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SBC Network Honors PCC Small Business Center

Photo collage depicting Luna Pizza Cafe owner Richard Williams, the restaurant and pizza.

GREENVILLE—The Pitt Community College Small Business Center’s effort to guide a local pizza shop owner through economic turmoil caused by the pandemic has earned accolades from the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) Small Business Center Network.

In December, the network announced the recipients of its Centers of Excellence Awards for 2020. PCC’s Small Business Center (SBC) received an award in the “Business Success Story (Most Impact)” category for the assistance SBC Counselor Debbie Hathaway provided Luna Pizza Café owner Richard Williams.

“I was honored to receive this award, especially with this client,” Hathaway said. “Richard not only is a successful entrepreneur in every sense of the word, but he truly cares about his community and making it better.”

Luna Pizza Café, which opened in Greenville in January 2018, was doing well prior to the COVID-19 outbreak early last year. But its future viability was threatened by mandatory business closures the state issued to limit spread of the coronavirus.

Working under the leadership of SBC Director Jim Ensor, Hathaway helped Williams come up with options to keep his business viable. She also helped him successfully apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the U.S. Small Business Association.

“We are very lucky to have Debbie Hathaway and Shareen Berkowitz on board to provide free, confidential consulting services to Pitt County entrepreneurs,” Ensor said. “Surviving this pandemic has been a trial for our small business owners, like Richard at Luna Pizza. He is an outstanding example of the creativity, hard work and perseverance we see in our clients every day.”

Through the PCC Small Business Center’s assistance, Luna Pizza Café implemented innovative approaches to increasing revenues, including take-home pizza kits, sponsoring contests on Facebook, and cutting overhead through skillful scheduling and staffing. In fact, Luna Pizza’s response to the pandemic helped the restaurant surpass its pre-COVID sales, create five jobs and retain 22 more positions.

“One of the first things Richard did after working with the PCC Small Business Center was put together a chat group with other local restaurants, so they could brainstorm ideas and help support each other,” Hathaway said.

Williams’ success with Luna Pizza Café despite the pandemic was highlighted in the June 2020 issue of Forbes magazine. The retired East Carolina University professor is now planning to open a second location for his restaurant business.

“I can’t wait to see what is in store next for Richard and Luna Pizza,” Hathaway said.

While presenting the Centers of Excellence Awards, interim NCCCS President Bill Carver credited North Carolina’s small business centers with leveraging “every possible resource to help sustain our state’s economy and build measurable impact” across the Tar Heel State.

“That’s why we’re pleased to recognize the accomplishments of these outstanding center directors and the success of their programs,” Carver said. “They help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams of starting businesses, and those businesses create jobs and have a significant economic impact in their local communities.”

Located within each of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, small business centers help start an average of 650 small businesses each year. They also contribute to the state’s economic development by creating or retaining more than 5,000 jobs annually.

“Entrepreneurship is all about overcoming the daily challenges of running a business,” Ensor said. “We are blessed to be a small part of Pitt Community College’s efforts to educate and empower these entrepreneurs who do the hard work every day to provide the jobs and economic growth that drive our region.”

01/11/2021