Soft spot for small business

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FRANKLIN—Even as a tot, Nancy Parrish and her sisters were dabbling in small business.

Before attending school, she and one of her sisters, Pam Ellis, would pull a wagon through their Hunterdale neighborhood, selling vegetables picked from their parents’ garden. For about five years, at elementary school age, they also delivered copies of The Tidewater News — even in the snow, using their sled to complete their routes. The papers were a dime back then, and the girls anticipated their keep, which was 3 cents a copy.

Parrish had no idea back then that today she would be looking out the window of her third-floor office in the Business Incubator. Hired as the new small business manager for Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Parrish will now get to assist the small businesses she holds so dear.

“I’ve got a big heart for small business,” she said. Her father and husband opened a store downtown, Main Street Clothiers, which has since closed, Her sister owns Pam’s Tea Room, and her mother, Dot Kitchen, operates her own catering business. Parrish and her sisters, Pam, Debbie Davis and Connie Jones, opened a business in 1985.

“It was called etc Gift Shoppe,” she recalled. “Etc stood for exclusives, toys and crafts. It was in Hunterdale where the car wash is being built now.”

The siblings closed shop in 1990 when the land was sold to a developer.

Parrish, 56, a graduate of Franklin High School, earned her bachelor’s of science from Radford College, majoring in Home Economics and minoring in Human Resources. She received her master’s degree of science in Education and Administration from Virginia Tech.

She worked for Union Camp Corp. for 28 years as supervisor in a variety of its sales offices and more recently as supervisor of Food Services for Franklin City Public Schools.

Parrish, who describes herself as a real “people person,” is looking forward to her new duties. She said she will continue the work begun by her predecessor, Cathy Davison, who accepted another job in North Carolina.

“I want to fill the building,” Parrish said. “We still have to build out the fourth floor, which will provide an additional 10,000 square feet, less the common spaces.

“There are 18 businesses here now, and two have graduated.”

The incubator gives small businesses the opportunity to get off the ground. With free utilities, and access to equipment such as copiers and fax machines, a receptionist, secretary, meeting rooms and classrooms, the Incubator has a lot of advantages to offer.

“It has a lot of perks,” said Parrish. “It is also ideal for businesses that have been run from

home and have grown to the point of needing a place to meet the public.”

The goal is to have the small business on its feet in three to five years.

Parrish is also anxious to get out in the community to promote the Incubator.

“It’s a great opportunity for a small business owner to network as well,” she said.

Parrish will be meeting other people associated with other Incubators on a state and even national level. She said of the 30 Incubators in Virginia, Franklin is one of the few that is a multi-use facility, as opposed to being geared to a specific trade, such as technology.

Her first undertaking will be the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Business Expo scheduled for Nov. 15.

“We also usually have quarterly workshops for Incubator tenants,” Parrish said.

“The next one will be on Nov. 19. Howie Soucek of Manry Rawls will give a presentation on human resources for small businesses.

“We’re planning on opening these up next year to all downtown business owners,” she said. “We want to work hand-in-hand with the Downtown Franklin Association.

“I want to help nurture businesses so they can grow to become more visible in Franklin and Southampton. I want to fill up downtown Franklin with successes.”

Parrish is chairwoman of the deacons, and a member of the choir, visitation committee and pastoral search committee at Hunterdale Christian Church. She also teaches Sunday School there.

She married her high school sweetheart, Larry, in 1973. They have two sons, Brandon, 26, of Los Angeles, Calif., and Ryan, 24, of Raleigh, N.C.