Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Business Empire Consulting a Finalist for America's Best Young Entrepreneurs

CED's Venture Mentoring Service and FastTrac participant Business Empire Consulting were both mentioned in a Bloomberg Business Week piece on America's Best Young Entrepreneurs.

In February, North Carolina’s Council for Entrepreneurial Development started a service to aid promising new companies across the state. The North Carolina program has some 40 volunteer mentors who choose businesses based on their skills and passions, then agree to meet with them as often as needed. “After that, it’s completely the willingness to give back, people who don’t have an ulterior motive or another agenda,” says Kathryn James, the group’s director of entrepreneurship. “They always leave meetings with focused actions that they need to take next and oftentimes connections and introductions.”

That kind of assistance can be particularly important for young entrepreneurs, says Scott Gerber, the 28-year-old founder of the invite-only nonprofit membership group Young Entrepreneur Council in New York, because many lack the training and experience to prepare them for being in business. YEC has more than 250 members with an average age of 25 who are invited to join based on their success and prominence, Gerber says. The council connects its members with mentors through live webchats, panels, and online discussion forums. Aspiring entrepreneurs “are starting pretty much fresh with no background,” Gerber says. Even for those who have had some entrepreneurship education, he says, “you can only get so much out of a book or out of a course.”

For Lifson, the mentoring relationship evolved: Thompson invested $50,000 in Postling in November 2009, the first of several outside backers who have bet about $1 million on the startup. She started using the service for 700 clients of her apartment rental service 4 Walls in Narberth, Pa., immediately after Postling launched in August 2009.  The four-employee startup now has about 22,000 businesses that pay $1 per social media account that the service manages per month, according to Lifson. He says Thompson’s perspective was as important as her business. “She gets to see a side of the market that is a little different from what we see,” he says. “She was good at all the things that we were bad at.”

Business Empire Consulting
What it does: Digital marketing
Founders: Bryan Young, 25; Brandon Blair, 24; Matthew Laster, 23 (pictured left to right)
Website: businessempireconsulting.com
Based: Raleigh, N.C.
Revenue 2010: $750,000
Revenue 2011 (projected): $5 million

As a teen, Bryan Young was a serial entrepreneur: He started a lawn-care company in Okinawa, where his mother was stationed with the U.S. Air Force, and used the profits to start a trucking company in Fayetteville, N.C., when they returned to the states. At 22, he dropped out of North Carolina State to start an online marketing agency, Business Empire Consulting, that focuses on social media, mobile marketing, and reputation management. “We’re really more focused on creating conversations instead of [marketing] campaigns,” Young says. He bootstrapped the business with co-founders Brandon Blair and Matthew Laster, who both attended N.C. State. They now have 27 employees and about 20 clients, including Clinique, the Charlotte Airport, and clothing chain Belk. Young says most pay a monthly retainer from $10,000 to $50,000 and he projects $5 million in revenue in 2011. — John Tozzi

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