Chamber of Commerce creates Minority Business Council

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 13, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — Daniel and Nicole Matangira have been operating Matangira Business Recycling Services and Waste Disposal for nine years.

In the past two years, they have been able to secure contracts with companies like Old Stone Winery, Salisbury Pediatrics and Go Burrito, and their revenues have increased more than 200 percent in the last couple of years.

Nicole said they were able to get their business off of the ground because of the help they received from her parents, who own Holmes Iron & Metal in East Spencer.

Daniel and Nicole know how invaluable guidance from established business owners can be, and the new Minority Business Council can provide that and much more.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea,” Nicole said.

The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce has started a Minority Business Council to provide a support system and resource center for minority businesses.

Elaine Spalding, president of the chamber, said the goal of the council is to help and support minority-owned businesses and minority entrepreneurs. Its action plan includes creating a minority business directory, quarterly meetings and diversity training.

Daniel Matangira said he thought the Minority Business Council will also increase visibility for minority businesses, and one of the things that will help do that is the minority business directory.

Spalding said 42 businesses have been identified so far.

“We know there are a lot more out there,” she said.

Having a good list of minority businesses will be a useful resource for companies looking for minority businesses to work with.

Current and prospective business owners and entrepreneurs will be able to share ideas and give advice. They’ll be able to help each other avoid pitfalls and alert each other to opportunities.

“It’s so exciting and so needed,” Spalding said.

Elia Gegorek, owner of Gegorek & Associates Realty LLC, is the chair of the council. She started her work as a Realtor in 2001 and started her own firm in 2007. She’s been a member of the chamber since 2001.

She said the council is a good way to help minority business owners navigate the business world.

“I want to help those minority businesses so that they don’t have the same troubles that I encountered,” she said.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Small Business Center serves as one of the council’s sponsors and a resource for the members.

The center offers free one-on-one confidential counseling for small business owners. They can discuss things like how to start a business, business plans, financial statements and funding resources.

Barbara Hall, director of the center, said some minorities may not have as much exposure to other business owners or entrepreneurs who they can turn to for guidance.

“Counseling helps, especially minorities, know that that career option is available to them,” she said.

She said the services are also helpful to immigrants who may have operated a business in their country of origin but need to know how to operate one in the U.S.

Livingstone College and the city of Salisbury are also serving as sponsors of the council.

Spalding said the council is patterned after similar organizations and programs from other cities, like Asheville’s Minority Business Program and the Charlotte Minority Economic Development Initiative.

The Charlotte Minority Economic Development Initiative, for example, was a three-year pilot program created to increase the growth of minority-owned businesses and help them build relationships with other businesses.

Keva Walton, senior vice president of member engagement for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, said the initiative was a chance to test out the theory that minority-owned businesses bring economic growth and impact.

“We proved that thesis true,” he said.

According to a 2014 report, results of the initiative included more than 139 new connections between businesses, more than 119 requests for proposals or quotations opportunities and the creation of 483 full-time equivalent employee positions.

“These were companies that were in our region and doing business with corporations in our region,” Walton said.

Walton said it is important to ensure the vibrancy of all segments of the community.

“We have a duty and an obligation as chambers … to make sure our local economies are vibrant and everyone has an opportunity to participate,” he said.

Barbara Hall said being a small business owner can be lonely at times, so a group like the Minority Business Council can connect owners with others who are going through similar experiences.

“I think that this is a very important group to form,” she said.

Gegorek said it is beneficial for business owners to have a space to meet and share ideas, along with being made aware of the resources that are available.

“The chamber is there to help us but we need to let them know what is needed,” she said.

Gegorek hopes the group can eventually bring in high school students to shadow small business owners in order to foster an interest in entrepreneurship. She also wants to hold community events to acknowledge local businesses and their work in the community.

“It will take time, but I’m very hopeful that this council will grow and be very helpful to the community,” she said.

So far, the council has had a meet and greet event and a few planning meetings.

Current or prospective business owners do not have to be members of the chamber to join the Minority Business Council. For more information, contact the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce at 704-633-4221.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.