Garris Grading & Paving

Farmville, NC

Congratulations to Garris Grading & Paving for being a Business North Carolina 2013 Small Business of the Year runner-up!

Angela Garris was born to be a leader. A hardworking mother with strong faith, she went to her insurance company to pay her bill and was offered a position as a customer service representative. Her infectious energy brought in many new customers, so when the owner was faced with the tough decision to sell the business or close its doors, he decided to sell – to Angela.

She purchased the business and successfully brought it from red to black. Meanwhile, her husband Jesse had been in the paving industry for 21 years and was working away from home. But in 2006, with an ill mother in Georgia and a teenage son facing serious health issues, life in the Garris household took a dramatic turn.

“I’m going to buy a paver, and I’m going to start a paving business,” Angela told her husband. Jesse gave his notice and came home, supporting his wife’s vision of what would become Garris Grading & Paving.

Angela started the business with three employees, a PF-65 paver and a roller. Working with a local asphalt supplier, she was forced to plan her jobs around the supplier’s schedule, which affected business. She decided it was time to gain freedom and purchase her own asphalt plant. She informed the supplier, “I’m going to run an asphalt plant. It’s not to hurt you; it’s to help me. I’m doing it for myself.”

In 2009 at a minority business roundtable, she heard about the SBTDC and was given the name of Debbie Hathaway, SBTDC business counselor in Greenville. The SBTDC helped Angela secure an intern, who helped with the business plan, website, and research for the plant. Debbie also assisted Angela in obtaining financing at a small local bank where she was approved for an SBA 7(a) guaranteed loan. Angela then purchased an existing asphalt plant on 40 acres of land, and preparations to get it up and running are now underway. Having already grown from 3 to 7 employees, completion of the plant will provide an additional 13 jobs.

The customer base is also growing. Already reaching Greenville, Kinston, Goldsboro, and beyond, Angela sees potential to expand into the Raleigh and Rocky Mount areas as well. Last year, Garris Grading & Paving hit their first $1 million in revenue and are on their way to exceeding that in 2011. (Also, as the only woman-owned paving business in the area, everything from the equipment to the plant itself will be painted hot pink!)

When asked what advice she would give to other small businesses, Angela replied, “Take help from the SBTDC! Take advantage of all the expertise and knowledge. You have somebody to ask, ‘This is where I’m at; tell me where I need to go.’ Also, set goals. Without goals, you don’t know what you’re reaching for.”

Story originally featured in the SBTDC's 2010-11 Annual Report.