By Zach Potter
The Sanford Herald, N.C.
Ann Blakely loves nothing more than the hum of Common Threads’ 14 looms being put to work by the nonprofit’s volunteers.
Chad Spivey and Donnie Hall are right at home giving kayak tours of Deep River for their startup business, Endor Paddle.
Diana Michelotti, who owns Michelotti Media in Apex, found her passion working with adult artists with autism to help them turn their talents into livelihoods.
These three organizations use different methods to achieve different goals, but they have one thing in common. They are all what Dawn Trembath, director of the N.C. Fourth Sector Resource Project, would call fourth-sector or mission-driven businesses.
“It’s like a cross between a for-profit and a nonprofit business,” Trembath said during the Spring Entrepreneur Meetup at the Lee County Library Tuesday evening. “Our project is focused on raising awareness of fourth-sector businesses, especially in rural areas of North Carolina. We are trying to help communities create a network of interested entrepreneurs.”
As part of the Fourth Sector-sponsored meetup, Blakely, Spivey, Hall and Michelotti all spoke to a small gathering of local businessmen and women about their experiences starting their own businesses.
“This is a place where students young and old can be taught the art of weaving with recycled or donated fabrics, yarn, threads and plastics,” Blakely said of Common Threads, “with the proceeds going back into the community.”
Established in 2003, Common Threads uses the proceeds from selling volunteers creations to fund local charities like the Breadbasket and the Christians United Outreach Center.
Blakely said it took seven years to weave enough inventory to open up shop, and that volunteer weavers use Common Threads’ looms to weave drapes, tote bags, dish towels and more from everything from yarn to recycled plastic bags from Food Lion or Hobby Lobby.