• By Ashe Lockhart
• February 25, 2009
>> On Thursday, February 26, UNC-Charlotte’s Office of Technology Transfer hosted a workshop titled “Tips on Starting a Company and finding seed funds.” The agenda was to provide entrepreneurs with information on the basic legal and funding options for starting a business. As I prepared for my presentation on basics of business law, I thought about the role of the entrepreneur in Charlotte’s business community. Before I get into some thoughts on entrepreneurs in Charlotte, I’d like to get some basic vocabulary on the record.
a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, esp. a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk (Random House Dictionary);
A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture (American Heritage Dictionary);
One who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise (Merriam Webster).
The most prominent common denominator of the three variations of the definition of “entrepreneur” is the word “risk.” Then, note that the first definition adds some color with “usually with considerable initiative….” So, now we have some ideas about entrepreneurship to work with as we discuss entrepreneurs: initiative and risk.
Charlotte is not the first city that comes to mind when people talk about entrepreneurs or start-ups. With Bank of America, Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) and Duke Power, Charlotte is typically thought of as a big business city. Entrepreneurs and start-ups just don’t get much attention here. In fact, the drop down menu on the business tab on the Charlotte Observer website shows only three choices:
Market Summary | Banking | Blogs/Columnists.
But we should look back for a little historical perspective. Unlike most large cities on the east coast, Charlotte is a newcomer to the ranks of large cities. In fact, Charlotte is really not all that large. But the groundwork for Charlotte’s spectacular growth over the past 100 years, and especially the past 30 years, was laid by entrepreneurs like Walker Gill Wylie and James B. Duke, who started Duke Power Company, which supplied power to the emerging textile manufacturers in the Carolinas; William Henry Belk, a Monroe dry goods merchant who founded Belk stores with innovative ownership and financing methods; and the numerous bankers who provided the capital to fuel the growth of the businesses in the region.
So, there is a long and successful history of entrepreneurship in the Charlotte area. It’s just that in the recent decades of Charlotte’s business landscape being dominated by big companies, it’s hard to realize that these large institutionalized companies were once – stay with me here – entrepreneurial start-ups.
Now that some of Charlotte’s large institutional companies are being acquired by out-of-state rivals, vulnerable to nationalization, laying off employees and otherwise being bludgeoned by the economy (even if they also played a role in bludgeoning the economy), it’s time to return to Charlotte’s entrepreneurial roots. It’s time for some of the people who have been accustomed to the comfort of a steady paycheck from a (formerly) stable employer to exercise some initiative, assume some risk and do a start-up.
If you are considering starting a company, take a page from the past and apply it to the future: innovate. What I’m getting at is that when Duke Power was started in 1900, hydroelectric power generation had only been in existence for a short period of time. To his agricultural and merchant friends, Buck Duke must have seemed a little nuts to do something as far-fetched as generating and distributing electricity. Contemporary Charlotte businesses are not often recognized for such radical innovation.
Thus, even if the financial sector recovers its former prominence in Charlotte, events of the past year should show us that we need to diversify our economy. To restore and maintain Charlotte’s economic vitality, we need start-ups. And innovative start-ups may open a whole new economic sector in the Charlotte economy.
Related Services: Business & Corporate
We focus on providing business owners, start-ups, small business and private companies with legal representation in business, corporate, mergers & acquisitions and technology matters, as well as estate planning and personal business services for individuals.
We operate under a streamlined overhead structure and do not have internal billing quotas, which is a dramatic departure from the traditional law firm. As a result, we serve only one master – the client.
We strive to deliver practical and useful services and solutions and apply legal theory to the real world.
In addition to being attorneys, we have worked in banking, financial services, nonprofits and military service. Our expertise and technical aptitude are informed by real life and not limited to fluent lawyer-ese.
Ashe works with:
Our mission in life is to provide valuable, useful, practical legal services to businesses and individuals; to help our clients find opportunities in whatever they do; and to be engaged, responsible members of our families and communities.
a Charlotte law firm