The McCraw Insurance Agency opened its new location, 1101 E. Stuart Drive in Galax. With Monday’s grand opening, it was recognized as the 100th business funded by the Crossroads Small Business Development Center. Of those 100 businesses, 96 are still in operation, employing 436 people in the Twin Counties.
In addition, 24 more small businesses were created that did not require the SBDC to find funding.
McCraw was emotional when talking about following his dream. He worked for an oil company and part time for D.S. Wright Insurance for a decade before staking out on his own.
“If you had told me 20 years ago I was going to own my own business, I wouldn’t have believed you,” McCraw said. “I actually have a degree in Forestry. Insurance is a big step from forestry. I worked in the private sector for 18 years. I had a dream in 2006 that I wanted to own my own business.”
Once McCraw ventured into business for himself, he worked out of the Crossroads Institute’s Small Business Incubator. According to Dr. Dallas Garrett, Director of the Small Business Development Center, it was a relationship that helped both parties.
“It’s a local person who has done everything right and has made good decisions,” Garrett said. “I think having the opportunity to be in the incubator is a big plus. He was a great plus for us because any time we needed an insurance quote for any other business, we just sent them back to see Tony.
McCraw said once he got started, he got more support than he could have dreamed of getting elsewhere.
“When I moved into the SREC, I didn’t know anything about accounting, taxes, marketing,” he said. “They had classes that were free to me for marketing. There was a lady that taught a tax preparation class, and also accounting. I had no idea what any of that was all about. When you have a degree in forestry, you don’t have to worry about any of that.”
That’s one of the things that the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority prides itself in — helping its created businesses sustain their viability. Since its 2004 designation as Virginia’s Entrepreneurial Region, the Twin Counties have made it a point to focus on entrepreneurs and small businesses as a way of maintaining the local economy as large industries closed their doors.
And the Twin Counties have done it better than most.
“I just came back from a meeting with all 29 (Virginia Small Business Development) Centers,” Garrett said. “Of the funding this year, which was $82 million raised in capital formation across the state in 29 offices, we raised $21 million of that. We’re very pleased with that.”
Crossroads Institute Executive Director Dr. Oliver McBride said, quoting Ernesto Sirolli, the future of every community lies in capturing the energy, imagination and passion of its people, and that was on display Monday.
“This morning, we’re recognizing the energy, imagination and passion of the 100th business that has been helped to be funded through the work that has gone on in our region,” McBride said.
Carroll County Supervisor Manus McMillian said capitalizing on the energy, imagination and passion of the people of the Twin Counties became critical for the area to forge ahead.
“Necessity is the father of invention,” McMillian said. “Through this Crossroads Institute, that’s how this came about. There was a necessity. There was a demand for new businesses and new jobs in our area. They’re fulfilling that open promise. We can’t thank you enough for that.”
That entrepreneurial spirit has always been in the heart of the region. Galax Mayor C.M. Mitchell said it was obscured for a while, but it is making quite the comeback.
“We’ve always been an area where people took care of themselves and built their own business,” Mitchell said. “Over a period time, we kind of lost that entrepreneurial spirit. With BRCEDA, the Small Business Development Center, the Crossroads, the work Dallas does, the things that are happening is helping people feel like they can come back up, do their own business and be very successful at it.”
And as long as there’s a dream, Garrett said everything that can be done to make it a reality will be done.
“When any individual comes to us with an idea, we don’t judge anything about them,” Garrett said. “We begin to move forward on their business plan. If they have a 400 credit score, it doesn’t slow us down a bit. We just keep moving on it. We never know who’s going to fund these. We feel everybody in the community deserves the right to complete a business plan and start in the direction of their current dream. That’s what we do.”
That dream came true for McCraw on Monday, and he welcomed the Twin Counties into his business’ new home to celebrate it becoming a reality.