Tag Archives: chamber of commerce

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.  


4 Questions with Chris Wadle

Chris Wadle is the Founder and CEO of Lamin-X and Blairsville-Union County’s Chamber Board Chair. We were able to get his insight into running a successful business, maximizing chamber membership, and more!

As a business owner and Chamber Board Chair, you have a unique perspective of how Blairsville-Union County can help business owners achieve their goals. What are some things business owners can do to maximize their membership with the Chamber and relationship with the community?
Achieving goals! That is the key thing for business owners to always have “in their back pocket”. Knowing what they want their business to look like in the most ideal situation and all current goals achieved. Do they want their business to be just one small boutique on the square that provides a small income and a couple part-time employees, a professional service company is only one person that serves this community only, or a manufacturer that wants unlimited potential with dozens of employees? Every business is different with different goals.  Knowing what is wanted from the business can help be a guide into how best utilize the Chambers benefits.  

The Chamber has many events throughout the year that have low-cost sponsorship and advertising opportunities that help with local brand recognition. Which goes a long way here in our tight knit community. These events also allow for excellent networking opportunities with many movers and shakers in the local business community. While it can be a bit awkward and uncomfortable at first, it gets easier the more it’s done and a world of opportunities can begin to open up. One crucial part of running a business is always working on the business, not in it. Which means time has be allocated for learning and development. The Chamber Business Break-out each month is essential to help develop the skills needed to be a successful business owner. A good business person is always learning. These are just a few things that being a Chamber member gives access to that can reap rewards and help to achieve goals.       

What are some things you would like to see happen in the Blairsville-Union County Business Community as well as in the community at-large?
I would love the business community to naturally think of the Chamber as their primary go-to source for business development and problem solving. As mentioned in the previous question, all too often business owners spend all of their time working in their business and not on it. It is lonely sometimes when running a business, so we need all the help we can get. Personally, I feel the Chamber’ role should be to help fill that void and be the main support for Members as they work on their business. By promoting tourism, business development tools, and a resource to help find you the right person to solve business problems, etc… We have to remember that we are all together here in a very small, rural community. We have to lean and support on each other to help us reach personal, business, and community goals.

What are your recommendations for first steps for someone interested in starting or moving a business to Blairsville-Union County? Are there things that these individuals should have ready to roll on their end?
Commitment and Motivation! If you have a strong desire to start a new business here, or to move your business to one of the best places in the USA then you need to commit and motivate to it. Make a conscientious decision to that idea and dream, then convince yourself 100% that it’s a done deal. “I am doing this!”. Establish the goals and then work on it each and every day. Become a Chamber member to get access to other Members that can help you achieve your goals.  When I decided to move my business here, I became a Chamber member through which I was directed to the Union County Development Authority to help me find the ideal location for my new building. This also opened up the opportunity to find low-interest loans through non-banking institutions. Through the networking opportunities with the Chamber, I was able to meet and find a solid team of people to help me accomplish my business and personal goals. All the while helping them achieve theirs. That is the best part about living here is the positive impact that others have on you and vice versa.

What is your idea of a “perfect weekend in Blairsville”?
Almost every weekend seems to be a perfect weekend when living here in Blairsville! After my end of the day on Friday, I love to enjoy a nice dinner with beautiful wife and daughter here at one of the many great restaurants we have. A Saturday would consist of a nice airplane ride out of our awesome local airport to sight-see our beautiful mountains from the sky. Then walk around downtown to check out how the local shops are doing. Then some play-time at Meeks Park with my daughter. A Sunday would be a great time to take a nice drive on the back roads and do some hiking and waterfall seeing on one of the many trails. Then finish it off with some homemade grilled pizza on Sunday night at home while overlooking the mountains and town lights.

Hometown Holiday Shopping Event

The Christmas season is fast approaching, and so is the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday. It seems like the sales, and in some cases the crowds, get crazier every year! While we certainly salute the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping warriors, the local businesses here in Blairsville offer a unique opportunity to get ahead on your Christmas shopping. Just prior to Thanksgiving, the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce hosts a Hometown Holiday Shopping event where patrons to participating business can get a jump start on seasonal shopping. To get your coupons for participating merchants, you can either:

  1. Go to www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com, click on “request a Newsletter” and subscribe to Buy Local Coupons & Events.  The coupons will be emailed to you prior to the Buy Local Holiday Shopping Event Weekend.
  2. Give us a call at 706-745-5789.
  3. Visit the Chamber offices to pick up your coupons.

This year, the Hometown Holiday Shopping event takes place from November 17th-19th. This provides the perfect opportunity for our local retailers to beat the “big guys” to the holiday rush. So, before you wait in the long Black Friday lines or cross your fingers that your internet connection is fast enough on Cyber Monday, make your lists, check them twice, and Buy Local this holiday season!

In addition to the Hometown Holiday Shopping event, the Mountain Regional Arts and Crafts Guild will host their annual Mistletoe Market on November 19th and 20th where you can buy the finest in mountain arts and crafts. Whatever your style of “shop ‘til you drop” might be, Blairsville-Union County has plenty of options during this wonderful season! For more information about these events and more, contact the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce at 1-877-745-5789 or visit us at www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Take 5 with Tommy Drake

allstateThis week’s Take 5 is with Tommy Drake of Allstate. Tommy is a member of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce and is active in the Blairsville Downtown Development Authority. He and his team are eager to assist you with your insurance and financial services needs. Let’s take a moment to get to know him better.

  1. What is your job title and what do you do at your Allstate Agency?

I am the owner of the Enotah Group, an Exclusive Allstate agency. Many people think of us as just insuring cars and houses, but we also offer insurance for businesses and commercial vehicles, builders risk, general liability, umbrella policies, off road vehicles, motorcycles, tractors, boats & collectable vehicles and even pets. We also a full range of financial services including life insurance, retirement savings, mutual funds, IRAs, annuities and college savings plans. We cover Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

  1. What is one of your favorite quotes?

My favorite quote is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emmerson (among others) although many versions of it have been circulated for quite some time:

“Watch your thoughts for they become words, watch your words for they become actions, watch your actions, for they become habits, watch your habits for they become your character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”

  1. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?

A few years back I crossed over into the “dark side” of fifty. This has been a very liberating age – full of changes, challenges and growth. Something happens when you hit the half century mark: you realize that it’s none of your business what other people think of you. When you get that, you’re free to think about other, more productive, things. I’m really enjoying my fifties.

  1. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I’d get my private pilot’s license – something that I’m planning to do in 2015.

  1. Have you ever met a famous person? Who and Where?

About fifteen years ago I met Joan Rivers. She was speaking at a fundraiser for the Orlando Coalition for the Homeless. Many people don’t know what a great motivational speaker she was. And she kept saying that no matter how bad today is, you will wake up tomorrow and it will be different. And she was right. You’ve got to wake up every day and start anew. Otherwise you might miss something wonderful.

To reach Tommy Drake, your local Allstate agent, call (706) 745-4400 or email tommydrake@allstate.com. His office is located at 44-B Town Square, Blairsville, GA 30512.

How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions in Blairsville

BEST-Logo-window Decal (2)January is the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions. Almost all of us have made them at some point in our lives, and probably the same number of us have had trouble keeping them. Not to worry! The Chamber is here to help you make and keep your New Year’s Resolutions while living or visiting Blairsville-Union County.

Resolution #1 – Lose Weight. This is such an easy one for those in Blairsville-Union County. Besides several great fitness centers who offer a variety of indoor equipment and classes, we live in the most perfect area to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Two of my personal favorites are hiking the many wooded trails throughout the county and walking the recreational trails at Meeks Park. No matter what your preference for activity level, Blairsville-Union County offers it all.

Resolution #2 – Save Money. Looking to save money in 2015? The Chamber is happy to help! Saving money begins with shopping local. Not only will you save on gas money, but our members are also always offering great deals. Start by checking out our hot deals on VisitBlairsvilleGA.com. You can sign up to have them sent directly to your email as they are posted. Also consider signing up for our Buy Local Coupons and Events newsletter that will send you information on our annual events that help you save time and money by shopping with our local merchants.

Resolution #3 – Volunteer. Blairsville-Union County is well known for is community minded citizens. If you have not had the opportunity to experience volunteerism in our community, this is the year to start. Local nonprofit organizations serving a variety of interests are ready to put your talents into action for the good of others. These interests include kids, elderly, animals, festivals, and businesses. Contact the Chamber for a list of places who could use your services!

Resolution #4 – Learn Something New. We are blessed with an abundance of talented people in our community who are willing to share their skills with others. Always wanted to learn to crochet or paint? Ready to learn to play guitar? Interested in calligraphy? Whatever new skill you are hoping to learn, we likely have someone who can teach it to you through educational classes right here in our town. Let us help connect you with your future instructor.

Resolution #5 – Join The Chamber. Oh, this is not one of the most common resolutions? Well, it should be! Being a member of the Chamber, whether you are associated with a business, organization, or as an individual, is one of the best things you can do for yourself in 2015! Becoming a member of the Chamber demonstrates your desire to help grow your community. Through our programs and services, you will feel more involved and connected to your community. You will be given opportunities for personal and professional development. You are almost guaranteed to be happier and more successful in the new year!

Are you ready to start making your 2015 resolutions a reality? Contact the Chamber today at 706-745-5789 and let us start you on your way. Happy New Year!

Thank You!

hdr-logo-001As we bring another great year at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce to a close, I want to express my very best wishes and sincere thanks to all who have been part of the success of our great organization including our Board of Directors, staff, members, and community supporters. The past 12 months have been marked by noteworthy achievement and exciting change. As I reflect on the past year, I believe that we have many reasons to have enormous pride in our accomplishments and look forward with enthusiasm to next year.

One of our most outstanding achievements in 2014 was the addition of a fifth full time employee in our Chamber. Tobie Chandler was promoted to the newly created Tourism Director position and has only begun to open the lines of communication with our local tourism partners and various media outlets. Even so, we have already seen an approximate 15 percent increase in our lodging tax receipts from 2013. This is an incredible start to growing tourism related revenue for our local businesses.

Membership remains strong. Our Membership Coordinator, Erin Huffman, is to be commended for bringing in over 100 new members to the Chamber in 2014. Our total membership is on the rise and now stands at 575. This is incredible for a community of our size and speaks to the valuable partnerships that we have cultivated with our members.

Yvette Hansen joined our team as Office Administrator and has done a tremendous job of keeping our membership and community informed of Chamber and community events, while Debra Edwards did an amazing job running the friendliest and most beautiful Welcome Center in the State of Georgia.

Our organization has also continued evolving to meet the demands of a growing, changing business environment. We have put a greater focus on promoting buy local programs that are so important to our local businesses. We have offered many social media classes to help our businesses understand the value and importance of connecting with customers through various platforms. We also provided leadership growth opportunities for our businesses owners and are already seeing those efforts reap rewards through remarkable community service projects and volunteerism on behalf of the participants.

In 2014 our Chamber was proud to unveil the second edition of the North Georgia Farm Trail agritourism guide. Many owners of businesses along the trail have reported increased visitation and sales directly from this four county guide.

Finally, I was personally honored to accept the designation of Certified Chamber Executive from the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. I accepted the honor on behalf of a hard working staff, dedicated Board of Directors, and engaged membership.

Indeed, we have so many reasons to be proud of our outstanding organization. Even without room to list them all here, we have more than enough to justify enormous optimism as we move forward. Our Chamber, and all of you who are part of it, will continue to make Blairsville-Union County proud in 2015. We will maintain our momentum and actively work to shape our own future as one of the best Chambers of Commerce in the state. We will continue to make a positive impact on our community and members through tourism and economic development.

This is a great Chamber. Thanks for being part of it, and thanks so much for helping to make the past year so memorable. I invite you to join me in anticipating what we will accomplish together in the year to come.

Merry Christmas

merryMerry Christmas from the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce! To all who believe, there is truly something magical about this time of the year.

All around Blairsville during the month of December, we have witnessed the hustle and bustle of frantic shoppers, children eager to sit with Santa and express their wishes, Christmas party goers, lights being hung on rooftops, and wreaths and trees put up in windows. Yet, among the midst of all the excitement, the words to “Silent Night” seem to keep playing in my mind, “All is calm. All is bright.” Just around the corner, across all the land, there will be a calmness that descends. No more lights to hang, cards to send, or presents to wrap. On Christmas Eve, the night before the birth of Jesus, all who are aware will feel it too. Its’ a time of reverent calmness that sweeps the town as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

My hope is that each one of us take time to celebrate the gifts of Christmas and the joy it brings. If you too have been caught up in all of the chaos, it is not too late! I encourage you to take a least a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life and all the wonders of Christmas.

From our hearts to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas! Thank you for being part of our Chamber and this wonderful community.

Take 5 with Dustin Rogers

gmrecThis week’s Take 5 is with Dustin Rogers, Research Technician 3 at the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center (GMREC). In his role at the station, Dustin is responsible for the oversight of test crops including apples and wine grapes. He also works with row crops and cattle and is responsible for ground maintenance. The grandson of Neal Moon, former Union County Extension Agent, Dustin has a long history of working around agriculture and farming and has early memories of spending time with his grandfather on the grounds of the Experiment Station as it was formerly known.

  1. What do you like best about working at the GMREC?

The first thing that comes to mind is the awesome views that I enjoy every day and the great crew that I get to work with on a daily basis. I also love the variety of jobs that I am able to do such as spraying pesticides, pruning apple trees, mowing, weedeating, and bailing hay.

  1. What is your favorite type of music?

I honestly like all kinds of music. My mom loved southern rock like Skynyrd and ZZ Top and my dad was more a fan of Alabama and Charlie Daniels. I had a lot of southern influence growing up, but Hank Jr. has always been my favorite.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is, “I’m Your Huckleberry” by Doc Holiday from the movie Tombstone.

  1. If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do?

That’s a tough one. First I would take care of my family and friends. Then I would probably go to Vegas and try to double my money. Just kidding. I would take a long vacation though.

  1. What is your favorite hobby?

I love the outdoors. Hunting and fishing are my favorites. Also I love sports (Go Dawgs, Cindy). I play a lot of softball and basketball and enjoy coaching with the Union County Recreation Department.

For more information on the Georgia Mountain Research & Education Center call 706-745-2655 or go online to www.gmrec.uga.edu. The GMREC is located three miles south of Blairsville on Highway 129.

Debra Edwards Announces Retirement

Debra Edwards, Information SpecialistOnce upon a time, eight and a half years ago, there was a brand new Chamber President in Union County. Her name was Cindy. One of the first tasks that Ms. Cindy was given by her Board of Directors was to hire a full time Information Specialist who would run the county’s Welcome Center. Being new to the job, Cindy was a little nervous about her first hire. She knew this person would often be the first face visitors would see when they came to Union County and to the Chamber, and she certainly wanted them to make a good impression. Ms. Cindy wanted this person to be warm, friendly, and kind. She wanted them to be fun and engaging. She wanted them to be passionate and knowledgeable. She wanted the perfect employee and the Lord saw fit to send her just that. That blessing came in the form of Debra Edwards…

In 2006, Ms. Debra Edwards, whom I call Debbie, was hired as our Chamber’s first and only, full time Information Specialist.   She had previously worked with the Chamber in a membership and events capacity and came highly recommended. For eight years, I have worked alongside this amazing woman, and I cannot recall a single person who has ever had anything but nice things to say about her.   As an employee, Debbie is steady, dependable, and trustworthy. As a person, she is delightful, charismatic, and caring. The Chamber has been most fortunate to have her as an employee. I have been most fortunate to call her friend.

Last week, Debbie announced her retirement as of December 31, 2014. In the remaining weeks, I invite you express your appreciation to her for all of her contributions to this community, its businesses, and its people. We will host a public reception on Thursday, December 18 from 3 to 5pm at the Chamber of Commerce located at 129 Union County Recreation Road. All are welcome to attend. Additionally, she can be reached by phone at 706-745-5789 or by email at info@blairsvillechamber.com.

…After eight and a half years of camaraderie and friendship, Ms. Cindy could not help but smile when she thought about all the good times and laughs that they had shared and all that they had accomplished together. And although she couldn’t deny the twinge of sadness over the change that was coming, Ms. Cindy was even more ecstatic that Ms. Debra was about to go live her happily ever after.

Catch The Christmas Spirit!

co2jpeg (3)We are entering the most wonderful time of the year, and I couldn’t be happier. Coming off of a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family, it is time begin the preparation for the Christmas season and all the magnificent joy it brings. The Blairsville-Union County community will be offering many great opportunities to celebrate the season. The following are three such events brought to you by the Chamber of Commerce.

Jingle Bell Buys: In case you missed last week’s article or need a last minute reminder, our Jingle Bell Buys event happens this weekend. For three days only, Thursday, December 4 through Saturday, December 6, 30 local merchants are offering a variety of Buy One Get One Free items or 50% off items to help you save time and money this holiday season. Find and print the full list of coupons on the homepage of our website at VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.   This event is cosponsored by Busy Bee Printing & Signs and Huddle House. The Chamber reminds you to shop local this Christmas!

Tour of Trees: Our very popular Tour of Trees has begun. Our local businesses have put their creativity into action, and we now have over 35 Christmas trees and wreaths on display at the Union County Community Center located at 129 Union County Recreation Road. The trees and wreaths will be on display throughout the entire month of December. Stop by anytime to explore and enjoy. People’s choice winners will be voted on and awarded at our Holly Jolly Christmas event. Winners will be announced in each category. Thanks to our sponsors Union General Hospital, Inc and Union General Wellness Center.

Holly Jolly Christmas: On Saturday, December 13, make plans to visit the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road from 3-6pm for our free Holly Jolly Christmas community event. Bring your family and enjoy refreshments, kids’ activities, and community musical performances. Santa will also be onsite for personal and/or professional photos. Those who attend the Holly Jolly Christmas will be given the opportunity to vote for the People’s Choice awards for our Tour of Trees. Another thanks for our sponsors of this event, Union General Hospital, Inc and Union General Wellness Center.

In addition to these great Chamber of Commerce events, there are a number of community happenings over the next few weeks including the Christmas Parade, Breakfast with Santa, Kris Kringle Mountain Market, Christmas Tree Lighting at Vogel State Park, Christmas shopping events, open houses, and church musical performances. Be sure to check out our events calendar online at VisitBlairsvilleGA.com or call 706-745-5789 to plan your Christmas activities.