Be Inspired | Be Good
Bart Smith, the Director of the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center (RRSBDC), has an impressive resume that ranges from UPS Store owner to town councilman to flight instructor. He has held a lot of positions, all of which allow him to effectively advise businesses in Southwest Virginia. He works with Tom Tanner and Christina Garnett in the Chamber of Commerce in downtown Roanoke.
Bart grew up in Radford, Virginia, attended the University of Tennessee, worked in Vermont for a winter, and then moved to North Carolina where he lived for seventeen years. During his time there, he opened his first The UPS Store on the Outer Banks in 1999 and his second location in 2004 before selling them both in 2011. Bart and his wife moved to the mountains and eventually they ended up in Roanoke.
The environment of Roanoke, which has Bart most excited, is beginning to experience a Renaissance. The economy is improving, jobs are being created, businesses are spending money, and there is a lot of momentum pushing Roanoke further. Plus with Deschutes building a production facility in Roanoke and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute doubling in size and creating more big jobs, Roanoke is becoming more desirable and people are moving into the valley.
Bart shares great advice for people who are considering starting a business in Roanoke or considering expanding their business. The first thing you need to do, he says, is to do your homework. Is the market big enough to support your idea or is the niche too small for you to survive? Start by talking with who you believe your customer base is. Tell them your product, what you plan to offer, and then close your mouth to listen to their feedback. Put your ego aside because the customer can help you define your idea and get you where you need to be. Then, apply what you learn to your product, service, or goods and go back to talk to more people. If you discover your idea is not going to work, you need to learn from your mistakes, figure out a new direction, and keep moving forward.
Finally, Bart explains the definition of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are the people who jump off a cliff and build an airplane on their way down.
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