The Richmond County Chamber of Commerce partnered with chambers in Scotland, Moore and Hoke counties to kick-off its regional Entrepreneur Network with an event at Hudson Brothers Deli in Rockingham Tuesday night.
While introducing entrepreneur and guest speaker Jerome Davis, who owns five McDonald’s stores including the Rockingham location, Chamber President Emily Tucker explained the purpose of the network to bring together entrepreneurs from the region.
“There are lots of people in this room who can be a resource for you,” Tucker said. “There are people in this room who are entrepreneurs who have already started their own business, and there are people who want to start their own business. The idea is to bring everyone together in the same room so they can learn from each other.”
When Davis spoke, he shared his experiences going from a short order cook to the owner of five stores with 275 employees. He credited his passion for the business with his rise.
“What’s the most important thing that a person who wants to start their own business should know,” Davis asked the audience, and waited for several replies. “… The most important thing a person who wants to start their own business should know is exactly what you want.”
He said he started with McDonald’s in 1983, but people still ask him if he still works at McDonald’s to this day.
“I might be moving up with McDonald’s, but it’s like they think I’m still back there working on the grill,” he joked. “I have a real passion for the business. I enjoy it. I’m sometimes amazed that I get paid to do what I do … I always wanted to be a part of this huge, amazing monster that can turn communities around.”
The passion he’s enjoyed in business didn’t come without a price, though.
“When my oldest son was coming along, I missed a lot of his life,” Davis said. “That’s one of the regrets that I have about starting my own business, because if you want to be a business owner there’s no way around putting your time in. You’ve got to put the time in to be successful.”
Once an entrepreneur has identified their desired business and put in their time, Davis said their vision of commerce becomes more refined.
“Then, you start to learn what’s behind that dollar,” Davis said. “You start to ask yourself, when the customer gives me a dollar, how much of that dollar is mine. You might say, ‘All of it,’ but that’s not the case. You have expenses you have to pay, and only a very small portion of that dollar is actually yours.”
The advice Davis offered other entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs in the audience was to give it their all.
“First, you have to be a student of what you do,” Davis said. “Then, you have to be a teacher of what you do, and, then, you have to know it backwards and forwards, inside-out and know everything about it.”
N.C. Rural Center Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship Director Leslie Scott said the Entrepreneur Network is an excellent way to bring diverse personalities from the business world together to explore mutually beneficial relationships.
“From our standpoint, we serve 85 rural counties, so if four of them want to work together it makes it a lot easier to help them,” Scott said. “Also, entrepreneurs know that business is regional, it’s not local … Here we are, in a room full of small business owners, talking about small business, listening to a small business owner tell us how he became successful, and at the same time we’re supporting a small business here in Rockingham by holding the event here.”
Entrepreneur Steve Radford is planning to close on a Hamlet retail business this summer, and said learned some things he needs to know at the event.
“When you talk to other entrepreneurs, you learn a lot of things you may not have realized,” Radford said. “For example, things like customer preferences in the area you’re going to serve. For someone like me, who is coming from somewhere else, that’s important stuff to know. There are just so many resources available, and I also really enjoy hearing the point of view of someone who owns his own business.
“It’s just like with my business - I’d love to expand at some point, and being here and hearing someone talk about how they expanded their business could really help.”