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Entreprenuers remain active in Newton
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Angie's Professional Cleaning Service
Angie Day

Atlanta Innovative Solutions
Barnette Jones

Georgia Cool Mist
Robert Bales

Angie Day found herself earlier this year without full-time work, and the proposition of taking another paralegal job wasn't enticing.

So she started her own cleaning business in the midst of the toughest economy the U.S. has seen for decades. Sure, why not?

"I just knew this was something I could do. Everybody loves a clean house," Day said.

Seven months later, she just landed her two biggest jobs to date, cleaning the newly built Covington Ford dealership and the soon-to-be-built 74-unit Lakewood Hills Senior Village Apartment Complex in Athens, Ga. Those two jobs could bring in more than $20,000 for Day, a boon for an entrepreneur who's seeing her dream come true.

"When I got my business license in January I just hit the highways and hedges and got out there as much as I could," said Day, who also worked her legal contacts and joined the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce to network.

"I wanted to be in a position to help people. With the cleaning business I really am able to help people. I also do volunteer work and clean for people who can't do it themselves," Day said.

The saying necessity breeds innovation is embodied by entrepreneurs like Day, who take risks in order to make a living.

In Newton County, people at all stages of life are turning into business owners, like recently retired 57-year-old Barnette Jones.

The former Fulton County human resources manager started a human resource and mediation company, which she hopes will allow her to bring in a good salary with reduced hours.

She just started in May and landed her first contract with a nonprofit organization. Similar to Day, she hopes to be able to make money, in her case by helping nonprofits get their human resources department started and structured, but also by volunteering her services to groups in need.

"I retired last year as a human resources manager. I say retired, but that (word is) about to be eliminated from everybody's vocabulary," Jones said. "I like working with people, and based on my experience and maturity I think I have a lot to offer up-and-coming HR professionals. I want to transfer my knowledge on."

Others like Robert Bales, have a full-time job, but haven't been immune to cuts in revenue and feel the need for a second job. In Bales case, that comes in the form of his own business.

The 46-year-old sales professional saw an opportunity to enter an untapped market and contracted to be the authorized dealer for companies Cloudburst and Smartmist. Those companies produce misting equipment, a cooling technology, where highly-pressurized water is forced through tiny openings so that it turns into a very fine mist. The mist then absorbs the heat in the air and evaporates.

There was no dealer in the Southeast, so Bales signed on to be the lone representative. He's also developing some of his own products, and is finding that the technology is best suited to large buildings that can't be cooled efficiently through traditional air conditioning. Though misting works less well in high humidity, Bales said it's still highly effective during the hottest part of the day when humidity is generally lowest anyway.

Bales has spent $15,000 to get the business started and has yet to finish his company's website nor do any real marketing, but he's banking that the payoff will be worth the upfront costs.

"It's a supplement to income. Most everybody has seen a decline in income. Plus, my wife is a stay-at-home mom, and this allows her an opportunity to work behind the scenes with marketing and promotion," Bales said.

Though things appear promising, it's too early to tell how successful Bales, Barnette and Day will end up. Small business failure rates are not as drastic as many believe, but around 30 percent of small business close within the first year, with an additional 20 percent closing during the next three years, according to various studies and media reports.

All three owners are running business out of their home, a continued trend in Newton County. Chamber President Hunter Hall said many owners simply can't afford to rent out storefronts and borrowing remains difficult, leaving home occupation as the best chance for success on a budget.

The biggest obstacle to a successful business is the lack of forethought, Hall said, namely in the form of a detailed business plan.

"Such a high percentage of companies fail because most people get out there and just start hawking goods. They don't spend any money on marketing, don't have a website, there business cards are poor, they don't understand competition, pricing, market demographics, location, branding, presence" Hall said. "Does the end user have any money for their product?"

The chamber offers resources to help entrepreneurs prepare and navigate through the challenges, and the Newton chamber is focusing on franchising, which cuts out much of the risk of starting a new business by attaching oneself to an established name.

"Having a product people want and need matched with outstanding over-the-top customer service is the way to be successful," Hall said, noting that even good ideas need enough money to get started.