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Stories from the Innovation Quarter
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Top of the Class: Winston-Salem Ranked First in U.S. Small Business Growth

Local economies are like engines. You need a number of different elements to not only get them up and running, but to keep them running efficiently. Fuel. Regular maintenance. The right parts and pieces.

Small business growth is one of those crucial parts to the vitality of any local economic engine, especially in today’s world of constant mergers, acquisitions and corporations looking for a bigger, better tomorrow. Today’s small business could be tomorrow’s Fortune 500 company.

So, it’s no small feat that Winston-Salem recently tied Charlotte and Austin, Texas as the top city in the country for small business growth. That ranking, combined with factors like access to resources and business costs, helped make Winston-Salem the 33rd best city in which to start a business. That’s ahead of powerhouse cities such as Boston, Seattle, Portland and New York.

This revitalization of Winston-Salem hasn’t happened overnight, and it hasn’t happened without a lot of hard work and intentionality. Programs such as Venture Café Winston-Salem play a central role in creating the “stickiness” that gives companies like FlureeDB, a blockchain database startup located in the Innovation Quarter, the ability to not only survive, but thrive.

“Winston Salem’s low cost of living juxtaposed against premium infrastructure and high quality of life allows your company to extend its financial runway without sacrificing resources,” says Kevin Doubleday from FlureeDB. “Two million dollars in Winston Salem gives a company or business unit astronomically more financial runway versus traditional markets like Seattle or New York, and that could mean everything to the longevity, growth and financial health of a company.”

Intentionality behind growing an innovation ecosystem that includes a variety of programs, space and resources for small businesses to succeed is clearly making a difference.

Some of those programs/resources include:

  • Forsyth Tech’s Small Business Center: A program of Forsyth Technical Community College that helps small businesses succeed through coaching, mentoring, events, training and more.
  • Winston Starts: A nonprofit start-up support organization that provides access to space, funding, mentoring and more to local start-ups.
  • ACCESS Center for Equity + Success: A partnership between Venture Café Winston-Salem and Piedmont Business Capital that helps increase access to start-up resources for minority- and women-owned businesses.
  • Fearless: A “collaborative collective and social community for and by women” that provides co-working space for as little as $15 a month.
  • Hustle WS: A nonprofit dedicated to creating a diverse community of entrepreneurs through support, programming and more.

The new rankings are a solid indication that Winston-Salem is on the right track, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Work to bring more start-up funding to the region. Work to make sure small business growth is sustainable. And especially work to make sure equal access to resources, funding and opportunities are available to everyone. That’s what will truly build an engine for the future.