HCC Student Dustin Cornelison Wins Sequoyah Fund Community College Business Plan Competition
Dustin Cornelison turned his belief in living a sustainable and frugal lifestyle into an award winning business plan. Drawing upon his past experience as a sustainability technician for an environmental education center and his acquired skills as a welder and blacksmith, Cornelison, along with his wife Sara Martin, have implemented a plan to turn their farm, Two Trees, into a model of sustainable practices. “We are selling the farm life style,” he said. “We hope to demonstrate self sufficiency and furnish people with the tools and knowledge to live off their own land.”
While still a student at HCC, his business plan was chosen as the 2011 winner of the Sequoyah Fund Community College Business Plan Competition. Cornelison received $10,000 to help him make his business a reality. The Sequoyah Fund encourages and financially rewards students who aspire to start businesses in the seven western-most counties of North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary.
Through the Haywood Community College Small Business Center, Cornelison received counseling on the preparation of a business plan and attended several Small Business Center seminars. The seminars were on a several subjects and included “Legal Structure,” “Surviving Your First Year,” “Business Plan Basics” and “Turning Your Hobby Into a Business.” “I had no idea what I was doing. It was helpful to bounce ideas off Sharron Donnahoe, Director of the Small Business Center,” he said. “The Real Small Business class, taught by Patricia Smith, also helped me pull my ideas together.”
Cornelison founded Sustainabillies, a company that promotes sustainable gardening and living through example, education and artistic recycling and retooling of scrap metals and used objects. He will create and sell a variety of custom garden tools and accessories with the emphasis on using as much recycled materials as possible. “Designs may be simple and functional using entirely recycled elements or they may be more artistic and use a combination of new and recycled materials,” he said. Cornelison’s welding shop is located on Two Trees farm. “I want to incorporate found objects in my designs as much as possible,” he said. “I can re-purpose heirlooms to create unique functional pieces.”
Some of the crafted items that will be for sale are a wide variety of trellises, trellised planters, compost barrels, rain barrel stands, rain barrels, raised bed components, fire rings, decorative hand rails, fences and gates. Cornelison will also sell artistic handmade benches and indoor and outdoor furniture as well as a line of home goods such as towel and pan racks. He will carry a selection of tools such as knives, hoes, axes and custom/specialty hand tools. He will also do commissioned specialty metal work and forging for clients based on their designs or needs. “All of the items I make are of the highest quality. They are intended to last a lifetime,” said Cornelison. He can also fabricate new pieces based on old designs or tools.
As another component of Sustainabillies, Cornelison is planning a portable welding shop. “I can come directly to a client’s property to fix equipment. A person won’t have to worry about loading up heavy equipment and hauling it somewhere to get it fixed. I will be able to fix it on the spot,” Cornelison said.
Sustainabillies also sells small apple cider presses designed for home use. According to Cornelison, they are lightweight and easy to use. With the press, people can harvest juice from apple trees in their yard—another sustainable practice advocated at Two Trees Farm.
The business will also offer several services such as the installation of permaculture, and the design and implementation of native, rain, and edible gardens. They will offer all aspects of implementation, from tilling and planting to harvesting and preservation. Consultations on sustainability audits and the best use of a property will also be offered.
For now, the blacksmith and welding shop is open for business and Cornelison and Martin are making plans for other ways to use Two Tree Farms as a resource of their community. By next summer, the couple hopes to have farm tours once a week and to also offer a variety of workshops on sustainable living. “We want to show people that you can live a normal, comfortable lifestyle-sustainably,” they said.
Two Trees Farm is located in the Beaverdam community of Haywood County. For more information about Sustainabillies and Two Trees Farm, you may visit sustainabillies.net or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-713-5972.
Sustainabillies is an example of a business that was steered in the right direction through consultation and the use of resources provided by HCC’s Small Business Center. The Small Business Center provides budding entrepreneurs with the knowledge and resources needed to make informed decisions concerning their business ventures. A resource library of print, audio, and video materials is also available for loan. The Center is located on the main campus of HCC in the Learning Resource Center. Counseling services are available by appointment and are free of charge.
For more information about the HCC Small Business center, call 828-627-4512 or visit www.sbc.haywood.edu on the Internet.
Dustin Cornelison at work in his blacksmith shop.
Dustin Cornelison and wife Sara Martin hope to use their farm, TwoTrees, to teach people about sustainable living.
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