Thomas Center hosted marketing summit for entrepreneurs


A restaurant owner from Lumberton, N.C., was looking for ways to improve customer service.

A music store owner from Fayetteville, N.C., found some useful ideas to aid marketing research.

A home health care provider said she found a breakthrough marketing idea.

 Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas, CEO of Thomas Properties Group (NASDQ:TPGI) speaks to UNCP’s Entrepreneurship Summit.

An entrepreneur from Lumberton wants to open a business and was looking for effective, efficient marketing ideas.

These business people joined more than 100 others on February 25 at UNC Pembroke’s Entrepreneurial Summit on “Guerrilla Marketing.”

Sponsored by UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship (TPCE), the summit provided marketing ideas and concepts for new and start-up businesses.

Jim Thomas, CEO of a Los Angeles-based commercial real estate company and TPCE’s founder, attended the summit.

“This is an exciting event for the Thomas Family Center,” Thomas said. “I am an entrepreneur who started three businesses from scratch, so I can relate to the experience.

“I was fortunate enough to be successful, but I always wondered how much more effective I could have been if I had training in entrepreneurship,” Thomas continued.

“When UNCP gave me the opportunity to start this center, I grabbed on to it immediately,” he said. “I hope that we are having an impact on the local community.”

Located in COMtech, the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship has two missions: first, it builds undergraduate and graduate academic programs in entrepreneurship, and second, it consults with small and start-up businesses.

“Guerrilla Marketing” is an integrated and inclusive idea, said Nick Arena, CEO of COMtech. “As the leader of a small non-profit with a small staff, everything I can learn today will be extremely important.”

Arena, who is also a lecturer in UNCP’s School of Business and former general manager of Acme Electric Company, said the concept of Guerrilla marketing defines marketing as more than advertising and promotions. It is broader in scope and includes research, social and relationship marketing.

“Find a niche and fill it,” Arena said. “Don’t just sell, entertain and connect to your customers on an emotional level.”

Speakers included Dr. John Parnell, UNCP’s Belk Endowed Professor of Business, Bob Moore, director of Robeson Community College’s Small Business Center, Ted Hollingsworth, president of Line Design Graphics in Greensboro, N.C., and Katie Harshberger of the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center.

The day was filled with networking, resources and useful ideas that may be turned into successful marketing programs. Donna Lowry, CEO of Caring Touch Home Health Care of Pembroke, was busy taking notes.

“I really got some great tips here today,” Lowry said. “You can never be too successful to learn new things.”

Lowry’s company employs approximately 600, but just a few years ago, it operated from her kitchen. She is a member of the TFCE board of directors and UNCP’s board of trustees.

“What stood out for me today is that marketing must be targeted - a bull’s eye,” she said. “I think this summit is really important; it opened my eyes.”

Arnold West owns Village Station Restaurant in Lumberton. He has owned the business for two years, and he competes on the same street with big franchise restaurants.

“We have great food, and I’m looking for ways to improve customer service,” West said. “I’m a small guy, so I have to go on my reputation for customer service; that’s where I can win.”

Scott Pennington wants to open a retail store in Lumberton.

“I’m here for ideas about how to do it better from the start,” Pennington said.

Tony Harrison is a small business owner in Fayetteville.

“Today, I found sources of information that I had not thought of, like the Census,” said Tony Harrison, who owns Cape Fear Music Store. “Fayetteville is growing and I want to target new residents.”

UNCP Chancellor Charles Jenkins said outreach for business development is “one of the key parts of our mission.”

“Events like this one are how we can contribute to the economic development of our state and, particularly, the Southeast region,” Chancellor Jenkins said. “I want to thank Jim Thomas for his support of our region for many years.”

Presentations from the Entrepreneurial Summit will be posted online at For more information about TFCE programs, please call 910.775.4208 or email