

“Then, Step 2: Come in for one-on-one counseling. Come prepared (bring questions and ideas). Plan to have regular sessions.”

Addison: “Anything is possible if you have the drive. And what it takes to own your own successful business is that drive. I have seen some amazing things along the way from people who have started from not much. You have to take the risk, and from that drive you can really create something.

“Number 2. Partner with the people around you who know more than you do. You cannot do it alone. If you want to run fast, run with faster runners. If you want to be good at what you do, work with people who are good at what you want to do.”

Thelma: “Believe in yourself. Follow your dream. Whatever that dream is in life. Put God first. Whatever it is, believe that you can do what you want to do.”

That certainly seems like the recipe to success: learn, connect, and believe.

Other local resources include the Rowan Economic Development and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.