UNCP Helps Small Businesses See 'Whole Picture'
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Edie Puckett struggled with a lack of confidence after launching Time Catcher Photography in Carthage last year.
"There's just a lot of uncertainty with owning your own business," Puckett says. "You don't know how things are going to go."
Today, Puckett is much more confident, thanks in large part to the business consulting services of the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP).
"Without a doubt, they've been a pivotal force in my business," she says. "The fact that they've shared their wisdom and knowledge with me has been invaluable."
For example, Puckett revamped her website after the UNCP counselors "found numerous problems with it."
"It didn't look like me or my business," she says. "We opted to rebrand. We changed the color scheme, the logo and all the images. Because of the changes we've made, I have received jobs from out-of-state."
Mike Menefee, Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at UNCP, says the Thomas Center offers free, confidential counseling to business clients in Moore and nine other counties in the region.
"I like working with small businesses to help them succeed," Menefee says. "Most entrepreneurs have very good skills within their industry, but they don't have a lot of business knowledge when they start out.
"They need to realize they're not going to be an instant success. It takes perseverance Too many people quit too early. You've got to be able to weather the storm."
Menefee has been working in small businesses since he was 12 years old and is a third-generation owner of Menefee and Associates, a consulting and publishing company.
"It was my grandfather's business," he says. "He started in 1915 as a sole proprietorship. My father incorporated it in 1974. I'm hoping the kids will take over at some point in time."
Menefee, who lives in Southern Pines, also started the entrepreneurial certificate program at Purdue University before moving here six years ago to do the same at UNCP.
"Our program looks a lot like Purdue's for obvious reasons," he says. "We just want people to know that we're here. We do a limited amount of promotion because there's no budget."
Instead, Menefee relies on word-of-mouth, the UNCP website, speaking at civic clubs and churches, and annually hosting two entrepreneurial summits.
Brian Clodfelter, president of Rhetson Companies in Aberdeen, says his commercial building and development firm learned about the UNCP program from an employee's husband.
"We just knew that we needed to go to the next level with QuickBooks because of our growth," Clodfelter says. "They came in and really got us straightened out, especially with regard to payables and receivables. That helped us prepare a lot more accurate financial information. We now have good, sound business accounting practices.
"The UNCP folks have been a huge help, and I would definitely recommend them to anybody."
Clodfelter and Puckett agreed to speak to The Pilot after Menefee asked their permission.
"Every service that we provide is confidential, and we protect our clients," Menefee says. "We work very hard with the businesses in our counties."
The UNCP program covers the basics of running a business, and the counselors tell their clients to find a good banker, CPA, attorney and insurance provider.
"Entrepreneurs need to see the whole picture, and these are professionals that can help them do so," Menefee says. "We're not CPAs or lawyers, but we do about anything else we can.
"Our purpose is to create businesses and jobs."
Contact Ted Natt at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@ thepilot.com.
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