Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.The Business, Innovation and Growth (BIG) Council wants to raise $250,000 by the end of summer to fund its expansion plans, says its president, Terry Thorson Cox.
In addition to doubling its budget to $500,000, the group also plans to increase its membership to 500, add two staffers, and expand its reach to include more traditional businesses in the Charlotte region, Thorson Cox, tells LTW.
“It’s just an evolution of what we’re trying to do,” says Thorson Cox. “We’re broadening who we serve and plan to offer programming dealing with concrete issues those business people have to deal with.”
She says the organization, which has had a technology focus similar to that of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s in the Research Triangle, says BIG also needs to serve industries such as manufacturing and distribution and services.
“They’re huge here,” says Thorson-Cox.. “Our target market is companies with sales from $2 million to $20 million that are up and running and have to deal with real issues. We’re really serious about embracing this market.”
At that stage, she notes, companies have to face numerous issues they may be unfamiliar with as start-ups. “They may need to hire a management team instead of founders wearing all the hats. They may need to build an advisory board and deal with other things they didn’t have to do in start-up phase.”
Cox says BIG has already started aiming some of its educational programming at that market.
She notes BIG already co-sponsored a successful series of seminars at the Ben Craig Center and plans to continue working with local universities and non-profit groups to provide it. She says the group expects to work more closely with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce small business group and continue a partnership with the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“We want to provide programming where people walk away saying ‘I really learned something and it was worth my time and money,” Thorson Cox says.
She cites its recent one on what founders need to know to sell their business as an example.
She says attendees learned “how far out you have to plan. They say five years to do it well. A lot of people think, I want to sell it right now, but doing it at the right time if the way to build the most value.”
Future programming aimed at women business owners may include one on how to get women-owned-business certification, which can help them do business with large corporations such as Bank of America.
“It’s all part of a push to make BIG more diverse,” says Thorson Cox.
BIG needs to raise money to fund its expansion plans. Thorson Cox says BIG is already signing on new sponsors, who pay from $2,500 to $16,667 a year, while individual patrons contribute from $500 to $1,000. “We’ve already signed three new sponsors,” she adds.
They include The Lash Group, healthcare consultants, CCSI, the Center for Creative Strategy and Innovation and the Johnson and Wales University, which is known for its cooking school, but also has a respected business school.
BIG held a reception June 2 at McColl Fine Art in South End where it presented its plans to potential sponsors. Thorson Cox meets with its own advisory board in July to discuss future programming.
BIG publicly launches its membership and donation drive July 13 at its regular monthly meeting at Byron’s South End.
TECh hears Kauffman
About 35 members of the invitation only TECh Breakfast Roundtable in Charlotte heard Stuart Kauffman, scientist, author, and Nu-Tech board member, talk about “Biology and Technology Evolving on Rugged Fitness Landscapes,” on Tuesday.
Kauffman is author of “At Home in the Universe,” and is a pioneer in the science of complexity. Kauffman related the findings of science to business issues in his talk.
Doug Ellis, managing partner of DecisionPoint International and TECh board member, tells LTW, “The major walkaway for me was that as you double revenue, you improve productivity ten percent, you improve gross margins.”
TECh holds the breakfast meetings quarterly. The invitation-only group formed to give CEOs of middle-market technology companies in the Charlotte area a forum where they could meet to collaborate on business and technical matters, says Ellis.
“The organization’s mission is to advance the area technology community by bringing together the area’s technology leaders,” he says.
Its next event features Stuart Levinson, CEO of Venetica, who will discuss his experience in transforming Venetica from a service company to a product company during the economic downturn.
By the way, Ellis says DecisionPoint, a boutique investment bank that handles mergers and acquisitions, currently has a better pipeline of deals in the works than anytime since 2000.
“We have six deals under letter of intent now, the most for us in three years.”
Ellis says the firm is “doing a lot of buy side work, which is a good sign.” That means, Ellis says, “instead of get-me-out-of-this deals, we’re seeing more wealth creation deals coming back into the picture.”
That means, he says, “Deals are getting back to old-fashioned acquisition strategies where companies look to expand their technical skill sets, geographic reach, and grow their earnings.”
DecisionPoint International: www.decisionpoint.com