Groovy Smoothie

Business owners gather at The Groovy Smoothie for a networking opportunity.

On Feb. 8, small business owners and local entrepreneurs gathered for the first support group meeting at The Groovy Smoothie in downtown Erwin.

“Business ownership can be kind of solitary sometimes,” said Meisha Wilkinson who organized the gathering and operates the wedding photography business, The Modern Heart.

Wilkinson, along with fellow photographer Leslie Black, both share The Magnolia Room located at 102 S. Main Avenue in Erwin for their businesses. This informal meet up for local small business owners came from a Facebook event and resulted in a greater than expected turnout according to the organizers.

This event was highly attended, and the small business owners were busy conversing as they enjoyed their lunches. Among the attendees were representatives across many industries, but according to Wilkinson, they all share the same struggles in the “constantly changing economy and environment we’re in.”

RISE Erwin President, Juan Villalba, was there, and he described his role in the professional group as well as their goals for the community. He said the group meets on the third Thursday of the month at the Union Street Tap Room, and they are working on upcoming events like the Yarn Bomb and Keeping the Valley Beautiful litter clean up initiative. He said meetings of RISE Erwin begin at 6 pm with a social period followed by the official meeting at 6:30 pm, and the meetings are open to the public.

Villalba also said he was the community relations director for the Appalachian Christian Camp, which runs summer camp programs for children K-12 from their 37-acre property near the Town of Unicoi.

Another local entrepreneur present at the meeting was Sheryl Miller, who is in the process of opening a storefront for women and children’s clothing in Temple Hill. She said she plans to name this business the “Rose Mill Boutique” after her name and the presence of a water wheel on the property.

She said her business, which previously operated in a Greeneville location and in Erwin Apparel, started with only $500 worth of clothing and has since grown. The new building was constructed by her husband, according to Miller, over the course of 4-6 weeks and is intended to be a multipurpose area capable of hosting special events that will draw people to the Temple Hill location.

She expressed gratitude for the social gathering of entrepreneurs since the lifestyle demands so much time and work. “I feel like I haven’t gotten the chance to experience Erwin,” she said.

The lunchtime gathering was also attended by Jerry Wise, of Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, Brandon and Mason Schmidt, of the Blue Ridge Paddling Co, and Jeff and Dawn Starling, of Starling and Starling Professional Painting Services. The painters said they moved their business to Erwin from Florida 3 years ago.

 Brian Posten also attended the lunch, and he said he is the owner of the local State Farm office. He also said he is a financer and helps people obtain mortgages.

The gathering of local entrepreneurs ended with Wilkinson and Black saying that it was a greater success than they had hoped for, and they hope to have another lunchtime gathering of local small business owners.


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