Kendra Jensen is a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration. She is currently working with the Kerr-Tar Council of Governments through the Carolina Economic Revitalization Corps (CERC)
Late last month, master barber and Vance County resident and business owner Eric Cheek competed in the Bronner Brothers Barber Battle. Drawing a crowd of nearly 50,000 to Atlanta, Cheek, along with other master barbers, competed and was recognized for his creativity, skill and innovation in barbering techniques during the invitation-only event. Attending the event and marketing his talent outside of the local area were two goals Mr. Cheek had when starting his business with support from the Kerr-Tar COG’s Revolving Loan Fund Program.
An earlier post discussed how the Revolving Loan Fund program is essential in closing the financing gap that exists for many small business owners when they are unable to meet conventional financing requirements. For owners Eric and Jasmine Cheek, the fund was significant in opening E-Clips Barber and Beauty Center in 2005, which now employs an average of six to eight staff. Mr. Cheek always intended to expand his business beyond the typical barber shop and create a brand based on his innovative styles, engagement in competitive barbering and desire to educate those entering the career of barbering. His recognition at last month’s event as one of the top five barbers in the nation reflects his success in meeting business goals. National recognition and success in the competitive barbering arena also serves to expand his business by increasing its popularity and marketability.
Mr. and Mrs. Cheek’s use of the RLF was for the start-up of a new business and they have succeeded in expanding their business beyond their original intent. However, many business owners seek to expand their businesses in more traditional terms (number of jobs, scope of service) after several years of operation. For businesses hoping to expand in a traditional sense while also incorporating innovation as Mr. Cheek did, the NC Rural Center offers a unique option to help support new endeavors. The Rural Venture Fund assists in funding pre-existing businesses with a demonstrated ability to create new jobs or invest in their communities. Similar to the terms of a typical RLF, the Rural Venture Fund offers loans with less stringent terms than traditional financing options. The fund focuses on businesses located in Tier 1 Counties, but also makes investments in businesses located in Tier 2 Counties. The Rural Venture Fund has invested more than three million dollars and is expected to generate 438 jobs by 2014.
Mr. Cheek’s recent involvement in the Bronner Brothers Barber Battle is one example of success among RLF recipients. For those who have experienced success and wish to expand their business, the Rural Center offers a unique opportunity for financing expansion. Mr. Cheek is already well-respected as an innovator in the barbering industry, as he is known in the barbering community as the first creator of haircuts involving portraits. Now his professionalism and small-business success in Vance County are gaining him a new kind of respect for his positive contributions to the community and the local economy.