DALTON, Ga.-When Kathy Jenkins opened her first business under bright red, yellow, green and blue awnings in downtown Dalton, she didn't expect Toys in the Attic to take over her life.
Four years later, she is known as the "toy store lady" to children in her church, elementary schoolchildren greet her with hugs and the specialty store defines who she is to many people.
"It is a very unique commitment - more than the financial aspect or a full-time job," Jenkins said. "It really impacts every aspect of your life, so you gotta love it if you open a business."
Jenkins, who pursued a lifelong dream when she opened the store with her husband, Bob Jenkins, in 2007, is one of panelists speaking at the First annual Small Business and Entrepreneur Workshop in Dalton next week.
The Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority is offering the free workshop that is open to all small-business owners and entrepreneurs in Northwest Georgia. Federal, state and local organizations that provide financing, marketing and other resources will be present to provide information and answer questions.
A panel of Dalton entrepreneurs will also talk about their experiences in operating a business in the area. Jenkins said she will share tips about using social media, especially Facebook, as a means of free advertising as well as connecting with other business owners.
Alex Stall, project manager with the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority and the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce, said the idea for the workshop came due to all the questions the two organizations get from people wanting to open a business.
"They may have a good idea, but don't know where to get started," Stall said. "This is a way to provide all the resources that are available."
The number of self-employed business owners in Whitfield and Murray counties more than doubled from 2003 to 2008, according to data from National Establishment Time Series website.
The Downtown Dalton Development Authority also plans to launch a competition during the workshop to award $5,000 for the best startup business plan, according to Veronica French, the director of the Downtown Dalton Development Authority.
The proposed business would have to be opened in downtown Dalton, French said.
"Sometimes people have an idea but don't have a plan in place," she said. "Statistics show they will have a much higher success rate with a plan."
Jenkins said organizations like the Downtown Development helped get her business off the ground.
Despite a rocky start due to the economic downturn in the years since they've opened Toys in the Attic, Jenkins said it has been a great experience she is excited to share with other adventurous entrepreneurs.
"I'm looking at starting a 'buy local' Facebook page where local business owners can share ideas," she said.