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First local entrepreneur conference called a 'moderate success'

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The South Brunswick Islands Committee of 100’s first entrepreneurship conference didn’t have people lining up outside the conference rooms, but organizers say the quality of the event will get people talking.

The event was April 10 and 11 at Sea Trail Conference Center in Sunset Beach and also featured a dinner at Silver Coast Winery.

“We had a moderate turnout,” said the committee’s executive director Bob Stinson.

“We look at it as a good start. The first one gets the word out about the quality of the event.”

The goal of the conference was to encourage the community to support and nurture new entrepreneurs as well as those who’ve been in business a long time and are looking to expand—and the quality

The level of quality was not a disappointment, Stinson said, noting one of the speakers said the quality exceeded that of similar state-level conferences.

The first day’s events included speakers Don Betts, program director of the Georgia Centers of Innovation, talking about “Entrepreneurial Friendly Communities,” and Andy Anderson, president of Community Innovations Inc., in Whiteville, talking about becoming successful in his hometown and what others like him need from their communities.

Betts said the community, including local chambers of commerce and economic development agencies, needs to find out what the entrepreneurs need and find ways to help them, rather than waiting for large industry to come in and “save” the community.

“Most communities drop the ball when it comes to entrepreneurs,” he said.

During his speech, Anderson talked about his experience in a community that nurtured his entrepreneurial spirit.

He was given opportunities including scholarships from local businesses and a job in a work force training program at the courthouse.

“I saw a community on the rise because of business and entrepreneurship. And those folks are still in Columbus County.”

After college, Anderson received the chance to become a partner in the business where he was working, and he is now a successful businessman and lives in the community where his grandmother used to clean houses to make ends meet while raising him.

“People in the community taught me the importance of dreaming and fortitude,” he said.

The event also included panel discussions with local entrepreneurs, who talked about getting started in business, with officials interested in promoting the arts as a way to attract businesses to the county, and with local tourism directors talking about new ways to promote tourism.

That evening, N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall spoke at the dinner at Silver Coast.

“It was a well-attended, nice event,” Stinson said.

The second day of the conference, Jane Smith Patterson, executive director of the eNC Authority, talked about “e-business,” and a panel discussed new technologies and their effect on business in a rural area like Brunswick County.

Stinson said the committee plans to have conferences annually, but the focus may change every time.

“This year, the target was making the community aware of entrepreneurship. Next year, we may focus on bringing entrepreneurs together with ‘angel’ investors and venture capitalists.”

sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or swilson@brunswickbeacon.com.