Business Notepad

A new study by Demographics Daily, an on-line publication of American City Business Journals, ranks the Asheville metropolitan area — composed of Buncombe and Madison counties — 26th in the U.S. in terms of small-business vitality.

The Asheville metro area scored an overall small-business-vitality index of 138 (100 represents the national average). Defining small businesses as those with less than 100 workers, the study analyzed the small-business sectors of the nation’s 276 metropolitan areas.

“The study reconfirms what many successful business owners already know: The Asheville area is an excellent place to locate and grow a small business,” said Dave Porter, vice president of economic development at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Using U.S. Census Bureau figures, Demographics Daily found that the Asheville metro area had 6,420 small business in 1998 (up from 5,544 in 1993, a 15.8 percent jump). That works out to about three small businesses per 100 residents.

Three of North Carolina’s 10 other metro areas also placed in the top 30. Wilmington ranked number one, with an index of 192. Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill placed eighth, and Charlotte/Gastonia/Rock Hill was ranked 18th.

Marketing savvy for artisans

Craft artists can learn how to make more money doing what they love at an interactive workshop on Saturday, Jan. 27, in A-B Tech’s Laurel Auditorium.

Internationally acclaimed ceramic artist, professor and lecturer Bill Hunt, a former editor of Ceramics Monthly, will give a presentation on publicizing and marketing crafts. And a panel of gallery and craft-shop owners will share insights and tips on how to present work so it generates orders. During breakout sessions with Hunt and the panelists, participants will receive one-on-one feedback on their hang tags, price lists, brochures, artist’s statements and other materials.

“If a buyer has to choose between two artists’ work, the one with the better presentation will win,” Hunt maintains.

Two local nonprofit organizations, HandMade in America and the Mountain Microenterprise Fund, are sponsoring the workshop. The $35 fee includes lunch.

For more information or to register, call Handmade at 252-0121 or the MMF at 253-2834.

FedEx Home Delivery comes to Asheville

The FedEx Corporation will locate one of its new Home Delivery distribution centers in Asheville. Launched last March, FedEx Home Delivery is the first residential ground service dedicated exclusively to home delivery. Providing both evening and Saturday delivery, the service offers a host of options, including day-specific, signature and appointment delivery.

The creation of Home Delivery reflects changes in consumer buying patterns as well as an evolving workplace. A significant increase in on-line purchases and the growing number of full-time home businesses have caused a boom in the business-to-residential delivery market.

FedEx Home Delivery will occupy 8,000 square feet of warehouse space at 537 Hazel Mill Road, initially employing 20 to 25 people. The facility plans to start operations in early February, and jobs are available in delivery, shipping/receiving and warehouse management. Delivery drivers will be independent contractors capable of earning significantly more than the industry standard.

“We are very pleased to have a world-class company like FedEx invest in our community,” said David Young, chair of the Buncombe County Economic Development Commission. “These are good-paying jobs, and we are confident FedEx will be very successful here.”

The Buncombe County Economic Development Commission — a public/private partnership involving the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Buncombe County and the city of Asheville — helped the company find an appropriate site for the business.

At press time, FedEx Home Delivery had not yet established a local phone number. Those interested in jobs are advised to drop by in person.

Small business on-line

Small-business owners looking to rev up their Web presence, take note: An evening seminar, “How Small Businesses Can Use the Internet for Profit,” will be offered on Wednesday, Jan. 24, in A-B Tech’s Simpson Building lecture room, from 6 to 9 p.m. The seminar is a joint project of the Service Corps of Retired Executives and A-B Tech’s Small Business Center.

Presenters will include Trish Boyles, owner and head developer of a Web-design firm; Phil McKinney, a successful Internet marketer; and SCORE counselor William Campbell.

Seeking to clear away some of the mystery surrounding the Internet, the three will cover such topics as uses of the Internet, preparing a good Web page, maintaining security, and what to do when something goes wrong. There will also be a chance to get specific questions answered.

SCORE will also conduct a Great Beginnings seminar — for people who are interested in starting a business or have recently launched one — on Saturday, Jan. 27, 8 a.m.-12:45 p.m. in Room 11 of UNCA’s Karpen Hall.

Each seminar costs $25.

To register, call 236-2945 or (828) 891-9160. For information about the Internet seminar and other SCORE programs and services, visit http://main.nc.us/score.

Info4cars plans expansion

The Arden-based Info4cars — a call center that provides vehicle-buying services for the members and customers of other businesses — plans to add 240 employees over the next year.

Info4cars Marketing Manager Joe Kotowski explains the type of service the company provides: “For example, we are the automobile-buying service for Sam’s Club nationwide and their members. They call us, looking for a particular vehicle. We have extensive software that allows us to keep the used-car inventory of dealers around the country [and] new-car and used-car pricing information. One of our partners is Consumer Guide Magazine. They give us a lot of information that helps us help customers compare different vehicles and make decisions about [them].”

The company, adds Kotowski, also works directly with car dealers. “We have a network of dealers that have agreed to provide special pricing and also provide a better level of service. They sign kind of a bill of rights that makes sure that they’re going to treat customers a certain way.”

What kind of new employees is the company looking for? “They have to be customer-service-oriented people,” Kotowski explains. “They aren’t having to call and sell something; they’re really receiving calls and then helping [the customer] navigate through the car-buying process. We [also] need people to do research, vehicle pricing. And then, of course, accounting functions, human-resource functions, are all located here.”

For employment information, call Shirley Christopher in the Human Resource Department at 684-8331.

De Legge adds color to Asheville

Balejage — a French term for the technique of applying color to the hair so that it gives the effect of an array of color — is just one of the many services Polish-born Jolanta De Legge offers at De Legge European Salon, the full-service hair salon and day spa she opened earlier this month in Biltmore Forest.

The salon, De Legge says, “is an ultimate experience for body and soul.” In addition to hair design, the salon offers massage combined with aromatherapy and energy healing; mud and herbal body wraps (the herbs are mixed and prepared on the premises); full European facials that include exfoliation, extraction, masque, face, neck and shoulder massage; and a variety of other treatments.

A unique aspect of the hair-design service the salon provides is the “consultation” that goes along with it. Says De Legge, “I look at a person’s face, ask them a lot of questions, find out what they’re lifestyle is like … to see what hairstyle would look good on that person. I like to individualize a hairstyle.”

Her salon — a kind of art-deco-meets-ancient-European palace — is as unique as her work. Bright, primary-colored furniture greets the visitor in the waiting area; the walls have been sponge-painted (by De Legge herself) to look like old marble and stone; castle-like arches — emblazoned with a coat-of-arms motif — separate the shampooing facilities from the hair design area; and large professional photographs of models with futuristic hairstyles (created by De Legge) are peppered throughout.

And then there is De Legge herself — a petite, fairy-like woman with a soft Polish accent who nonetheless radiates a focused determination and purpose.

Born in Poland, De Legge moved to the United States when she was 17. She trained with the well-known British hairdressing firm Toni and Guy, and eventually won their Hairdresser of the Year Award in Dallas. She’s also had extensive training and experience in photographic make-up and conducting photographic sessions.

Four years ago, De Legge was living in Florida when she was hired by the hair-product firm MATRIX to return to Poland and launch their product line. When her contract with the company ran out, De Legge says she was having so much fun she decided to stay — and opened her first De Legge Salon.

Meanwhile, her mother had moved from Florida to Asheville. While visiting their grandmother, De Legge’s children fell in love with the area, and, jokes De Legge, “refused to leave.” Thus Asheville became the location for De Legge’s second salon.

Staying on the cutting edge of hair design is important, says De Legge. “Whenever I’m in Poland, I’m also in Berlin … to scope out the newest styles of color.”

For those interested in learning more about the salon, De Legge will hold an open house on Saturday, Jan. 27, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. European pastries, gourmet coffee and wine will be served — and the first 100 guests to make an appointment during the open house will receive a special full-size hair product at the time of their first salon visit.

De Legge European Salon is located at 1089 Hendersonville Road near Biltmore Forest. To make an appointment or for more information, call 277-2008.

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