Small businesses are anything but small. They are where we go for takeout and date night, and where we buy our gifts for loved ones. Think Davisons Steaks and Ted’s Flower Basket. They employ our friends, family members and neighbors. They are responsible for the character of our community, and for rural communities across the state.

Entrepreneurs are the people who bring to life the restaurants, stores, venues and services we all love and are accustomed to. Think Smoke and Barrel, High Cotton Couture, Sugarneck wedding and event venue and Sellers Automotive for car repair service. They need our support now, more than ever. According to the North Carolina Rural Center, “In North Carolina, 95% of all business entities have between two and 50 employees, which accounts for 44% of all employment in the state.”

We know that businesses across all sectors and geography have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Rural Center also tells us that entrepreneurs of color will bear a disproportionate share of the burden. We all know the need is great, but it’s time for us to step up and take action. Shopping local is an important way to support our community.

In comes the Chamber of Commerce. An opportunity for all businesses, regardless of race, gender or size to come together to network, learn and grow. A way for all business owners to get involved in the community.

Additionally, the Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center and Downtown Sanford Incorporated, have developed a Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs program. RISE aims to teach entrepreneurs the skills needed to be successful in business. An independent RISE Review committee, consisting of small business owners and financial professionals determine the program participant who presents the best business plan at the end of the 8-class course. While Fall 2021 RISE applications have closed, be on the lookout for “Meet a RISE Graduate” videos on the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page to learn more about the businesses who have completed the program, and prepare yourself to apply for the program in the Spring.

This past week, several Chamber Board members and myself took to the streets and visited several of our small businesses, to include Dura Built — Sanford, Dogwood State Bank, House of Lights, Rogue Custom Kote and the Eyelight Coffee and Comic Shop. Joe Clancy, owner of Express Employment Professionals and Chamber Board Chair, along with Michele Bullard of First Bank and Chamber Membership Chair were able to learn more about these small businesses and how to best support them.

Are you a small business in need of networking opportunities and support? Call me at 919-775-7341 x 1502 so that we can discuss Chamber membership for your business or organization.