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Building better businesses

Northampton County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Fannie Greene is joined by Conway Mayor Brian Bolton as they collect program information offered at the Roanoke Center following Thursday night’s “Business After Hours” held at the Rich Square facility. Staff Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

RICH SQUARE — Some of the keys to running a successful business is promotion and saving money where you can.

With those two things in mind, there was probably no more appropriate place to hold Northampton County Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly “Business After Hours” event than at the Roanoke Center, known for its work with small businesses and entrepreneurs.

On Thursday, chamber members gathered at the Center, created by Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC) through a non-profit, for networking and a meal provided by The Tavern Corner & Grill in Conway.

The chamber also heard a presentation given by REC’s Chief Executive Officer Curtis Wynn along with Vice President of Member Services and Marketing Marshall Cherry about technology-based promotion opportunities for local businesses offered through the Roanoke Center.

“We put the programs together here at Roanoke Electric and as we started to thinking about pushing these out, marketing these, we thought about marketing challenges,” said Wynn. “How could we effectively get this out to the general public, and at the same time support another organization? And the chamber was the perfect vehicle to push this out.”

Wynn spoke about a buyer supplier network program called the “Who’s Who System,” which links a detailed online registry of businesses/suppliers with opportunities offered by corporations, contractors and government agencies. Those searching for specific types of businesses (i.e. a caterer, contractor, etc.) in the area can narrow their search field in the system.

“What the inside of this allows is us to find companies and what we have done since our conversation started a year ago is we asked the Chamber for all of their database and we put it into the system,” said Wynn. “We’ve come half way with this, but we’re going to need your help to complete this process.”

He said the Chamber’s list on the system currently has the basic demographic information about 102 members, but those profiles need to be completed with further adequate detail, including a description of the business, references and website information.

“This is each business’s responsibility,” he said. “We can’t complete your profile for you; it’s a way to market your company.”

Wynn added members will receive an email from Northampton County Chamber Executive Director Judy Collier and encouraged them to complete their “Who’s Who” profile. Wynn said to complete the Who’s Who System business profile is of no cost to businesses. There is a nominal fee to search for local businesses.

“What that does is that if someone locally is looking for you, they can find you, but this system is on the worldwide Web and we are really marketing this to people across the world,” said Wynn.

Another aspect of the system, Wynn said, was the ability for the Chamber to expand its membership by allowing Chamber officials to search for companies and businesses near its area that are not members of the organization.

Wynn also spoke about another system REC developed and uses in house that can be available to Chamber members as well. The system allows a company to receive competitive offers for projects that are bid out.

Wynn said the system uses a reverse auction where sellers compete for the business of the buyer and prices decrease throughout the process.

“With a reverse auction the buyer is in control,” he said.

He noted the buyer is not tied to the lowest bid and there is a nominal fee to use the service.

Cherry spoke about REC’s Co-op Connections Card, which links businesses with 14,000 REC members by encouraging businesses to offer discounts.

“We’re working toward building relationships with businesses in our area by simply offering some type of discount on the product or service you offer with you providing that information, in turn we will register you on this website,” he said. “We will also help promote you in our newsletter we send out to our 14,000 members on a periodic basis. Once our members connect looking for deals, they can actually find the companies that are listed in the system.”

Cherry said members can search online within a radius of a certain zip code for the best deals. He noted the Co-op Connections has been popular with REC members in relation to participating pharmacies who offer a discount on prescriptions.

He added discounts are agreed upon by the business and are set for one year.

In other Chamber news, Collier announced that Farm Festival would be taking a “sabbatical” this year and instead, a Fourth of July celebration would be held with fireworks, bands and local fire departments offering food.

For more information about the Who’s Who System and the Co-op Connection Card visit: http://www.roanokeelectric.com/promote.aspx or contact Roanoke Center Director Diana Mitchell at (252) 539-4600 ext. 601.