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More young people starting their own businesses

GRANITE QUARRY — Gray clouds outside couldn’t dampen the mood at Wahoo’s Diner one morning in late September in Granite Quarry.
Inside the new breakfast and lunch spot in the Brinkley Center, co-owners Jamie Vanhoy and Brandon Hendrix were serving fresh, tasty food and providing plenty of laughs and smiles for the hungry patrons who stopped in for a bite to eat.
Wahoo’s opened Sept. 8, and Vanhoy and Hendrix are both running a business for the first time.
“It’s been truly a dream come true. Every day is still a surprise,” Vanhoy said.
The 26-year-old has worked in restaurants since she was 14. Earlier this year, her father and sister brought her to the small space at one end of the plaza and told her she needed to start her own restaurant.
With her family’s encouragement, Vanhoy decided to give it a shot. She called her friend, Hendrix, a cook, and asked him if he would come work with her. The two have known each other for 12 years and together have more than 35 years of restaurant experience.
Hendrix, who had previously worked with Vanhoy at BeBop’s Diner, said yes. The two put their money together — Vanhoy didn’t want to give the precise amount they’ve invested — and began putting plans in order in June.
Vanhoy said she thought they’d be open in a few weeks, but it took a couple of months for the pair to clean, paint and decorate the diner. And new equipment had to be bought and installed.
The diner is small, with seating for about 30. The daily specials are written in white chalk on a board on the wall and another above the opening to the kitchen where Hendrix hands Vanhoy the food when it’s ready. Signs with motivational phrases hang on the wall. One reads, “Anything is possible if you have the courage to make it happen.”
Vanhoy, who lives in China Grove, said she was naive at first about the amount of money and work it took to start a business. Making big decisions about money and getting the word out about the diner are the hardest parts, she said. She puts the daily specials on the diner’s Facebook page.
Even choosing a name was difficult, she said. The one they decided on comes from her father, Tim, who used to be a biker and had the nickname “Wahoo.”
Hendrix, 40, said working in restaurants is the only thing he’s ever done. He said there are ups and downs with the new business. “It’s tough to get started,” he said, but added that he loves it and is keeping a positive attitude.
• • •
Down the road from Wahoo’s Diner, 24-year-old Brady Reavis shows up outside his new business with a tired look on his face.
Last night, he said, he was up until 3 a.m. working on a truck in the shop behind BSC Off-Road, the truck- and Jeep-accessories store he opened this summer. He, too, is a first-time business owner.
Wearing boots, work pants and a BSC T-shirt, Reavis sits behind the desk in his store. Huge tires, lift kits, wheels and other items are on display around the room. The glass windows at the front of the store offer a perfect view for potential customers.
Reavis graduated from East Rowan High School and has lived in Granite Quarry his whole life. He didn’t go to college and was working for his dad’s business, Brown Supply, for years, he said.
Reavis said he learned his trade by working on his own trucks. He’d been thinking about opening up a store for a couple of years, he said, because the next closest truck accessory store is in Mooresville.
It’s been “a lot of work” getting his store off the ground, Reavis said. He used his savings and money he got from selling two of his trucks to get the place going.
Reavis, whose store is next to Brown Supply, said he now knows why is dad spends so much time at work.
The hardest part so far as been getting in touch with distributors and earning their business, he said, along with spreading the word about his store.
Reavis does sales and installation. He had to buy a machine to balance wheels and a car lift before certain distributors would do business with him.
The more Reavis talked about his business, the more he realized how much money he has invested in it — around $20,000.
“There’s a lot more to it then I thought it was gonna be,” he said about owning a business. He said the amount of money, time and work it took to get started was beyond his expectations.
But, Reavis said, things get better every day.
“It’s something that I wanted to do for a long time, but I didn’t think I would have my own business going already,” he said.
He said his dad tells him to be patient and stick with it.
The store’s website, www.bscoffroad.com, launched recently, Reavis said, and he hopes it will bring him more business.
He said his advice for someone who is thinking about starting a business is to do it.
“Won’t know if you don’t try,” he said.
• • •
Reavis and Vanhoy are part of a growing trend of young people who are starting businesses, according to Pamela Thompson, dean of the Ketner School of Business at Catawba College.
She said she’s seen a tremendous increase in interest in entrepreneurship, and that a lot of students are considering it as a career option.
Thompson said the economy is playing a role in the trend, and that popular shows like “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs present their business plans to big investors, are getting more people interested in starting a business.
She said starting a small business, even if it doesn’t work out, is a great learning experience.
“It gives you confidence,” and you learn about the community, she said.
It’s important to start small and build a customer base, and a person doesn’t need to go to college to be a successful business owner, Thompson said, adding that college courses in finance and business management can help someone develop a strong business plan.
Thompson is a business owner and said one can never know what experiences it will bring.
• • •
Vanhoy, who is engaged and has a 3-year-old daughter, talks to each customer with a soft, sincere voice. She wants the diner to have a comfortable, family atmosphere, she said.
Each morning on her drive to work, Vanhoy said, she still can’t believe she’s going to her own diner.
Asked about all the work she’s done and what the future holds, Vanhoy said, “It’s going to be worth it.”

Contact reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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