Rural entrepreneurs pair opportunity with creativity
Unlike most entrepreneurs who start with a business idea and then find a location that fits it, Joni Pavlik began her wine business with the opposite strategy.
She and her husband fell in love with a plot of land in rural Chatham County, which featured both a house and an old, red-brick store with a caved-in roof. Pavlik, who grew up in an entrepreneurial family, had always wanted to own her own business. Now she had a store, but nothing to sell.
"We knew we were going to do something with it," she said. "But we weren't sure what."
And it was only after her husband's extensive renovations that she finally settled on it: unWined, a boutique that deals exclusively in North Carolina products. As the name suggests, wine is the primary focus, but Pavlik also peddles locally made cheeses, cured meats and preserves.
"We want to help people appreciate how good North Carolina wines are," Pavlik said.
Becoming a successful rural entrepreneur sometimes means tackling business issues in such nontraditional ways. The wine shop recently celebrated its one-year anniversary — so far, so good for a business five miles south of Pittsboro and off the beaten path.
Pavlik and her business acumen were featured recently when she served on a panel during the N.C. Entrepreneur's Summit in Asheville. The panel discussed ingredients that communities need to create vibrant atmospheres for entrepreneurs.
Matthew Bateman, who participated in the panel and operates a Franklin-based travel website, knows that in rural communities, like in cities, a business can't work unless there is a market for its services.
Bateman and his wife run Stay and Play in the Smokies, a travel-oriented business that provides information to those interested in visiting Macon, Jackson and Swain counties.
"We noticed there was a gap in our area in providing detailed information on planning a trip here," Bateman said. "Our area is rich with natural resources. We play off that."
The business started out as web-only, but has recently expanded to a magazine that is published five times per year. Both the website and the printed guide feature maps alongside information on restaurants, lodging and outdoor activities.
Bateman saw an opportunity — local goods and services that needed to be promoted — and paired it with his creativity. The website features a lush, interactive design that aids users in creating their own itineraries.
"People from all over the country have contacted us," Bateman said. The website has so much information that locals can learn something, too. "Even my friends say, 'I didn't know about that place.'"
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