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Pfizer resumes ‘majority’ of operations after Rocky Mount tornado


Pfizer announced Monday most operations have resumed at its Rocky Mount plant more than two months after a tornado damaged a main building at the site. A powerful EF3 tornado touched down near Rocky Mount on July 19, damaging the main storage warehouse at Pfizer’s pharmaceutical manufacturing facility at 4285 N. Wesleyan Blvd.

Messino ending acute leukemia chemotherapy at Mission due to ‘system failures’


Asheville’s Messino Cancer Centers will no longer provide chemotherapy for dozens of acute hematology cancer patients at Mission Hospital because of concerns over “ongoing system failures.” In a letter to Messino doctors and Mission leadership and staff, the head of Messino’s cancer department working at Mission facilities said 50 patients may seek care outside of Asheville.

Krispy Kreme promotes COO Charlesworth to CEO slot


Krispy Kreme named Josh Charlesworth as CEO, succeeding Michael Tattersfield, who has held the role since 2017. The Charlotte-based company has seen annual revenue growth from $550 million in 2016 to an expected $1.6 billion this year. Tattersfield moved the company’s headquarters from Winston-Salem to Charlotte four years ago, will remain a director and senior adviser.

Google giving $2M for Carolinas tech apprentice training


The Urban Institute, a nonprofit policy research organization, is receiving $2 million from Google’s philanthropic arm, The money will be used to expand and build apprenticeships in tech for small and medium-sized businesses in both North and South Carolina. Google’s grant will fund on-the-job training, classroom learning and mentorship to help small and medium-sized businesses.

State hospital group CEO Lawler to retire next year


North Carolina Healthcare Association CEO Stephen Lawler will retire when his contract expires on Dec. 31, 2024, the group announced today. The veteran hospital executive has been the association’s leader since July 2017. He’s only the fourth professional CEO in the group’s history. A national search committee is being formed to hire Lawler’s successor.

Wilmington trailblazer Linda Pearce Thomas dies at 77


Linda Pearce Thomas, who founded Elderhaus, a nonprofit that serves hundreds of senior citizens in New Hanover and Brunswick counties, died Sunday. She was 77. She was the first Black woman to chair the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Board of Trustees. In 2007, Thomas received the StarNews Media Lifetime Achievement Award for her community service.

Proposed RTP tower seeking anchor tenant


Longfellow Real Estate Partners released details about its planned building in the Hub RTP complex, a $1.5-billion project attempting to give RTP its own downtown core. The building, called Via Labs, will be eight stories tall and will have 265,000 square feet of life-science space. Longfellow will not begin construction until an anchor tenant is found.

Asheville hummus brand Roots winding down business


The popular Asheville hummus brand Roots began selling off its equipment and leasing its production facility over the summer, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. The sale stems from a judge’s order in June that Roots and its owner James Matthew Parris pay a creditor more than $2.6 million for uncollected loans, interest and other costs.

Managing growth case study: Everyday Oil in Black Mountain


It started with a simple concoction of ingredients mixed together in Emma Allen’s kitchen. It evolved into becoming the signature item of a business that sells its products in more than 600 stores, on Amazon and online.

Allen wanted a face-care product, something plant-based, with a good scent. Something cleansing and hydrating and nourishing.

“I intended to make a face product but started using it on my entire body as well,” she says. “Through experimentation and research, I realized that I could create something that was actually cleansing for the face as well as moisturizing.”

Her concoction used the best wild-harvested botanical oils she could find. Everything organic. Everything labeled ‘cruelty-free.’

“Ultimately,” she says, “Everyday Oil was born. I made it for myself and family and friends for about seven years before I launched it as a product.”

She outgrew the kitchen. She moved from New York back to Asheville, where she grew up. “I met with the SBTDC when I moved back. Moving back to North Carolina was a really positive thing for the growth of the business,” she says. “This is a really supportive community for small business.”

Allen expanded her network beyond family and friends.

“I was originally introduced to Sandra Dennison in 2020 by Tommy Dennison, who I met through the Chamber of Commerce and the Venture Asheville program,” she says. “Sandra introduced me to Chris Slaughter, who helped us do a Clifton Strengths analysis with our team and who was incredibly helpful with business analysis and was very supportive to the business.”

Clifton Strengths is an online personality assessment that helps individuals target their strengths, such as strategic thinking, relationship building, influencing and executing, so they can achieve goals and improve performance. Allen is the sole owner of her company. Her team formed when it became apparent that Allen’s solo gig needed more players. “In the beginning, I was working as a consultant for another company and doing Everyday Oil at night on the side,” she says. “I was lucky to have some friends and family who helped out in the beginning, but it was mostly me, wearing all the hats. I did it on my own for about two years before I was able to hire someone. I was very fortunate with our first hire, and she has been with the company ever since.”

Two became better than one, then three became better than two.

“We slowly added people as we had the need,” Allen says, “and now we have a small but mighty team of six. We have only ever had one full-time employee leave the company in seven years, and every employee has really grown a lot with the company.”

Growing from kitchen entrepreneur to company boss was a little scary.

“It has been really cool and gratifying to see the team take on so many new challenges and to grow and evolve alongside the brand,” she says. “I was always nervous about finding good people to work with, and our team is something I feel unbelievably lucky about.”

In addition to the spray bottle of Everyday Oil (made from organic coconut, jojoba, olive, castor and argan oils), the company sells a refill bottle and funnel to transfer to the spray bottle; waffle knit, 100 percent cotton towels; a hairbrush with massage bristles designed to de-tangle hair; a Gua Sha healing massage tool “made to perfectly cradle cheeks and jawlines and the curvatures of the face and body;” a hand sanitizer; meridian comb; and dry brush.

“We have expanded, but super slowly,” Allen says. “Our bread and butter is still our main product, Everyday Oil, but it has been fun to add some wellness tools and objects to our collection. We do have plans to expand the skincare line, but in a very tight, simple way.”

Her office space keeps expanding as well. The first stop after the New York kitchen was a friend’s basement. “I moved to a new house where it took over every inch of floor space in the entire house, then moved to a small warehouse in Black Mountain. We have moved into larger and larger spaces, bit by bit, and are now in a 14,000-square-foot space in the same building in Black Mountain.

“We have our offices, distribution and manufacturing all in the same space, so we are able to communicate and collaborate with every aspect of the business. Manufacturing our product in-house has given us a lot of control over the quality of our products.”

What started with online marketing grew to independent boutiques, then 600 retail stores including Whole Foods Market. “We have some plans to expand to Europe, and we also sell in Canada and Australia,” she says.

When the product line grows, she says, the marketing will be calm. “We aren’t interested in bombarding people with skincare products they don’t really need, so the hope is to provide only what is truly necessary and nourishing for the skin.”

She has advice for people who may be experimenting with their own invention, like she did in her kitchen.

“I don’t know if everyone wants to follow my kooky path, but I would tell people to just start doing things. Make things, experiment, play, pull at threads, start walking the path,” she says. “Don’t wait to have the perfect idea… start simply. It’s unbelievably difficult to do things well, in my opinion, and if you try to do 10 things right away, inevitably some won’t get the care and attention they deserve.”

If budget is an issue, she advises to start with one product. Grow from that base.

“I really think the best ideas are born out of a desire to solve a problem, or offer something that doesn’t exist already. If it’s already out there and it’s already great, why bother recreating it?”

Everyday Oil
Black Mountain

Workforce case study: Choice Translating in Charlotte


Michelle Menard grew up in a multi-lingual, multi-cultural family. Her mother was born and raised in France; her father is from Panama. As a young child in Charlotte, the language at home was French and Menard often spent summers in France with her grandparents.

“It got me started with understanding that there are cultural differences,” she says. “Our grandparents did not speak English, and my sister and I were speaking French all summer while getting spoiled by our grandparents.”

While in college, Menard worked at a restaurant and also helped her mother, who had a freelance job doing translations. Her boss had an idea.

“While I was a student at UNCC, my manager at Olive Garden suggested I start my own business,” she says. “When he said that, I had goosebumps and flashes of what this business would look like.”

Why not use her language skills to help others?

Menard is founder and owner of Choice Translating, Inc., a company that assists businesses with translations and interpreting services. She has a core of 15 on staff and is projected to bring in about $3.2 million this year.

One key to Choice Translating’s success, which launched in 1995, is Menard’s method of hiring co-workers, and choosing what projects match each employee and what resources they need to complete their work.

“It was humble beginnings, just me and my mom working together to translate French projects,” she says. “In those days, there were visitors from France coming to the Charlotte area — which has more than 700 foreign-owned firms — and they would come to do plant tours, or meet with their U.S. subsidiary. Then we realized additional clients needed additional languages.”

Menard, who has been a SBTDC client for about 20 years, worked with UNCC’s office at the former Ben Craig Center on campus (now Ventureprise, the university’s entrepreneurial resource center), and its PORTAL [Partnership, Outreach and Research to Accelerate Learning] center.

One way the center has helped is with evolving technology.

“In the early days, if you were transferring files, you’d have to confirm the settings on the recipients’ side and save them to these bigger discs or FedEx them. We had a server cabinet,” she says. “Now everything is in the cloud. We expanded our resources to provide a more complete offering to clients.”

Menard’s employees are project managers who can provide interpreting services in person, over the phone or on video by working with vendor partners and translators around the world. In-person services cover needs such as social services or medical visits, crime scene investigations, legal depositions, employee meetings and parent/teacher conferences. Her
firm provides translation services in industries such as construction, education, healthcare, manufacturing, trade shows and for foreign direct investments, import/export companies and foreign dignitaries.

“We are not a reseller. We guide our clients through the process, because they don’t know what they don’t know, so we’re able to walk them through and deliver our best work for them.

“For example, if it were a highly technical document, they want to make sure their distributor has buy-in on the technology. There’s an art to doing the document that way. Let’s say a manufacturer has a distributor they want to have buy-in; we have a process that translates keywords and has ‘this instead’ jargon, then we use technology to make sure the team of graphic designers and translators have the opportunity to shine and make a project in multiple languages at the same time.”

Long before COVID made remote the norm, Menard saw the benefits.

In 2014, she says, she discovered ROWE or Results Only Work Environment. “As long as people did the work, it didn’t matter where they worked from,” she says, “and we looked at the requirements of each job. On our staff, most everyone is a project manager, but in essence, to manage projects with the creativity and making sure you stay on deadline, does it require someone to be seated somewhere at a particular time? At that time, we did have an office, and we hired a firm to translate ROWE into our company culture.”

That allowed her employees freedom and flexibility.

“In 2017, we took the plunge and went virtual. We had folks on our team who needed to move to a different part of the state, and we didn’t want to lose that resource because they no longer could be in Charlotte,” she says.

Going virtual, she says, was a “huge, huge” undertaking. “We switched to a cloud-based platform that manages our interpreting business, and then being virtual during the pandemic made business much easier to handle. Because we already were virtual. And with the platform, as our clients stopped meeting in person, they no longer needed in-person, but sometimes telephone wasn’t sufficient. So we did video, and it was a huge request.”

Having a staff of 15 sounds small, Menard says, for a company with clients worldwide and services that cover more than 200 languages.

Menard often hires project managers virtually. “We have a multi-step process that uses an HR platform called JazzHR that posts the positions in online platforms and allows us to ask them questions when they’re submitting their applications,” she says. “It allows us to see the candidates and replicate the office, but in a virtual way, so we can do a personality assessment, see their unique abilities, and they get to meet the team. We want to let the team meet different candidates.”

Project managers work with vendor partners – translators – around the world. “So we have our staff, who are project managers, then we have our vendor partners, and how we qualify them is a whole different thing. They, the vendors, are essentially small businesses with excellent communication skills and expertise in the subject matter we’re using them for. They have to relate to our deadlines and the technology requirements we have.”

There are perks for her staff. In October, she’s hosting a retreat near Lake Norman called Reconnect, Recharge and Renew. Staff is flying in from New Jersey, Hawaii and Quebec as well as commuting locally.

“One thing that’s important is, people bring their whole selves to work, but they also need flexibility to do their best work, to commit to work, so we need to treat them like family,” she says. “Sometimes they need time away to deal with things, or visit friends, or travel. We have a project manager who is in Europe and wants to extend her trip. Another lady travels with her son’s hockey, so she needs flexibility because of the team.

“Charlotte is diverse, and the whole United States is diverse, so every community has that population where language services help through translation to support the immigrant communities, and help companies grow their export amount abroad, which helps the local community.

“People think we have thousands of translators in a building, but what we have is a good database and network of folks we’ve worked with over the years.”

Choice Translating, Inc.