Voices    City

VOICES: Gloria Bailen // Tips for building a business in Asheville, NC

Photo by @jared_kay

By Gloria Bailen, a former professional ballet dancer turned independent producer living in East Asheville with her family. This is a contributor-submitted Voices piece. Want to join the conversation? We invite you to write for us. Learn how to share your voice here.

When I moved to Asheville 3 years ago, I had just retired and was looking for a side gig, which I found (I’m a consultant for a skincare company). But I quickly discovered that ‘passive income’ does not mean you can earn money while you sleep. And it doesn’t come with an advertising nor a marketing budget. Building a business requires an investment — yes financially, but also — and perhaps more importantly — an investment in time, commitment, and values.

There is something about the entrepreneurial spirit of Asheville that nurtures this type of supportive business model – this big/little free-thinking city that fosters strength, resilience and heart.  A good friend told me about a forming chapter of Business Networking International (BNI) in Asheville. BNI has been a successful organization for over 35 years, but it’s become more relevant than ever today, a time when COVID has impacted and redefined the way we work. Who knew so many of our businesses would become virtual, and working remotely from home would become commonplace, all without missing a beat professionally?

We are a group of Asheville area professionals – small business owners, solopreneurs, and freelancers, doing business in many forms – as realtors, insurance agents, acupuncturists, physicians, mortgage brokers, photographers, accountants, etc.  We meet weekly, via Zoom, helping each other grow our businesses, through networking, generating and sharing referrals, education, and making new professional connections. As someone whose business relies solely on word of mouth and direct referrals (#coldcallingsucks), this has been a game changer for me!

Our community is based on mutual respect, consistency, trust, and relationships. It may sound cliché, but it’s a philosophy of reciprocity — we all benefit by going the extra mile for each other. I’m grateful for the culture of support, creativity, and positivity I’ve been so craving during these daunting days of COVID.

And hopefully (being the eternal optimist), in a post-pandemic world, our ‘new normal’ and collective experience will continue to transform our work values and celebrate our goals and accomplishments.

Want to visit my BNI Zoom meeting?  We meet at 9:00 a.m. every Thursday morning. Private message me and I’ll send you a link.