Meet Ray Mitchell: an agency owner who knows the hustle behind running a small business and is fast making Bailey Power Plant home.
In 2010, Ray embarked on his entrepreneurial journey under a different name, laying the foundation for what would eventually become Made for You Media. We sat down with Ray recently and gained valuable insights into the growth and success of his business within the Innovation Quarter. Ray’s story is a testament to the power of networking, collaboration and leveraging the unique resources available within downtown Winston-Salem’s startup ecosystem.
Location Location Location — Meeting the Right People at the Right Time
No stranger to downtown Winston-Salem, Ray re-entered the iQ community by way of timing, networking and fate. Drawn to the downtown area for its convenience and proximity to previously influential programs and organizations, Ray discovered Sparq™ as he was walking by Bailey Power Plant. When running into a former connection who knew Ray was looking to return to working downtown, Sparq™ was an obvious solution. Now, he enjoys those organic interactions and benefits daily amongst the coworking community and the Innovation Quarter as a whole.
“I’ve run into a former networking partner who uses the Sparq space as a drop in occasionally when he doesn’t work at home. I lost touch with him over the pandemic, but we’re able to reconnect and talk about what’s passed and just be invigorated by those conversations. It’s like a fish bowl, an opportunity for the fish to get together and interact in ways that would not [otherwise] be possible.”
Historically, Ray believes that being located in downtown Winston-Salem has greatly influenced the success of his business. The accessibility of amenities, such as easily grabbing coffee or enjoying a Danish pastry, adds to the overall appeal and ability to build clientele in the area. The environment encourages collaboration and networking, contributing to the growth of local businesses.
What sets Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter apart from other locations for entrepreneurs?
Ray believes that the lifestyle and cost of living in Winston-Salem, compared to larger cities like Raleigh and Charlotte, offer distinct advantages. Additionally, the partnership between iQ, Wake Forest University and other nonprofits creates a rich ecosystem of resources and support that sets the iQ apart from other business incubation programs. Not to mention the surrounding greenery, walkability and opportunity to enjoy the outdoors in a downtown atmosphere.
“The best thing about Innovation Quarter and Sparq is it gives me a great place to work out of, to meet people, to watch the trees get flowers in the summer and watch the leaves change in the fall — and the snow, when we get those two or three days of snow in the winter. It’s just a good environment to work.”
Organizational Support Helps Fuel Entrepreneurial Success
The Small Business Center at Forsyth Tech has been a valuable resource for Ray and his team for years. The team there has provided support through personal branding courses, marketing assistance and valuable feedback. Ray’s also had the opportunity to pay it forward to other aspiring entrepreneurs as a volunteer mentor for such programs.
“Through being a mentor and a recipient of services, having gone through their programs, taking courses there [at the Small Business Center]…that is a key opportunity. It offers the ability to network. It offers the ability to take enrichment that will help your business regardless of the stage of business between the courses and the mentorship opportunities that are available.”
Ray, current member of the HUSTLE residency program, emphasizes that opportunities for free consulting and collaboration are crucial for entrepreneurs. Events like tenant lunches and HUSTLE Winston-Salem’s Womenpreneur Wednesdays exemplify a few avenues for networking he’s seen at work within the Innovation Quarter. Given that Ray’s business is built on networking, he recognizes the power of connections in opening doors to growth and hopes to continue helping others do the same.
An Opportunity-filled Future for Winston-Salem Entrepreneurs
By leveraging the power of relationships, accessing valuable resources and embracing the unique environment of the iQ, Ray’s journey exemplifies the thriving entrepreneurial community that makes the Innovation Quarter such an attractive location for businesses. As more entrepreneurs discover the untapped potential of Winston-Salem, the city’s offerings will continue to grow and flourish.
Whether it’s professional courses, a nice place to work, business development opportunities or a colleague that’ll accompany you for coffee, find the entrepreneurial support you need through the Innovation Quarter’s Sparq™ community.