08/30/13 — Looking for online votes to make dream come true

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Looking for online votes to make dream come true

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 30, 2013 1:46 PM

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Jacqueline Harris

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Larry Herring

Ever have an idea for something that belongs on the shelves at Walmart?

For the second year, the company's "Get on the Shelf" contest challenged inventors, entrepreneurs and armchair dreamers to submit possible products they would like to offer to customers.

Two area residents have made it to the final round, with online voting ending at 11:59 p.m. Monday. Winners will vie for a chance to have their product marketed and sold by Walmart.

One of them actually has two entries in the running, as both of her submissions were chosen. And both people enlisted the help of the Small Business Center at Wayne Community College.

"I went there for consultation on my business plan and some advice on how to market my services," said Larry Herring, who describes himself as an inventor and designer.

His artwork has already been popping up around the county -- on the walls of such restaurants as Ninja and Sumo. So when he learned about the Walmart contest, he immediately thought of another project.

"The timing was perfect because I had just finished this special Christmas card," he said.

It was something he had been working on for about a year, he said. He did the cover illustration, while a friend in Fayetteville contributed the poem.

"Christmas in Heaven" is a greeting card that a family member can send at Christmas on a departed loved one's behalf. Inside the card is a place for a 4x6 personal photo of the departed loved one.

"The people that are still here (can) actually represent the people they have lost," he said "The people that are not here are not able to send out Christmas cards ... They're spending their Christmas in Heaven."

Herring said the contest offered just the right boost of encouragement, which he believes will continue "opening the doors" for him in the future.

Jacqueline Harris sought the services of the Small Business Center when she left her job as medical office manager after 20-plus years.

"I was just trying to figure out if I was going to do something on my own," she said. "In the process of looking for a job, you have to look at all options. This was one of my options."

She already had some ideas in mind, but was unaware of an outlet for them.

"I only found out about the contest two days before (auditions) ended," she said. "I barely got it in before the deadline.

"Who wouldn't want to be in Walmart?"

Her entries are for "Toddler Tees," T-shirts with the child's age on them -- "I'm 2," "I'm 3," up to age 5 -- and a magazine for female football fans.

Printing up the shirts was easy enough, she said. Finding tiny models to showcase them for the contest video was another matter.

"I just walked up to somebody in Walmart -- they were from the base -- and asked if their kids could slip on the T-shirts," she said with a laugh.

As for the second entry, the idea came from her own love of the game, coupled with the belief that others shared her passion.

"NFL's (The National Football League) fan base is more than 50 percent women," she said

"It's a family thing -- we have all got matching jerseys, food, tailgating, home-gating," she said. "Not just Super Bowl parties. It's the whole culture of football."

Since her entry was chosen, she's been "writing like a mad woman," interviewing football agents, working on concepts to fill the pages of her proposed publication.

"I'm going to publish it whether it gets on their shelf or not, getting it into convenience stores, if I have to sell it out of the trunk of my car," she said.

Renita Dawson, associate vice president of continuing education at WCC, was formerly director of the Small Business Center when Herring and Ms. Harris were clients.

The center's purpose, she explained, is to help individuals interested in becoming entrepreneurs by providing counseling, educational seminars and information and referrals toward starting a business. She said it's rewarding to see clients do well, and was pleased to learn about the two local entrants.

"These two individuals, I know they are prepared for whatever the next step is because they were at the point of, 'How do I market my product?'" she said.

To watch a video of the local entries or to vote, go to the following links: