Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Macon County and as a Certified Entrepreneurial Community, (CEC) small business growth and start ups have come to call Macon County home. Highlighting the entrepreneurial environment of the community, Macon County’s Economic Development Commissioner worked with the Certified Entrepreneur Community Leadership Team to establish an annual Young Entrepreneur of the Year award as part of the EDC’s annual BizWeek celebration. In its inaugural year, the Young Entrepreneur of the Year was awarded to Jacob Reiche, who owns and operates Smart Pharmacy.
“One of the main purposes of the recognition is to highlight the contributions from a growing number of younger entrepreneur start ups,” said Macon County EDC Director Tommy Jenkins. “These folks are helping grow a new economy in Macon County with new found energy and excitement.
This year, the EDC received 15 nominations, which were narrowed to the five finalists by the CEC Leadership Team. THE CEC Leadership Team will also be responsible for selecting the 2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
The five finalists were featured in an exceptional announcement video produced by Paul Garner with Render Media Group and Ben Walker of Backlot Cinema.
“I am truly honored to have been selected as a Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist,” said Morris. “I appreciate all of the hard work the Macon County EDC does for business owners and am proud to be part of the business community.”
While Franklin Health and Fitness has been serving residents in Western North Carolina since August 1988, Morris began working for the gym in 2008 as the assistant manager. He quickly worked his way up the ranks to General Manager and in 2012, he bought the business.
“I saw an opportunity for growth and expansion at the fitness center,” Morris said of his decision to become a business owner in Macon County. “Macon County is an incredible place to live and having the opportunity to be part of the business community is something I couldn’t pass up.”
Morris noted that the biggest reward of being a small business owner is being able to be part of the community. “Having a small business is so much more than just running things from day to day,” said Morris. “I am fortunate to be part of the community and be able to use the fitness center as a way to give back, while providing jobs for 50 people in Macon County.”
Community projects Morris has made a priority through Franklin Health and Fitness include sponsoring youth league basketball and baseball teams, partnering with the Franklin High School Swim Team, and sponsoring the Read2Me Story Walks. “My business gives me the opportunity to support a community that has supported my family’s business for nearly three decades. Being able to do that means the world to me.”
Although Franklin Health and Fitness is celebrating its 28th year of business this year, Morris’ entrepreneurial spirit continues to drive him to not only improve the existing facility, but to also look at expansion options.
“We spent most of 2015 completing major renovation projects at the fitness center, upgrading the facility, improving our services and programs to meet the needs of our members, and just changing our model to meet the needs of our community,” he said. “This year, I am looking at ways to even further expand my business footprint in Macon County and beyond. The more we grow and improve as a business, the better equipped we are to provide jobs for our friends and neighbors, and that’s what being a small business owner is all about.”
“I feel honored to be nominated,” said Crabtree. “All of the nominees are great people and great leaders in our community and to think I might be on the same level as them makes me feel great.”
Crabtree owns Crabtree Family Enterprise, which was started at the end of 2013. “Our first business was Motor Co. Grill, a ’50s/’60s themed diner on Main Street,” said Crabtree. “Quickly after that we acquired Main Street Storage as well. Our newest venture is Crabtree General Store and Coffee Vault opened in November of 2015. It is an old fashioned general store with toys, old fashioned candy, local jams and jellies, soaps, and many other unique items. We also have a full coffee shop with a lounge.”
Crabtree had his eyes set on the county line after graduating high school, but soon changed his mind.
“I grew up in Macon County and honestly thought I would move away and stay away after high school,” he said. “I quickly learned that Macon County was a great place to live and moved back shortly after college. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of professional opportunities in the area. We hope to continue growing and opening new businesses to provide as many jobs as possible.”
Crabtree’s favorite part of being a small business owner in Macon County is the personal aspect that allows him to interact with the community daily.
“I love being able to talk to people on a daily basis,” he said. “We have many tourists and many locals that come through and I get to meet and talk to new people regularly. It is nice to know that we help people enjoy themselves while being in Franklin.”
With Crabtree General Store and Coffee Vault being less than six months old, he is focusing on stabilizing the new venture while still looking toward the future.
“This year my focus is on our current businesses,” said Crabtree. “I want to make what we have as good as possible. Our town events are improving and I want to be a part of that. But, we will have new things coming soon.”
“It is a sign of the growing times in Franklin that there is such a strong slate of young entrepreneurs who are each engaged in vital and vibrant businesses in town,” said McIntee. “It is an honor to be listed among my peers and colleagues who have also committed to making this town such a wonderful place to live.”
Beyond Bending Yoga is a yoga studio offering group and private instruction as well as providing related classes and a community space for health and wellness. It started in 2013 when McIntee was living in Buffalo, N.Y., and began practicing more as an independent contractor. As classes and availability grew, so did the business.
“When I moved to Franklin in 2014, I moved the business and quickly established it with a following of people looking for an authentic community to learn and grow in a yoga practice,” she said. “Within a few months, I had found a permanent home on Main Street downtown where the studio still is today.”
With Yoga being a huge part of her everyday life, when McIntee moved to Franklin, she saw an opportunity to do something she loves, while filling a void in the area.
“Teaching and leading yoga as a way of maintaining lifelong fitness has been something I have loved for years now,” said McIntee. “Macon County presented a unique opportunity for me to not only bring my love of yoga but to establish a studio in an area where residents were still traveling out of the county to find the nearest yoga class. The early response was overwhelming and I was quickly validated in my decision to move from private and semi-private classes to a full-fledged studio again.”
McIntee’s studio provides her the unique opportunity to work closely with people in the community, which she considers to be the best part of being a small business owner.
“Working directly with people and impacting their lives is one of my greatest joys,” said McIntee. “I try to know all of the students by name and I encourage that same approach in the instructors who work for me. Establishing this yoga community, employing qualified yoga instructors, and bringing a valuable need to the community is incredibly rewarding. I continue to enjoy connecting with the community whether that is through a community class at the library, a walking class on the Greenway, or by mentoring a Franklin High School student on a senior project.”
Another benefit of being a small business owner is the chance to help other small businesses. McIntee uses her studio as a hub for other small businesses. From meditation jewelry to healthy snack options with Happy Go Lucky Foods to other alternative health options such as Essential Oils, McIntee opens her studios for other small business owners to sell their products and services.
After a little more than a year doing business in Franklin, McIntee is looking at potential growth options for the studio.
“We are moving into a stable period of growth as a business and we look forward to establishing ourselves in the community,” she said. “The first years are difficult as many new things are being tried with varying levels of success. Now that we have been here through a few seasons, we are growing into a period where we can offer more classes and styles. Through April we have an ‘unlimited pass’ and we are bringing yoga out of the studio space and into community space as we hold classes on the Greenway, at the library, and at Lazy Hiker Brewing Company.”
“I want to thank the Macon County EDC for honoring me with this nomination and want them to know that the best is yet to come,” said Murphy. “I’d like to take Arrowood and the Bowery to new heights, bring more business to our area and create more jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Murphy started Arrowood Construction in 2005 after moving to Macon County after graduating from Auburn University in building science. “I’ve always been an outdoor enthusiast and honestly that was the largest draw for me to move to Macon County,” said Murphy. “Coupled with the large amount of second homes and retirees moving here; it made good business sense for a construction company!”
Arrowood is a full service contractor that employs 12 full time employees as well as numerous subs throughout the county. “I started the business when I was 24 and got my first work through other contractors that were too busy to take on the ‘little stuff,’ he said. “Now, we are major contenders in Franklin and Highlands for construction work. I contribute that to hard work, client satisfaction and a little bit of luck.”
Murphy noted that as a small business owner, it’s rewarding to hear his friends and neighbors talk about the impact his businesses have had the community.
“The most rewarding part of working in Macon County is getting recognition such as this award for my efforts,” said Murphy. “It’s a small community and to meet people that say they went into the Bowery or Lazy Hiker and tell me that we did an excellent job on those buildings gives me great satisfaction and makes me think that I did something to change the course of our community. I love that Macon County brings people from around the country together to dwell in such a beautiful place, steeped with history and lore.”
“I’m honored to be named a 2016 Young Entrepreneur Finalist,” said Wright. “All of the nominees are fantastic business owners and I’m blessed to be associated with this group.”
MoveMore Fitness is a group personal training company focused on improving the health and wellness of its clients through daily workouts and nutrition support. Founded in 2014, MoveMore started as a way to train a few close friends and has quickly expanded into a community wellness effort with over 60 clients. “Currently, I train clients out of my home gym, at Drake Gym and at the high school track,” said Wright. “I’m blessed with a partnership with Drake Enterprises and offer a weekly bootcamp to their employees.”
Wright started MoveMore after seeing a need for small group training in Macon County. “As with most things in life, having a partner or group to help keep you accountable and to encourage you is invaluable,” said Wright. “I also wanted to create a space where mothers could work out beside their children – I think it sets a great example. I want to spread the message that our bodies were created to move and that exercise is a blessing.”
Watching her clients grow and evolve and being part of their daily lives is what Wright considers the most rewarding part of being a small business owner. “The most rewarding part of being a small business owner in Macon County has been seeing the changes in the lives of people I grew up with,” she said. “Many of my clients were childhood friends. They’re improving their lives through consistent MoveMore workouts and nutrition counseling. I enjoy seeing that progress in our community!”
Moving into her second year of business, Wright has her sights set on expanding her business. “I see a huge need for group training in Macon County,” said Wright. “I have a wait-list of people that want to join MoveMore but currently, I do not have the time or space to meet that need. In the future, I see MoveMore expanding into a larger space with more trainers. In the next few months, I’ll be adding small and large group bootcamps, an Urban Freestyle Fitness program and a mentorship program for up and coming trainers.”
The 2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year will be announced on April 21 at the annual BizWeek Banquet. The banquet is free and open to the public. Registration is required and can be completed by visiting maconedc.com.