Small business owners learn social networking, branding at 2nd annual Small Business Week conference

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The city of Columbia talked business Wednesday at the second annual National Small Business Week Conference. Business owners from across the Midlands and other parts of South Carolina gathered to network and pick up some tips on building their brand.

“Small businesses have created 50 percent of the new jobs in the economy,” said Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve held this country together.”

Businesses represented a diverse cross-section of industries in the community from insurance, banking, food and beauty. There was also a heavy minority and female presence, representing the city’s push to increase their participation in the local business community.

Three sessions offered tips and methods on building a successful small business through networking, maintaining a sustainable business model and using social media to market.

Several local business owners who contracted with the city for services like construction projects, office supplies and food led a panel to explain the best way to break into the bidding process with local and state agencies.

“Don’t chase money. Do exceptional work and the money will chase you ,” said Nathaniel Spells, owner of contracting firm Construction Dynamics.

Dahli Myers of Myers, LLC-Business Lawyers, said business owners will fail if they don’t promote themselves and hustle to find work.

“Nobody knows you’re there unless you get out and show them. Be scrappy,” she said.

The panel also told small business owners to form partnerships in spite of competition and support each other to develop the contacts that can lead to better business opportunities.

“You need to look in the backyard and do business with people who are supporting you…and  your community,” said Jeanne Lorick Brutschy, president of Lorick Office Products.

Lori Pelzer, founder of national business and lifestyle company Be Inspired International, gave an uplifting presentation to women — and some men — about being an empowered female in the marketplace. She told the audience that women often use fear as an excuse to not be bold and take risks to build a lasting business.

“What I love about entrepreneurship is that it’s the new American dream,” Pelzer said. “Become an inspired investor in your company.”

She charged the women to think big, be punctual, surround themselves with a strong team and seek greater opportunities to claim “six-figure businesses.”

The conference wrapped with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin awarding a proclamation to Jamie Scott, owner of Jamie Scott Fitness, for being selected as the city’s Business Spotlight Program. Scott started the personal training, nutrition and fitness company in the Cross Hill Market district and has expanded to a second location on Lady Street.

Keynote speaker Louis B. Lynn, president of ENVIROAgScience, the largest black-owned landscape and construction firm in South Carolina, gave a witty and inspired speech about how to run a business, deal with employees and create success. Lynn said that strategic partnerships and working only with people who share similar values are key to ensuring a business prospers.

“The best predictor of future performance is past performance,” he said.

Business owners left with a handful of business cards and new connections within the Midlands small business community.

Sue Cirillo-Bailey came to the conference to learn how to develop a business plan for her new family owned business Lake Murray Event Rentals. Cirillo-Bailey and her husband are partnering with their son, Joe Cirillo, to provide event and DJ services in the Midlands.

“We are trying to grow as a family and it give us a little nest egg,” she said. “

Shevonda Evans, a stylist at Pink Bow Hair Boutique, was thrilled to connect with Columbia’s large and diverse business community. Evans and her husband, a military servicemember, recently moved to Columbia. She has since partnered with husband and wife team of Chris and Kadenia Williams-Javis to rent a booth at their hair salon to start up her business.

Evans said she learned that building a sustainable business takes determination and time.

“It may not be easy, but if you work hard at it, it can be successful,” she said.

Categories: Business

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