When Brenda Verdone moved from New England to Greenville in 2011 she knew very little about the area. Her family had chosen South Carolina’s Upstate because of its beauty, great weather and low cost of living. Verdone said that she longed for an easy way to get to know her new home, but was surprised to learn that newcomer welcome services were pretty much nonexistent.
After 30 years in career and workforce development, Verdone decided to strike out on her own and start a home-based business. She drafted a business plan and then contacted the Greenville Area SBDC where she met business consultant and area manager Scott Whelchel.
“When Brenda got in touch and asked about discussing her idea for a new business I knew it would be interesting. We had met earlier through the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce and I knew her professionalism,” Whelchel recalled.
Verdone’s questions for Whelchel dealt primarily with financing. Soon after meeting with Whelchel, Verdone secured a line of credit from a local bank. This provided the additional capital she needed for services such as website development, graphic design for a logo, as well as memberships in several Chambers of Commerce and a few pieces of equipment required to launch her business. With a quality product and a disciplined approach to sales the Greater Greenville Greeter began securing business clients interested in this new method of marketing. A positive cash flow was reached within four months.
In July 2012 Verdone opened the Greater Greenville Greeter, which is now the Upstate’s premiere service that helps businesses and non-profit organizations welcome newcomers and first time home buyers to the area. Marketing services are offered through welcome packages that are delivered with a smile. Greater Greenville Greeter also maintains an active website where people can find links to local recreational opportunities, municipal services and businesses. It is a clearinghouse for information on everything from garden clubs and libraries to services like insurance, dry cleaning, doctors and dentists.
“Support for the business concept was most important. Had there been any hesitation, I would have scrapped the idea. Scott’s validation was crucial to my decision to move forward with the business,” Verdone said. “My local SBDC and its wide range of services provided the confidence boost I needed to embark on this new adventure.”
The personal touch is important in welcome services and at first Verdone personally made house calls to welcome people to town. With her whicker basket of goodies on her arm, Verdone would describe the offers and services in the welcome package — everything from discounts on services to reusable grocery totes to rain gauges.
Verdone said she is shocked by the immediate growth of her business.
“I expected a slow gradual start, but I’ve been surprised,” she said. “It quickly became essential to get more business in and hire greeters. I could no longer make the personal visits myself.” Verdone hired two part-time greeters, women who owned their own small businesses and therefore understood accountability, customer service and company image.
“I couldn’t ask for better greeters,” Verdone said. She expects that more jobs are likely in 2013.
The newly hired greeters are allowing Verdone to dedicate her time to business development which will further accelerate growth. For Greater Greenville Greeter growth is not just more clients, but about more sales for those clients too.
“The business truly follows a model where we succeed when our clients succeed, and that fosters a positive economic impact in our community,” Verdone said. Whelchel and Verdone look forward to working together on a regular basis to update plans, share knowledge and learn from other entrepreneurs.