The following is reposted from the Charleston Regional Business Journal (May 16 — 29, 2016; Volume 22, No. 11):

Young firms are the major contributors to jobs in the U.S., and for the first time since the recession we saw a rise in start-ups in 2015. The Main Street Entrepreneurship report shows that small business activity is increasing and has just surpassed pre-recession levels reversing the six-year downward trend.

This is critically important to the health of our economy; the Kaufmann Foundation recently did a report The Importance of Young Firms for Economic Growth, author, Anil Rupasingha, found that local entrepreneurship has a positive effect on county per capita income growth, increases county employment growth, and decreases county poverty rates. Additionally, local ownership is most pronounced when businesses are also small and defined as having fewer than 100 employees.

Lyn Tally and Hallie Buchanan started GO Interactive Wellness in 2008, right as the economy was hitting rock bottom. The company started out teaching yoga to businesses and in 2013 they formed Charleston Wellness Group for individual coaching and yoga as a way to address stress management. This was an extension of what they had already been doing and lead to the Deliberate Method in 2015, which combined the two focus areas and provides both management and employees simple tools to remove stressors both at work and at home. In 2015 Inc. Magazine listed yoga as one of the top five rising industries and is estimated to be a $10 billion-plus industry. Nearly 45 percent of Americans are trying yoga as a way to stay healthy and manage stress. Tally and Buchanan say business is thriving and they now have employees in Memphis, Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

Additionally, at a time when we hear so much about company culture the latest evolution of their company really gets to the heart of what that means. “In some ways I think employers’ desire to create a positive culture has helped people get on board and realize that culture goes beyond the ping pong table and the keg,” stated Buchanan. “It has to start internally with intention and then the other things come more organically.”

We also found that businesses who launched in 2015 were getting creative in order to get off the ground. Aaron Levy, the owner of the Vinyl Countdown on upper King Street, discovered a great location in an area of town that is experiencing tremendous growth and decided to take matters into his own hands. “We had to be very proactive about everything. The building owner didn’t think we could occupy our space without his entire building being renovated, which included upstairs apartments and an additional retail space, so we contacted the fire marshal to find out what was needed in order to get a certificate of occupancy, made some minor renovations, and were able to open within a month.”

Levy’s business is right on target with the rising trend and demand for vinyl. Time Magazine’s article Here’s Why Music Lovers are Turning to Vinyl and Dropping Digital quotes data released from Nielsen Soundscan stating that 9.2 million vinyl records were sold in the U.S. in 2014 marking a 52% increase over the previous year. In an era where everything has become more high tech the renaissance of vinyl is nostalgic for an older generation and a hip discovery for the young. Vinyl fans claim that the sound is superior to digital, warmer, clearer and richer than what is released online. Vinyl can also be what defines us just like the art, décor or books in our home record collections reveal a bit about us as individuals.

Levy, a musician who sings and plays both the piano and guitar, spent his teen years working at the Record Bar at the Citadel Mall which oddly enough he said didn’t have any records. Clay Scales, formerly of 52.5 was the manager there and he learned a lot during that time. He collected music from artists still producing vinyl albums in the 90’s including Pink Floyd, Nirvana and Tory Amos. He bought a high quality system from Reed Brothers and continued to add to the collection. As Levy began to near 40 he wanted to move away from playing cover gigs and desired a place of his own that was music centered but didn’t involve bars. “I had a vision of a record store with a small stage, meet and greets and signings that would bring the music community together. It feels like over the past 3 months since we opened we have accomplished that,” said Levy.

The Vinyl Countdown now has 4 employees and is doing monthly charitable events to help raise money for local and regional nonprofits. Most recently they hosted an event for Girls Rock, which empowers girls and transgender youth through music education, DIY media and creative collaboration.

These new businesses are not only creating jobs but they are adding to our quality of life, providing richer experiences for us as individuals and giving back to our community. As a community we need to be supporting their endeavors and our elected officials and government agencies need to be doing everything in their power to support the growth of local entrepreneurs across all sectors.

Jamee Haley
Executive Director at Lowcountry Local First