Wilson spices up Small Business Week

May 5. The water’s fine in the Lake Norman small business community, but you have to be willing to get your feet wet. That was the takeaway message at the fifth annual Small Business Week Lunch and Launch, held Tuesday at The Peninsula Club.

Tricia Sisson, co-owner of The Range in Cornelius, said she had wondered how people would react to having a gun range in the same community as homes and schools.

“When my husband, Brian, suggested we open an indoor shooting range in 2010, I thought he was crazy,” Sisson said. Turns out, the community’s biggest concern was aesthetic; more people commented about the building’s proposed orange color than anything else. So the Sissons toned it down a bit.

Brian and Tricia Sisson at The Range at Lake Norman

“I am a Lake Norman community-aholic. We put community first,” Sisson said. And she doesn’t mean just when it comes to paint color.

It’s vital for a small business to become involved in the community. In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, Sisson has joined the Rotary Club, and her business sponsors a “range” of local nonprofits from school fundraisers to Big Day at the Lake, an annual event benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte.

The networking has helped Sisson improve her business’s social media and marketing presence as well as provided practical help with payroll and other operations concerns. More importantly, community involvement has bolstered her business’s reputation.

Small business advice: Get involved

“A community-involved company is considered to be an authentic company,” she said.

The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that only one third of small businesses survive the first ten years.

“Collaboration with the community could be the difference-maker,” Sisson said.

The sage of Baltimore

Sponsored by the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and ENLIGN Business Brokers and Advisors, the small business luncheon featured keynote speaker Alan Wilson, former CEO of the McCormick Corporation. Wilson discussed the spice company’s genesis 128 years ago and its emphasis on philanthropy in countries where spices are grown. The McCormick Corporation has opened schools in Madagascar and health clinics in Turkey.

Wilson also discussed McCormick’s commitment to process and package its products in the communities where they’re sold.

In other words: think globally, act locally.

His son, Ryan, who purchased Madison River Fly Fishing Outfitters in Cornelius almost a year ago, also spoke at the luncheon. And while owning a business was almost a foregone conclusion in the Wilson household, Ryan discussed the importance of mentorship to new business owners.

“Throughout that [first] year, I’ve had to deeply, deeply rely on other people,” Wilson said.

Like Sisson, the younger Wilson has found Lake Norman to be supportive to small business. Madison River’s former owner, Robert Domico, has remained on staff as a fly-fishing guide. Domico has also offered guidance on day-to-day operations—even advice on a tricky lightbulb at the shop.

Wilson joked that the former owner has literally helped him keep the lights on.

The new entrepreneur has also relied on experienced business owners in unrelated fields. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, other people are going to have better ideas sometimes,” Wilson said.

That’s what the event was all about: sharing ideas, putting yourself out there as a presence in the community.

What is our brand?

Business Today editor Dave Yochum spoke about the growth of the Charlotte region and the optimistic, sharing and entrepreneurial “brand” of the Lake Norman community.

“It’s way cool here in terms of an entrepreneurial spirit,” Yochum said. “Business Today” sister publication, “Cornelius Today,” has served the Lake Norman community for 15 years.

Leigh Brown of Re/Max affiliate Leigh Brown and Associates presented a speech entitled “Starting With Me.” A motivational speaker and author of the sales guide “Outrageous Authenticity,” Brown said that women have come to dominate the real estate field in recent years because clients want to be able to identify with the people they’re working with. This need has led to diversity in all kinds of business.

Using a real estate metaphor, Brown urged business owners to interact authentically with the public. She said, “If you’re gonna be brick, be brick. If you’re gonna be vinyl, be vinyl.”

Brown also emphasized the importance of the small business community.

“There’s a need to connect with one another, and as a small business leader, you have the opportunity to do that,” she said.


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