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Small Business Updates: Two Local Conferences Scheduled, Statewide Award Given

By Jenny Callison, posted May 4, 2023
Michael McWorter and wife Allison pose in front of the White House during Monday's SBA award ceremony (Photo courtesy of Paige O'Neill, SBTDC)
Small Business Week, April 30-May 6, is enjoying extra resonance in the tri-county area this week with the celebration of a local businessman’s recognition by the Small Business Administration as the 2023 N.C. Small Business Person of the Year.
Monday, Michael McWhorter, co-owner of Burgaw-based Mojotone, received his award at a ceremony at the White House, with President Joe Biden and SBA officials in attendance. Thursday, a similar ceremony takes place at Mojotone’s offices at 137 Worth Beverage Drive. Mike Arriola, the SBA’s N.C. District director, local officials and representatives of Sen. Ted Budd and Rep. David Rouzer, are slated to be part of the event.
Mojotone, founded in 2000, is an important contributor to the Pender County economy, employing 65 people who manufacture, source, sell and ship guitar and amp components to an international customer base.
McWhorter learned of his award in March. In a Business Journal interview at that time, he said, “This award is a testament to all the employees at Mojotone. I am nothing without all the great people who work here. They are absolutely passionate about music and making things.”
He also cited the wealth of resources – most of them free of charge – available to startups and young businesses in the Wilmington area: Wilmington’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the Small Business Center at Cape Fear Community College, the training programs offered by the college and UNCW’s MBA program.
Friday, the YWCA Lower Cape Fear marks Small Business Week with an inaugural event: Living the Dream, a small business conference for women. The conference, done in partnership with University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will address four areas of building a small business: strategy, financials and branding; marketing; leading an organization; and networking. Speakers – all women – represent a wide range of businesses. Information is here.
Another inaugural small business event, the Small Business Summit, takes place May 20. Hosted by Cape Fear Community College’s Small Business Center, it’s designed to help entrepreneurs do everything from defining their business and developing strategies to finding financial help and maybe even identifying a mentor.
The summit, which features a varied lineup of speakers, takes place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in CFCC’s Union Station. Details and registration information are here.
All this activity comes amid news that new business creation filings in North Carolina are at near-record levels thus far in 2023. N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall reported earlier this week that state residents created 60,000 new businesses during the first quarter.
“North Carolina’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well as new business creation filings remain historically high compared to pre-Covid creations,” Marshall said in a news release. “As we celebrate National Small Business Week, we recognize that small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and the foundation of a strong North Carolina economy.”
In the announcement of Gov. Roy Cooper’s proclamation of Small Business Week this year, his office released information on the importance of small businesses to the state’s economy.  
  • In 2022, North Carolina’s 994,500 small businesses accounted for more than 99% of the state’s businesses while employing 1.7 million people statewide.
  • Small businesses, defined by the SBA as companies with a workforce of fewer than 500 people, employ nearly 45% of North Carolina’s private-sector workforce.
  • Small businesses also contribute significantly to the flow of goods from North Carolina to the global market with more than 9,100 small firms exporting merchandise from North Carolina, generating 21.4% of the state’s $26 billion in exports in 2020.
“North Carolina’s small businesses are the fuel for our economy and we couldn’t be number one for business without them,” Cooper said in the release. “The success of our essential small business community, from innovative startups to family-owned companies, deserves to be celebrated for their contributions to North Carolina’s economic prosperity.”
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