“Commit your action to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” — Proverbs 16:3
When we think of entrepreneurs, we often think of corporate giants. Their stories of success are widely known. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, started by selling books online from his garage. Sam Walton started the mega Walmart retail chain from just one small store in Arkansas. Before Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, revolutionized the woman’s undergarment industry, she sold fax machines door-to-door.
All businesses start small, and their stories are filled with failures, disappointments, and lots of adjustments long before their services or products became household names.
Entrepreneurs are innovators, problem solvers, risk-takers, and dreamers. Sadly, the entrepreneurial spirit is dwindling. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, new startups have fallen about 44 percent since the late 1970s.
Why does this matter? Well, for starters, small businesses are considered the backbone of America’s enterprise system and generate almost 45 percent of the U.S. gross national product. In small rural communities—which in Georgia represents 120 out of 159 counties—small (often locally owned) businesses are a significant employment source, especially in downtown districts.
Throughout the past 11 issues of South Georgia Business + Culture Magazine, we have featured more than 45 entrepreneurship articles from startups to multi-generational family-owned companies. In this issue, we introduce readers to retirees that decided it’s never too late to start a business, millennials that took a giant business ownership leap, newlyweds that opened a business during a pandemic, and a woman who expanded her business from one to five locations.
Congratulations to members of the 2020-2021 Team South Georgia. This is our third year to select professionals recognized as community champions for their innovative spirit and ability to obtain positive results.
For more than 65 years, South Georgia Medical Center has provided the highest quality healthcare service within the region. Starting as a small 100-bed facility known as Pineview General Hospital, SGMC has grown to a vast regional health system with a combined licensed bed capacity of 480, serving patients in a 15-county area.
The legendary basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Everything we know, we’ve learned from someone else.” Through the years, I’ve had many mentors in my life. People who’ve provided guidance, encouragement, and wisdom—and most recently, helped me through the journey of small business ownership. At the top of that list is Myrna Ballard, who has served as the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce president for more than 20 years. Myrna gave me that nudge in the direction of starting a public relations agency and launching a regional magazine. She has been an advocate for small businesses, and her shoes will be hard to fill. I’m grateful for the opportunity to tell her story and highlight her years of service to the Valdosta-Lowndes County business community.
Can you hear us now? I am thrilled to tell you about the South Georgia Insider Podcast. The episodes will feature conversations with business and civic leaders and community influencers about the exciting and sometimes challenging things happening throughout South Georgia. You can subscribe to South Georgia Insider through Apple Podcast and Spotify or listen at southgeorgiainsider.buzzsprout.com/.
We invite you to be part of the conversation. Do you have a suggestion for an article or podcast episode? Join us as we continue to tell the compelling stories of growth and success in South Georgia. Send your suggestions to [email protected].