Those announcements about big-name companies coming to North Carolina grab headlines and garner attention, but NC IDEA President and CEO Thom Ruhe suggests that it’s the small businesses that deserve the fanfare.
Ruhe did a little quick math on Tuesday’s Town Talk and told John C. Rose that each new business, on average, creates five jobs. And in 2020, North Carolina had more than 7,000 new company filings than it did in 2019. You don’t need a calculator to know that, on average, those new companies created 35,000 jobs.
It’s that “army of entrepreneurs,” Ruhe said, that have a tremendous impact on the economy.
Ruhe and NC IDEA identify, support and promote entrepreneurs and their visions for creating new companies. NC IDEA and its 60 business partners help companies get off the ground, grow and thrive in today’s economy. The $50,000 Seed Grant program and $10,000 Micro Grant program are two streams of “free money” for new companies.
But it’s not just money that NC IDEA is concerned about. “Anybody brave enough to do that,” Ruhe said of those who start their own business, should also have access to resources and networking opportunities to accelerate the company’s growth.
Sometimes, especially in rural communities, if the last big employer packs up and moves away, employees are faced with having to move or do something else. That “something else” could develop into an entrepreneurial passion, he said. This “survival” entrepreneurship often leads to a journey of discovery, he added.
In the spring funding cycle that just ended, Ruhe said NC IDEA funded 50 companies in the state – 80 percent of which were for entrepreneurs representing underserved communities.
Last year, NC IDEA created a Black Entrepreneurship Council and gave the group $500,000 to decide how to advance this particular group of entrepreneurs.
Ruhe said he was breaking news on Town Talk by announcing that a second $500,000 would be headed their way next year.
Ruhe has been on the job at NC IDEA a little more than five years. In his time there, he has seen the organization be more intentional about focusing on areas outside the traditional entrepreneurial hot zones like the Research Triangle and Charlotte area.
It has not been an easy balancing act, but NC IDEA is committed to process improvement – and finding the money to put behind their vision.
An entrepreneur needs perseverance, and critical-thinking skills to looks at problems as opportunities, he said, and obstacles not as roadblocks but something to figure a way around
A person with an entrepreneurial mindset, he said, is an active participant in life, and puts aside the notion that life is just something that happens to him or her. It’s not a TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) mindset. It’s a TGIM mindset – Thank Goodness It’s Monday – “I’m ready to go out and engage the world again,” Ruhe said.
For more details and TownTalk with Thom Ruhe, please click play.