Odom Springs

Local Wineries & Distilleries

For those who enjoy the occasional drink, the kind that’s a bit stronger than good ole’ sweet tea, there are a number of fantastic wineries and distilleries in the Blairsville-Union County area. Establishments like these are uniquely suited to thrive here, as our area was recently named an American Viticultural Area (AVA) – a distinction carried by regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma. Most of the vineyards frequently host fun events and live music, so there’s plenty to do while you visit. From whiskey with deep roots in the area’s history to luxury vineyards & resorts with European flare, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. Here are a few of the vineyards and distilleries close by:

Granddaddy Mimms Moonshine Distillery
GranddaddyMimms

 

 

 

Odom Springs Vineyards
Odom Springs Vineyard_small

 

 

 

 

Paradise Hills
PHW_no date

 

 

 

 

 

Hightower Creek
Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 1.48.06 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Crane Creek
Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 1.48.24 PM


 

 

 

Learn more about the wineries & distilleries in Blairsville-Union County here.

ButternutCreekFest-Hopkins

2017 Butternut Creek Festival

Here in Blairsville, celebrating local and regional artists and craftsmen is  a big deal. Around this time each year, you can find over 65 of these artisans showcasing their work at the Butternut Creek Festival. The two day festival, held at Meeks Park, features works in a variety of categories, including basketry, fine art, fabric art, decorative painting, glass, jewelry, metal working, photography, pottery, scrimshaw, and woodturning.

While the Butternut Creek Festival is an excellent opportunity for these incredibly talented artisans to share and sell their works to the public, it’s also a fun and inviting event with something for everyone to enjoy. The festival also features fantastic musical entertainment, lots of great food available for purchase, and live art demonstrations. There are also a number of local nonprofits exhibiting that you can learn more about at the event.

The festival, which has been designated a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event since 2009, takes place on July 15 & 16 from 10 am to 5 pm at Meeks Park. Admission and parking are free and shuttles are available to get you from parking to the festival. Learn more at www.visitblairsvillega.com/fun-things-to-do-in-blairsville-ga/festivals/.

twitter iphone

Preparing for Social Media Lift-Off, Part 1

You are just a few days away from opening your business, and the punch list seems to grow. It’s late at night, and you can’t sleep. You rise, grab a hot cup of tea, and open up your laptop. It just dawned on you that you need a Facebook page for your business.

Though it is never too late to take such action, you can certainly take steps to avoid this situation.

Let’s rewind the scenario.

The calendar indicates that your scheduled launch date is in three months. Your business plans are just starting to take shape. It’s 6am on Saturday morning, you’ve risen early and the kids are still in bed. The hour is peaceful and quiet, except in your head. The clattering of ideas for preparing for your business adventure is making such a racket. You decide to open your laptop and prepare to begin executing your marketing plan by taking the first bite of the social media elephant.

This morning you are going to focus on which platforms of social media you are going to use to market your business and create your brand. Let’s start by looking at local businesses and seeing where they are having the most success.

The little country store out near the state park has nearly 7500 followers on Facebook. How is that possible? They post something nearly every day, not necessarily about their business, but by their business. They typically post three videos a month, and they average 1500 views each.

Impressive.

You are not opening a country store, but you are launching a service business, one with several competitors in the tri state area. You now search them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. You look for the following:

  • How many followers do they have?
  • What are they posting about?
  • Are their posts mostly internal (company-based) news, blog posts and articles; mostly external news, blog posts and articles; or a mix of both?
  • What’s their brand voice?
  • How often do they post?
  • How many likes/comments/shares do they get per post?
  • Do they run any polls, contests or fun games with their brand?

Today you’ve done your research, and you can now decide which social media platforms you want to set up on before your launch in 3 months.

Saturday morning, one month later.

Now it’s time to design your guidelines for your social media do’s and don’ts. As you grow, you won’t have time to be the only one posting for your business. This is the time to iron out what your plan is and how it is to be executed, so you are prepared to hand it off when the time comes. Your social media helper will be able to follow the method to secure your branding in the ways that you have intended.

Begin designing your guidelines by asking these questions.

  • Does your brand refer to itself as “we” or “I”?
  • Are any words off-limits?
  • Does your brand have a political leaning? How comfortable is your company with offending followers of a different political leaning?
  • Will you respond to comments and how often? We can’t impress on you enough how important this decision is when you begin the social media marketing journey. How do you respond to reviews, even negative ones? What tone will you use to address negative comments? (There will be haters. It’s a public forum after all.) Are you apologetic, is your policy to address or ignore? Just as importantly, how quickly will you pledge to respond to positive remarks and reviews?
  • If your social media account were a person, what would he or she do for fun? How would he or she talk? What wisdom do they want to impart? Do they have a pet or another animate object that can be the business mascot?

Here at Blairsville-Union County Chamber of commerce, we analyze our social media impact every single day. We look forward to sharing your business with our followers. Stay tuned for Part #2 of our preparation list. Are you getting excited about making your dream come true?

BACK

old-wooden-signboard-913-1170

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

A few months ago, as you were on your way into town, you noticed that your neighbors had two pickup trucks in their driveway with three workmen entering the house with boxes. You didn’t slow down to read the logo on the side of the trucks, lest they think you a nosey neighbor. By the time you came home that night, the trucks were gone. What you did notice that evening was a yard sign indicating that “A Walk on the Woods” was proud to announce they were installing new wood flooring in your neighbor’s home.

A couple evenings later, while walking Goliath, your 150 lb. mastiff (he being the main reason you even have to consider pulling up the carpeting and putting down wood floors), you happen upon your neighbors. He’s pruning his bushes, while his pregnant wife is sitting in the shade, supervising. You remark that you couldn’t help noticing the sign in their yard, and you wondered if they would recommend this business, and more importantly, would they use them again. The neighbor chuckles and tells you you’re the 5th neighbor who has stopped to ask him this same question. He indicated they were going to ask the flooring manager for a commission.

And why shouldn’t they get one? Their yard has been used to house a billboard for the flooring company’s business. That billboard, all 24×36 inches of it, cost the flooring company $25. Installation of the sign took 30 seconds. Seven days later, as they had promised to do when their client agreed they could post the sign, they came back and removed the sign. When they came to pick up the sign, no one answered their knock on the door. They left a “thank you” card and a bottle of wood floor cleaning liquid. The bottle of cleaner had a sticker on the back with the flooring company’s logo, their contact information and a quote that expresses how much they appreciate referrals.

About a month later, you are in the parking lot of your favorite fast food joint. You realize that the truck parked next to you has the “A Walk on the Woods” logo, along with their phone number. There’s also a little camera icon, and the words “shoot me with your cell phone, and call us when you need us”.

“Wow,” you think. “This is much easier than writing their number with my finger in the dirt on the trunk of my car.”

“A Walk on the Woods” has invested in their marketing wisely. First, they came up with a creative name that most people will not only remember, but will likely share the clever moniker with others.  Secondly, they invested $25 in a yard sign for each of their installers to carry with them, installing them on the customer’s lawn. They secured permission to do this in writing at the time the customer signs the agreement to purchase.  Then, they not only make sure that they are there to pick up the sign at the end of the seventh day, but they add a token of their appreciation, which of course, also has a sign on it. They’ve also invested wisely in moving billboards, having vehicles with their logo and contact info, and even ensuring that potential clients will take that information home with them via their cell phones.

Yesterday, you drove by that same neighbor’s house. This time there were pink balloons on the mailbox, signifying that there was a baby girl born to the lovely young couple. Standing in the yard was a large wooden cut out of a stork. Hanging from its beak was a basket of pink silk flowers. At his feet was a yard sign that read, “Amy’s Flower Pot just delivered this baby girl a welcoming bouquet”.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

Looking for more great ideas to grow your business? Check out our schedule of workshops on our website at  http://www.visitblairsvillega.com/blairsville-union-county-chamber/chamber-programs/

Back

customer service

Growing Without New Customers

Most small businesses spend more energy and expense trying to enlist new customers than they do trying to retain those who have already chosen to do business with them. Depending on what industry you are in, research indicates that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5% to 25% more costly than keeping an existing one.

But how does a business grow by focusing on retaining the same customers? The answer is by focusing on growing their goods and services for their existing customers. Let’s take a look at Apple. In 1976, when they first introduced their computer technology, they targeted the graphic art industry. Around the world, graphic artists would only own a “Mac”. Next came the Apple printer, the Apple Powerbook, the IBook, the IMac and within 25 years there were ten generations of the IPod. At 32 years they introduced the IPhone and then the IPad.  

Granted, those original graphic artists haven’t been the only customer base for this zillion dollar company, but most of those original customers are still buying that brand exclusively. From the very beginning Apple kept a record of every customer who bought their product, and continued to give them the customer support they needed to win their loyalty. Once they secured that allegiance, they then had a base to sell each new product and service, year after year. That has led to generation after generation.

As a small business owner in our mountainside community, securing loyalty is just as important to your growth as it has been to Apple. Every customer that does business with you, or even inquiries about your goods and services, should become part of your business family. You should secure their email address and any other contact information they will share. If you can’t get their birthday, then note the date they first did business with you and email them a Happy Anniversary card, for they joined your business family 1 year ago, 5 years ago and before you know it, 25 years ago.

Though some industries have found loyalty programs (buy 5 cups of coffee and get your next beverage purchase free) to be quite beneficial in customer retainage, most small businesses can secure that same loyalty by treating their customers like family. Keep in touch. Share good news. Let them always know how much you appreciate their business. Always thank them profusely when you know that they have referred business your way. Reach out to them if you know they are at a crossroad in their lives, such as sickness or other devastating challenge.

Keeping this database also gives you the opportunity to track your churn rate, or those customers that no longer do business with you. By understanding who has left the fold and why, you’ll be better able to serve your loyal customers and your new clients. You will begin to understand the roadblocks of your business and you can begin to unlock the value of your product to more customers.

Your client database is where you first introduce new goods and services. How does a small business grow their goods and services like Apple? By listening to the needs of your satisfied customers as well as understanding why some customers have left you, you’ll be able to identify how best to grow and develop. If you clean carpets, but you are asked often if you can clean and repair leather furniture, you now have a direction to grow. If you install white picket fences, but find that your past customers’ only dissatisfaction is that they can’t find someone to pressure wash, paint and repair them, there’s an additional service on the horizon. If you serve a mean grilled cheese sandwich, and your servers tell you that they often get asked if you serve tomato soup or chili with that sandwich, it’s time to consider adding these to your menu.

And remember to always let the Chamber know of your growth, as well. We want to share your evolution with the community.

Back

idea plan action

Launching from the Mountain Tops

You may have been dreaming about your new business for the past twenty years, but in order to launch that vision successfully, there are certain steps to cover.

Revising Your Business Plan. Ok, we are assuming you’ve created a detailed business plan. Before you execute that plan, it’s time to share it with experts in the community in order to get their valuable feedback. Chamber staff, a CPA, a loan officer, a retired business owner and a Rotarian will ask you questions you hadn’t previously considered. Now, before you launch, go back to your plan and revise your goals, your expectations and your finances.

Are You The Expert? Fixing lunch boxes for your kids over fifteen years of their schooling does not constitute expertise in operating a sandwich shop. If you are recognizing that you need an expert, start to consider a coach/mentor, a partner or an employee with significant experience and knowledge.

Put It To The Test. The first days, weeks and months are critical to your reputation. You need to refine your model before you hang that “open for business” sign. Talk to people who might be your customers before you launch and get their views and opinions. Let them “taste test” and “test run” your menu of products services. If your list of services includes cleaning bird feeders, and no one indicates they’d likely use that service, nix it from your list. (Now, did you find out what services they would take advantage of that are not on your list?)

Where’s The Bullseye? It’s essential that you have identified, understand and know how to reach your target market. Who is likely to buy your product or contract for your service? How do you best reach these potential customers? How often are they likely to take advantage of your service or repurchase your product? Where are they procuring that product now and what do you need to do differently in order to secure them as your client? The success of your launch hinges on getting customers right out of the gate. You need to accurately project who they are going to be and understand what drives their decisions to purchase. Your starting marketing message needs to convey to them how your offering differentiates from your competition, and what benefits they will receive as your customer.

Identify Your Cash On Hand. “Potential” capital doesn’t count on day one. Ask yourself, will the cash on hand take me through the next six months of expenses without any additional revenue? Is there enough to cover the projected costs of my marketing plan? Will I be able to financially replenish depleted inventory in that period of time?

Are All Your Ducks In A Row? Is your accounting system up and running including your POS system? If you’ve hired employees, are they versed on your entire product line and services? Even if they are in charge of housekeeping, once they are out in their sphere of influence and they mention they work for your business, people will ask them questions. Be sure they have the answers. Is your website fully functional? Is all of your initial marketing in place? Do you have all the proper licensing? Have you considered and taken appropriate action to limit legal and tax implications?

Become a Member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Our Chamber staff is here to help assure that your business isn’t just launched, but that it successfully soars.  

Back

Scottish2

Scottish Festival and Highland Games 2017

It’s June, which means that it’s time for the biggest festival of the year – the Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games! We’ll be highlighting our area’s heritage with traditional games, Highland music and dancing, food with a Scottish flare, and much more! Visit workshops to learn how to play the bagpipes. Discover your “clan” and learn about the rich Scottish roots of the area. Watch animal demonstrations like border collies herding sheep and falcons swooping on their “prey”. Take your wee ones to get their faces painted or go on a train ride. There’s truly something for every member of the family.


The festival kicks off with a concert on Friday, June 9 and continues through Sunday, June 11, so clear your schedule and get over to Blairsville-Union County this weekend! Visit www.blairsvillescottishfestival.org or contact the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce for more details.

startup-photos

The Business of Your Dreams

Three years ago a young mother of four, while homeschooling her children on botany, assigned them to distribute a significant amount of wildflower seed on the empty lot next door. The experiment that began as a learning experience has developed into a lucrative business. The wild flowers bloomed prolifically that spring and early summer. That Mom saw an article in the local paper encouraging those with abundant cut flowers to come out to the Farmer’s Market to sell them. She and her family now raise acres of cut flowers, selling not only at the Market, but to local and regional florists.

A young man needing to earn his own spending money for college the next fall was looking to do anything that wasn’t related to the food industry. He had a special place in his heart for older folks and wanted to serve them and make money, too. He started “Grandson for Rent”. On his own computer he made cards with his picture, contact information and noted in print that he was honest and reliable. His services included handling those jobs around the house that were simple but not designed for those challenged by the aging process. He was willing to clean gutters, wash windows, rake leaves and weed gardens. He went to a neighborhood where he knew many retirees resided and handed his card out door to door. He left for college that following September with more than enough spending money. He also made many new “old” friends who had jobs lined up for him when he returned home on his holiday break.

We often get asked what kind of business the community will support. What business will be the most successful? Our best answer is the business you have the most passion about and are willing to devote your time, energy and capital. Our population is diverse in age and in interests. The influx of tourism throughout our region adds another dimension to potential business opportunities. Because we are located 100 miles from an urban metropolis, there are many opportunities to supply goods and services on a small business scale.

Here are just a few ideas that won’t take a great deal of startup capital yet have the potential to grow into a booming enterprise.

“Know It All”.  Start a home based business, teaching what you know best. Writing, painting and drawing, foreign languages, quilting, yoga, the basics of fine wine or vocal coaching can be taught individually or if space allows, in a group. Want to teach others about the great outdoors? Groups will flock to your birding tours. Waterfall tour guides are always in demand. Collaborate with one of our caterers to pack your tour the perfect picnic lunch. Full service is one important key to success.

“Shuttle Up”. It isn’t just our elderly population who need access to transportation to shopping and medical appointments. Our tourism industry could be tapped as well. Mom wants to shop one day, but Dad wants to take the kids fishing. They only arrived with one vehicle. A shuttle helps solve the dilemma. When not shuttling people, you can also shuttle goods; firewood, groceries, restaurant takeout or laundry.

“Bottle It”. Our region is rich with opportunities to sell your secret formulas. Retail establishments look to stock local products. Craft shows and festivals throughout the region have turned a passion for BBQ into a national bestselling sauce. If you make it, package it and have complied with the local, county and state regulations, you will find a market for it.

“Party Animal”. If all your friends tell you that you throw the best party, chances are others will think so, too. A creative mind can conjure up the ideal fun time for kids of all ages. Boomers are waiting for someone to create a 60th birthday party with a disco theme. Destination gatherings aren’t just for weddings. Our mountains seem to be where people like to reunite. A good weekend coordinator can serve family, sorority, fraternity, armed service and employee reunions.

“Glamping”. Visitors to our area are continually looking for a unique opportunity to experience the magic of the mountains and the great outdoors. Yet, not everyone wants to pitch a tent and eat beans out of a can. Adding the right combination of glamour and camping could find your unique accommodations destination garnering attention on the international travel blogs. Did someone mention Creekside yurts?

Whether your idea for a business is traditional or unconventional, our Chamber of Commerce will be an essential key to your success. Call us at 877-745-5789 for an appointment to brainstorm your idea with our staff.

Back to Dream 

Photo courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Guest Blog: Jesica Clemmons of Sunrise Grocery

I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, but it always seemed as if my heart was born in the mountains. My mom and dad used to bring me to the mountains of North Georgia every chance they got; sometimes it was to hike & other times it was just to have a break from the chaos that always surrounded us. I found a comfort in that peace that we received when traveling for a weekend getaway. I loved it so much that when I turned sixteen and got my license, I would often come up to Blairsville for a hike and to see all the beautiful scenery rather than hang out in the city.

My love for these mountains and the town of Blairsville ended up building the path for me meeting my future husband. So, not only did I snag the perfect guy for me, but I also ended up living in what is for me, Heaven on earth. Not a bad deal, huh? These mountains and the town of Blairsville gave me the love of my life, an amazing job working at the oldest business in the county, and many great friends in my new hometown. Not to mention, I don’t have to drive up anymore for a weekend getaway. My weekends are now much more laid back and fun-filled.

Photo courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Photo courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Jason and I feel so lucky to live here. We live in a spot where most people come for vacation, and they come with good reason. We try to use every free moment we have to explore. Most evenings after we close Sunrise, we take a drive around our mountain town to take in the views. Rather than sit in traffic, we take in the fresh mountain air. We both always say it is better than sitting at home watching T.V.  We usually either drive up to Brasstown Bald and look for all the bears along the way or we drive up Richard Russell to watch the sky change into an array of colors from the setting sun.

Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Of course, the weekends are our favorite and are never dull. On Saturdays we are at the historic Sunrise Grocery all day. Luckily, Sunrise isn’t just a job for us, we absolutely love being there. We sell Jason’s photography, my mother in law’s knitting, my homemade soap, and lots of local goodies like jams, jellies, honey and t-shirts. So, it’s all fun things and fun people. We get to catch up with a lot of locals who come in to see us, and we also get to meet many new people from all over who are here visiting.  We strike up the fire for our boiled peanuts pretty early and from there it is usually pretty nonstop dipping up peanuts and chatting with our customers all day. It’s never a bad day at the office.

On Sundays we are able to take some time off and usually take full advantage of all this beautiful place has to offer. Sometimes we set out pretty early, as in four o’clock in the morning. Jason is a photographer and I am a nature lover so we will occasionally go somewhere to catch the sunrise. One of our favorite places is Brasstown Bald, which is the highest spot in Georgia. We’ll get up, make a BIG pot of coffee to throw in a thermos, and head out the door to hike up to the tower. A time or two we have been above the clouds and it is unbelievable! What beauty! We watch the clouds below us turn a golden orange before the sun peaks over them. One thing is for sure, we have never regretted getting up early to see a sunrise. As a matter of fact, it is a pretty amazing way to start the day.

Photo Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Photo Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

We’re not always so ambitious when it comes to getting up early, but we definitely are both eager to get out of the house to go find some fun. Whether it is going to grab coffee at Cabin Coffee, popping into Sunrise to say hello, or head up to Mountain Crossings to check out their outdoor gear or walk a little of the Appalachian Trail, we make our rounds and then find something to do outside. A lot of times we’ll head to Helton Creek waterfall, especially if we have just had a good rain or if it snows. Other times we may go to Vogel State Park for a picnic or to walk around the lake. Vogel is both mine and Jason’s favorite state park in Georgia. You just can’t beat the view there with the lake and mountains as its backdrop. I got to say, it is a great place for a date. We went on one of our first dates there and we have the photo Jason took of the waterfall that day hanging in our room.

In the evening, we sometimes head to town to go out to eat at one of the restaurants. We have a lot of great places to eat in Blairsville so we usually just take turns going to different places. Other times we’ll go hike up to Wildcat to watch the sun go down. It is by far the absolute best place to catch a sunset that I’ve ever been to. It’s a pretty small hike, maybe about a mile, and the view is more than worth every step. It’s a great place to take a picnic or bottle of wine, sit out on the rock and toast to a stunning sunset.

Blairsville Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival 2017

Blairsville Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival 2017

This Memorial Day weekend, celebrate arts, crafts, and music from around our region at the annual Blairsville Arts, Crafts, & Music Festival! Taking place on Blairsville’s historic Town Square, there will be over 60 arts and crafts vendors to visit, yummy mountain fair food available for purchase, and lots of great bluegrass, gospel, and country music for you to enjoy. While you’re downtown, be sure to stop in the quaint shops and delicious restaurants on the square.

The Blairsville Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival will take place from 10am to 5pm on May 27th and 28th. Learn more about the festival at www.visitblairsvillega.com/fun-things-to-do-in-blairsville-ga/festivals/.