RCCC seminars help worm farmer get started

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 5, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
CONCORD — Stephen Price won’t be off this Labor Day.
For the Concord resident, who runs a small business out of his home, every day is a work day.
He opened up Carolina Organic Depot about four years ago after his 27-year career in the software industry dried up.
“Pretty much all that work has gone overseas,” he said.
Price said he continued to look for jobs for a while, but most of them were outside his realm of expertise.
He decided to start selling organic fertilizers and soil after looking for worm castings for his own garden and coming up short.
“I decided since I couldn’t find it myself maybe I should sell it,” he said.
Price started buying and selling the fertilizers, but didn’t launch his business until he received some help from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Small Business Center.
“I had already been doing it for a while, but I had been kind of dragging my feet on doing the background work,” he said.
Price took several free seminars before he decided to take a short-term class about starting a business.
“It was a fast-paced how-to,” he said. “It was basically a kick in the butt to get a business plan.”
A business plan was just what Price needed to secure financing and give his idea a bit more focus.
“It helps figure out where you’re going, because if you don’t have direction you’re not going to get there,” he said.
Price is just one of about 800 people who enlists resources from the Small Business Center each year.
Barbara Hall, director of the Small Business Center, said with people facing layoffs, more are considering going to work for themselves.
She said the college can be a good resource for people looking to develop a small business, offering free seminars, classes, one-on-one counseling sessions.
“Our whole goal is to help start and grow small businesses in our region in Rowan and Cabarrus counties.
The college will offer “Starting a Business — From Concept to Launch” starting next Monday through Nov. 7. The $65 class will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays at the Cabarrus Business and Technology Center.
“It gives an overview of what it takes to start a business in our region and also information about writing a business plan” Hall said.
Price said when he took a similar class several years ago he met other people who were also feeling the effects of the recession.
“We all had been in jobs that vaporized and we realized we’ve got to do something,” he said.
Price said the classes he took at the Small Business Center gave him a better idea of what to expect because they were taught by successful business owners.
Hall said for those who are considering starting a small business the class can help them figure out whether or not that’s the right choice by assessing the feasibility of the idea and determining if they have the personality to be an entrepreneur.
The center is also offering some new free seminars this fall including “Tech Tips: Using Microsoft Office Applications for Small Business,” and “Steps for Buying and Selling a Business.”
The center varies its programming from year to year in an effort to meet local demand.
“We try to offer those services and those programs that will be most helpful to getting businesses started and growing,” she said. “One of the advantages to being in continuing education is that we can respond to the market rather quickly.”
The college is also partnering with the Charlotte School of Law to provide free legal aid to small business with revenue of less than $50,000 a year.
Hall said new entrepreneurs typically need legal advice for contracts and lease/purchase agreements, but that can be a costly expense for someone just getting off the ground.
“We are excited about that programs,” she said. “We think it’s great they are willing to do that.”
Price said he continues to take free seminars at the business center as they become available.
“If there’s a class that interests me I’ll take it,” he said. “Rowan-Cabarrus has been a good resource.”
Price has expanded his business to included plants sells and a variety of other sustainable products from composters to rain barrels.
Find out more about Carolina Organic Depot online at carolinaorganicdepot.com.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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