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College of The Albemarle Celebrates 40 Years of Small Business Support

Elizabeth City, NC – The Small Business Center Network (SBCN) of the NC Community College System is commemorating 40 years of dedicated support and assistance to small businesses and start-ups throughout North Carolina. Small Business Centers (SBCs) are integral to the state’s community colleges, providing confidential business counseling, seminars, and resource referrals to small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Founded in 1984 with the establishment of eight SBCs funded by the North Carolina General Assembly, the SBCN expanded by 1995 to include at least one center at each of the state’s 58 community colleges. Annually, the centers contribute to the inception of an average of 650 businesses and the creation and retention of over 3,000 jobs.

Today, with more than 60 locations, the Small Business Center Network stands as the most expansive state-funded technical assistance program for small businesses in the United States.

Dr. Jack Bagwell, President of College of The Albemarle, stated, “We are incredibly proud of our Small Business Center’s impact on the local economy. They provide a wealth of resources for small business owners and those thinking of beginning their own businesses. Our center fosters the growth and success of countless small businesses in our community.”

Holly Staples, Director of COA’s Small Business Center, added, “We are honored to be part of the SBCN and at the forefront of economic development in COA’s seven-county service area. Our center counsels dozens of small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs each year, with hundreds attending our impactful and relevant workshops and seminars. Working alongside the creative, brilliant, and hardworking entrepreneurs in the Albemarle area is a privilege, helping them achieve their dreams of business ownership.”


Highlights of College of The Albemarle’s Small Business Center:

  • The center supports individuals from the exploratory stage of starting a business to established and expanding businesses, offering one-on-one business counseling, training opportunities, and resource referrals.
  • All services are free and available to the public; one does not need to be a COA student.
  • Popular seminar topics include Writing a Business Plan, Marketing and branding, Social Media Marketing, Website Design, NCDOR and IRS Compliance, and Access to Capital.
  • In 2016, the SBCN named the center a Center of Excellence under the leadership of former director Ginger O’Neal, recognizing her initiative and collaborative spirit in guiding a local business through the start-up process.

Testimonials from Local Entrepreneurs:

  • “The Small Business Center has been instrumental in my success as a small business owner/operator. I have reached out multiple times for assistance and have been provided the best professional and valuable information and guidance. Thank you so much for the support and faith in my business.” – Stephanie Blanchard, River City Craft Co.
  • “The Small Business Center has been an amazing source of information and resource awareness when starting my business. They were able to coach and guide me so that I understood how to move forward.” – Local Entrepreneur
  • “The SBC is a valuable resource for our small business community and has helped my company tremendously.” – Local Entrepreneur

The mission of the Small Business Centers is to increase the success rate and number of viable small businesses in North Carolina. Each center is committed to providing high-quality, readily accessible assistance to prospective and existing small business owners, aiming for job creation and retention.

For more information on the center and its services, contact:

  • Holly Staples, COA Small Business Center Director, at [email protected] or 252-335-0821, ext.2370
  • Kristen Simpson, COA Workforce Development and Specialized Training Coordinator, at [email protected] or 252-335-0821, ext. 2229

For all other COA-related information or media inquiries, contact Tammy W. Sawyer, COA Director of Communications and Marketing, at 252-335-0821 ext. 2420 or [email protected].