Town leaders gathered Monday, October 23rd at Bass Lake Park in Holly Springs to celebrate the accomplishments of their entrepreneurial leadership team over the past year. Creative EDC officially certified the Town as entrepreneur-ready. The team’s vision for Holly Springs is to create a town culture that attracts and supports people starting and growing businesses.
In the CEC® program, communities identify two entrepreneurship initiatives that will engage and support entrepreneurs. In order to be certified, the community must accomplish tasks outlined on a Score Card for each initiative. The two initiatives Holly Springs launched are:
1) Help local business people find and leverage the business resources that serve Holly Springs; and
2) Develop events and physical planning to make downtown Holly Springs a great place to live, work and play
The “wayfinding resource” is an entrepreneur-specific website. It has a fresh design developed by a Holly Springs firm with navigation menus geared to startups, small businesses, and growth firms.
The site includes official information from the Town of Holly Springs related to permits and zoning and from the State of North Carolina about licenses and regulations for firms in various industries. It includes the courses, seminars and business coaching offered by nearby community college and university business counselors. It lists the publicly-backed capital providers. And, it includes some interesting web-based tools and information sites the team found that can assist entrepreneurs anywhere in the U.S.
When the content is complete in draft form, the team will conduct focus groups with Holly Springs entrepreneurs to test it out and provide detailed feedback. The changes will be incorporated into the site which will launch under its official name in January 2018.
Then in 2018, agencies providing resources to entrepreneurs will “step off the page” one at a time and bring their content to Holly Springs entrepreneurs in various venues around town. The other component in the works is recruiting local entrepreneurs to volunteer as mentors to help people using the website take the content and apply it.
The entrepreneurs and town leaders who volunteered for the downtown initiative are taking both a short-term and a long- term approach to downtown development. The short-term plan is to create buzz downtown with lively events, starting with RaceFest in November 2017. The long-term plan is to work with the town planning office on mixed-use residential and commercial development and a walkable promenade in the Village District.
The RaceFest idea was inspired by the local running club’s plans to hold a half-marathon on Saturday, November 18, 2017. In addition to the race itself, RaceFest will include local businesses, artisans, food trucks, live music, a bounce house for children and a beer garden for adults. Holly Springs High School will participate through its jazz band, the a capella choir, and student volunteers at the event.
The CEC® work team divided responsibilities to manage various details. A local graphic artist developed a colorful banner design for the event, an architect prepared the event map, and a brewer is planning the beer garden. The Town of Holly Springs economic development staff coordinated with colleagues in public safety, transportation and parks and recreation on specific logistics, including mobilizing volunteers for the day of the event. The Holly Springs chamber of commerce is coordinating the vendor booths for artisans and other local businesses.
The objectives for RaceFest are:
1) To bring Holly Springs residents downtown on Saturday for an event for the whole family
2) To raise awareness of local business owners and artisans
3) To build capacity for collaborative event planning among entrepreneurs, local government and other partners
What is different in Holly Springs a year after the CEC® leadership team started? They have developed new leaders and leadership skills. They can self-organize around goals, tapping into the strengths of entrepreneurs and the strengths of the economic development partners. Their work is demonstrating what they want the town culture to be known for, which is open, collaborative and forward looking.
If you are interested in how your community can become entrepreneur-ready, check out the CEC® website or talk with Irena Krstanovic in Holly Springs or Victoria Hanson in Amherst County, VA. Amherst County will complete their certification later this year. Look for a blog post outlining Amherst County’s two entrepreneurship initiatives soon!