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Small business hopefuls get pointers at retreat

Bernie Blankenship of Winchester listens during keynote speaker John Abrams' session on Finding Your Place in the Next Economy during the small business seminar held Thursday at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. Rich Cooley/Daily

R. Ben Weber leads a discussion group on Art and the Computer during the small business seminar held Thursday at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Sally Voth

Scores of artists and future business owners turned out for the second annual small business retreat at the Lord Fairfax Small Business Development Center in Middletown on Thursday.

Andy Gyurisin, SBDC program director and social media counselor, said 140 people had registered - 20 more than had been anticipated.

Each participant could go to four of the 16 sessions offered on everything from marketing art businesses, using social media and other online tools, to the power of networking and how to sell to the federal government.

In one of the morning sessions, retail specialist Marc Wilson presented "Art as a Business." About 30 people listened as he discussed how to set up an art co-operative, the importance of gallery lighting, the value of public relations and other pointers.

"You need to have a website for the gallery, business Facebook page, link to the town's website," Wilson said.

Good retailers will decide what their customer's current lifestyle is and project one level above that, Wilson explained.

"You know what marketing is all about?" Wilson asked. "Everything revolves around procreation. It's all about being more attractive to the opposite sex."

In a different classroom at the Corron Community Development Center, Stephen Mackey talked about using social media to raise your business profile. He and his wife Shannon own Notaviva Vineyards in Purcellville.

Using a Facebook tool, Mackey showed attendants how the vineyards' reach increased every time a new post was uploaded on the vineyards' page.

"Reach is the spread of the social media conversation," he said.

Strasburg resident Kenny Monkman attended the retreat because he and his wife are photographers on the side and are interested in seeing if they can turn it into a business.

"[We're] Just looking to get some information on small businesses and what's involved with it," he said. "I've only been to two sessions so far, but both have been very informative, a lot of good information, both very good presenters."

West Virginia resident Robin Miller and her partners are in the process of opening an indoor airsoft field and pro-shop.

"I've enjoyed it," she said of the retreat. "I've learned a lot. The presenters are very well informed about their subjects."

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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