PHONE: 627-4521

DATE: 07-27-04


HCC Small Business Center Guides "The White Orchid" in Creating a Unique Image

By Debra M. Davis

A touch of classic elegance can be found in a fine linen shop at 145 Wall Street in Wayneville. For the lucky patrons who have found the shop tucked on the backside of Main Street, The White Orchid has become a source of unique gifts and choice linens. Co-owners, Nancy Beasley and Judy Viebrock, acquired their collection of merchandise based on their own fine-honed sense of style. "We don’t buy things we don’t like," they explained. "You should be passionate about what you sell."

The team did a lot of hands-on market research before opening their doors in mid-September 2003 and the result is a one-of-a-kind shop with an ambience of grace and refinement. The shop carries an assortment of 500 thread count bed linens usually found only in upscale retail stores in larger cities as well as an array of eclectic gift items. Customers will find imported triple-milled soaps from France, England and Italy, a line of designer handbags, formal table linens, towels and a variety of monogrammed items. In fact most linens in the store can be monogrammed for a personalized touch. They also carry baby gifts, and an assortment of hostess gifts such as eternal flame candles. A favorite among recent customers is the line of luxurious sleepwear. Viebrock pointed out an incredibly soft white chenille robe that has been a best seller.

Carving out a unique niche in the local retail market took a lot of planning and many hours of research. Beasley has a background in marketing and fund-raising and Viebrock has a background in marketing and merchandising. She was once the manager of a ladies clothing shop. Even though both Beasley and Viebrock previously worked in retail sales neither woman had ever owned a retail business. They had a vision of what they wanted to do but had no idea how to make the dream a reality. They turned to Haywood Community College’s Small Business Center for advice. Sharron Donnahoe, Small Business Center Director, consulted with the two women on how to prepare a business plan and also suggested they attend several of the free seminars offered by the Center. The Center provides budding entrepreneurs like Beasley and Viebrock 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 Small Business Center is located at the Regional High Technology Center.

Both women admit that putting the business plan on paper was the hard part for them—it forced them to get with an accountant and talk finances. But they followed Donnahoe’s advice and the dealings with Carolina First Bank went very smoothly. "It was easy," said Beasley and Viebrock, "I don’t know what we would have done without Sharron’s insight. She has been such a help through this whole process." Donnahoe said the HCC Small Business Center provides support and encouragement for start-up businesses while emphasizing practical applications and realistic expectations.

According to Beasley the free seminars also proved to be an invaluable resource for them in several areas. The seminar, "Developing Your Business Image," gave them insight into developing a logo. "We realized that we needed to come up with a name that wouldn’t confine us as the store grew and expanded its merchandise," she said. The outcome is "The White Orchid." The business cards and store tags feature a stylized drawing of an orchid and are printed in one color, black on a white background, to save money. Beasley then does a faint color wash on parts of the drawing to create a customized look. The pair also carry the black and white theme throughout the store, from shopping and gift bags to a display of black and white monogram tiles. And on most days, you will find them dressed in chic black and white to match their store décor.

Beasley and Viebrock also said that the seminars gave them an opportunity for networking to meet other business owners in the area. The two confirm that they have learned a great deal about advertising strategies from other entrepreneurs they met at the free seminars. "Learning from others’ successes or disappointments keeps us from making the same mistakes," they said.

Future plans for expansion include opening a baby and bridal registry and adding to their fine linens selection. For now, Viebrock and Beasley are content with what they call "a store full of unique treasures." The White Orchid is open from 10-5, Monday through Saturday.

Photo: Nancy Beasley and Judy Viebrock stand among the many selections available in their fine linens shop on Wall Street in Waynesville.