Capital One collecting small-business stories in Charlotte

04/23/2014 7:47 PM

04/23/2014 11:21 PM

Not only is The Boulevard at South End a small business itself, the boutique shop showcases the jewelry, clothing and art of 40 other small businesses across Charlotte.

That made it a particularly attractive subject for Capital One, one of the nation’s largest credit card issuers, as it pieces together a portrait of small businesses around the country.

The bank tapped two documentary filmmakers from Brooklyn, N.Y., Trish Dalton and John Sears, to take a road trip across the U.S. telling the stories of small businesses in nearly three dozen cities. Their videos and photos are compiled on a website, IAmSmallBusinessProud.com, and social media channels Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“The idea is just to hear their stories and connect with them,” Dalton said. They’ve been to more than 60 businesses so far in their white Chevrolet Suburban, running the gamut from construction firms to restaurants.

The duo arrived in Charlotte on Tuesday and are off to Atlanta on Thursday. They’re staying at and eating at small businesses at each stop, so they’ve spent the night at the Duke Mansion and eaten at the Common Market in South End. Dalton and Sears also stopped by the Berrybrook Farm Natural Food Pantry on East Boulevard.

At The Boulevard at South End, the filmmakers captured interviews with the boutique’s three co-owners, Jennifer Branham, Carmen Ellis and Angie Regan. They opened the shop in November 2011.

Craftmakers and artists lease space in the store to display their products. They range in age from an 8-year-old boy who makes bracelets to an 80-year-old man who creates banks out of old safety deposit boxes.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Regan said.

For Capital One, the project markets its small-business products at a time when banks are increasingly courting new credit card customers and small-business clients. Low interest rates, diminishing mortgage demand and a slow-growing economy have pushed lenders to aggressively seek new customers to boost revenue.

“We really want to get as close to our customers as we can,” said Buck Stinson, Capital One’s senior vice president of Spark, the bank’s small-business card line. “We recognize the more we know our customers the better positioned we are to build the right product suite.”

He said Charlotte was a natural fit for the tour because of its reputation as a good market for small businesses and the size of Capital One’s customer base in the city. Capital One, based in McLean, Va., has no branches in Charlotte and does not have any employees in the city, the company said.

“I don’t know how you could do a world tour without Charlotte being on the list there,” Stinson said.

GE Capital stopped in Charlotte at Hissho Sushi last summer during a similar road trip featuring middle-market businesses.

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