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Local version of ‘Shark Tank’ to debut

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s own version of “Shark Tank” will debut this fall.
Greg Brown with the Charlotte Angel Fund will kick off the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s power breakfast series in September with the chance for a few entrepreneurs to convince local angel investors to back their start-ups.
The event, a real-life competition with potentially thousands of dollars at stake, will take place at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 18 at Trinity Oaks, where the chamber holds its monthly Power in Partnership breakfasts.
Chamber President Elaine Spalding said an ongoing angel investor series is in the works for Rowan, and this initial event will give people a taste of how the program will work.
The shark-tank-like competition is part of an initiative called EntreRowan by the chamber and RowanWorks Economic Development Commission to boost entrepreneurship in Rowan County. The effort started less than a year ago and already has spurred a business plan competition at Catawba College, free one-on-one business counseling at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and more.
When the chamber and EDC began taking about entrepreneurial development in 2013, they were met with enthusiasm and a strong desire in the community to move forward, said Robert Van Geons, executive director for RowanWorks.
“A group of motivated volunteers came together around that,” he said. “This is a true grassroots effort, and those are the things that are the most sustainable and have the most impact on a community.”
At the Sept. 18 event, Brown will explain the Charlotte Angel Fund program and facilitate the first EntreRowan Shark Tank. Local entrepreneurs will pitch their business idea, and a panel of angel investors will decide if they want to fund their companies.
Brown provides business consulting services through his company, Cardinal Finance. He also serves as the administrator of Charlotte Angel Fund, which provides equity capital to early stage ventures in the Carolinas.
The angel investors in the crowd on Sept. 18 will be from Rowan County.
EntreRowan is an umbrella organization “with the idea of everyone turning up the volume on entrepreneurial development,” Spalding said.
Rowan has a number of entrepreneurial success stories like Cheerwine and Integro, she said. Now, the community needs to use successful business leaders as mentors and angel investors.
“We want to change the culture of our community to support entrepreneurial development,” Spalding said.
A cultural shift takes time, she said.
“But the big goal is to get young people and Rowan County citizens to think about starting their own businesses, rather than just getting a job,” Spalding said. “Creating your own business, and creating jobs for other people, will help our economy tremendously.”
Entrepreneurial development can increase Rowan’s per capita income and help diversify the local economy, improving the business climate for future generations, she said.
The hometown of Food Lion needs to rediscover its roots, she said.
“What can we do to help get that entrepreneurial spirit back in our community and really, really turn up the volume on entrepreneurial development,” Spalding said.
EntreRowan will work in conjunction with Small Business Development Center and Small Business Administration programs that already exist, as welll as Rowan’s four higher education institutions with valuable resources to offer — Catawba, RCCC, Hood Theological Seminary and Livingstone College, which has the most entrepreneurial development classes of them all.
However, too many of students grow up thinking about “getting a job” instead of “starting their own business,” Spalding said.
EntreRowan has a volunteer steering committee with members from the chamber, EDC and colleges and is developing a three-year strategic plan:
• Decide on staffing/freelance agreements
• Launch Business Plan competition
• Launch Shark Tank program
• Launch EntreForum – mentor/mentees program
• Become well-versed on federal and state resources to assist with business starts and expansions
• Develop tracking system for all clients
• Develop feedback system for all clients
• Develop protocol with existing service providers
• Develop initial website
• Develop initial advertising campaign
• Convene service providers quarterly
• Track clients, business start-ups, business expansions and new job creation to use to set baseline/benchmarks for improvement in coming years
• Publish annual report
• Evaluate existing tools for grading clients based on potential success
• Develop local communication plan of assistance and opportunities
• Develop and implement plan for data provision
• Enhance website
• Evaluate feasibility of “co-working” space in Salisbury
• Enhance advertising campaign
• Convene service providers at quarterly
• Develop and launch at least 10 local group training and information opportunities for new business starts/expansions
• Serve at least 50 clients
• Assist with at least five business starts
• Assist with at least five business expansions
• Assist with the creation of at least 20 jobs through these efforts
• Publish annual report
• Implement system to grade all clients based on potential for success
• Develop protocol for client assistance based on potential for success
• Enhance data provision
• Develop and launch at least 20 local group training and information opportunities for new business starts/expansions
• Convene service providers at least four times
• Serve at least 100 clients
• Assist with at least 10 business starts
• Assist with at least 10 business expansions
• Assist with the creation of at least 40 jobs through these efforts
• Evaluate all current programs and systems
• Develop next thee-year strategic plan
• Publish annual report
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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