Nash County partnerships helps local businesses Scale Up

Posted May 19, 2022 5:00 a.m. EDT

Nash County: Spotlight: Scale Up

This article was written for our sponsor, Nash County Economic Development.

Nash County local businesses are adding another resource to their repertoire.

The Nash Community College Small Business Center, in partnership with Nash County Economic Development, is spearheading Nash County Scale Up, a program where selected companies will receive business services, training and grant funds.

Funded through a grant from NC IDEA — a private foundation that supports entrepreneurship across the state — the eight-week Scale Up program will be hyper-focused on bolstering Nash County’s small and local businesses.

"The Small Business Center and Nash County Economic Development will be working to identify businesses that have been operational for at least one year and help them scale up to become a seven-figure business or help them employ at least 50 employees within the next five to seven years," said Tierra Norwood, director of the Small Business Center at Nash Community College. "We'll provide them with training as well as technical assistance, and our goal is to work with at least ten businesses."

First, participating businesses will be provided with a needs assessment and an audit of current company policies. This will be followed by four weeks of curriculum focused on topics like exporting and importing, employee training, human relations, finance and more. Additionally, outside contractors will advise, helping with planning, marketing and website development.

The program will conclude with a networking event, and each participating business will receive a $1,500 grant.

Scale Up’s focus on local growth was a major impetus behind NC IDEA partnering with the program.

"So much of the activity that happens in the entrepreneurial ecosystem focuses on the start — and it's good to do so, because people need help getting out of the starting blocks. But this particular partnership is working with businesses that have already been in existence for at least a year and helping them accelerate growth, which made it stand out against other proposals," said Thom Ruhe, president and CEO of the NC IDEA Foundation. "We trust that they know what the greatest needs are in the communities that they're serving, and they convinced us that this was what was most needed."

Ruhe was also impressed with the program’s use of local resources and leaders — in particular the significant role that Nash Community College plays.

"I think our community colleges are one of the most undervalued and underutilized assets in our economy and our communities, so Nash County Economic Development partnering with Nash Community College is elevating regional assets that have a major impact and potential. The community college and in particular these small business centers punch so far above their weight — they really are a gift for ecosystems, and the fact that they're going to be involved in this work is tremendous," said Ruhe. "It's partnerships like this that are redefining what economic development best practices can be."

Through things like the needs assessment, the Small Business Center will not only be helping participating businesses but will also be able to gain a greater understanding of the overall small business ecosystem in the county.

"Having a platform to actually get businesses to sit down and complete a needs assessment helps us see, as an agency that provides resources to small business owners, what we need and what areas we should focus on based on the results," said Norwood. "Through that, we’ll be able to continue creating content and curriculum based on what we think Nash County businesses need — and we’ll actually have all of that information on paper."

The Small Business Center itself has hundreds of clients and touches dozens of different industries, and Norwood is eager to see what businesses will commit to the Scale Up program, from manufacturers or restaurateurs.

As the relationship between the community college and the economic development center continues to grow, there will no doubt be more cohorts — and more innovative entrepreneurial programs — in the county’s future.

"What I'm most hopeful for is that the people that go through this program will be successful and grow into vibrant companies that'll create lots of revenue and jobs and have a tangible impact on the community. If they do, then others can look at that and see that you don’t need to be in the Triangle to be a big, successful company," said Ruhe. "We can't change that narrative until people start seeing it, and that’s another reason why I was excited when this particular grant was focused on scaling. I think that'll provide hope for not only the county but the region more broadly."

This article was written for our sponsor, Nash County Economic Development.

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