by Jordan Green

Fresh starts

Small businesses in Guilford County are specialized parts in complex and evolving organism. Consider two new businesses that meet specialized needs and work in concert with peers and counterparts.

Seth Hall, 34, has operated Middle8Media as a sole proprietorship for about 18 months, but moved from Raleigh to Greensboro six months ago to get married.

Middle8Media essentially serves as a branding banner for Hall’s many multimedia creative endeavors and his services to clients who want to marshal his talents. The company’s services include making corporate videos, graphic design, web design, professional photography, branding and identity, videography, commercials, music production, documentary filmmaking and fictional narrative film.

“When I was 33, I decided I wanted to start my own business,” Hall said. “I wanted to be recognizable. I wanted to start a brand. I’ve got all these friends who are professional photographers and designers. I love community. I said to myself: ‘I’m going to start a business.’ I want to be the front man — the guy who would find the work and meet the clients. It’s very important that Middle8Media be known as someone

Monitoring the economic pulse of the Triad who is in the community. I can hire my friends out and give them work. I have low overhead because I don’t have to pay employees. I work out of my home and work out of coffee shops.”

Being in business for himself allows Hall to pull away to work on colleagues’ projects that engage his interest. For the past several weeks Hall has been helping Highway 29 with the shooting of the feature film Swimming in a Lake of Fire.

Hall said he has always been more motivated by creative passion for his work than by financial profit, so the recession has only slightly affected his business.

“I’ve been busy,” he said. “My wife and I have a philosophy of life that we would rather do something we love and have a relationship with people rather than be successful in the corporate world. Everybody is affected in some way by the recession, but I’m just rolling along. There’s always down time, so you get used to the ebb and flow.” The recession has shaped a significant portion of the business starts this year, and Sentinel Consulting Group in north High Point fits that profile.

Gregory A. Leimone was laid off from a private law enforcement company earlier this year, and launched Sentinel Consulting Group in September. Prior to working in the private sector, he was employed as a Greensboro police officer before resigning, in part, as a result of an injury.

Leimone is the sole employee of his company, but he has retained about half a dozen consultants, many of whom are Greensboro police officers. He plans to leverage extensive contacts in law enforcement and develop contacts in the corporate world to build a client base for his company.

“My goal as an entrepreneur is to teach people and businesses how to not be victims,” he said, including procedures training for corporations on preventing workplace violence, fraud and embezzlement.

Another opportunity Leimone sees for his company is helping law enforcement agencies evaluate technology and effectively implement new programs. All too often, he said, law enforcement agencies squander the talents of their sworn officers by assigning them to handle these programs instead of keeping them on the street, where they’re most useful.

“A lot of agencies don’t have the resources to effectively research and evaluate technologies,” Leimone said. “They don’t necessarily know how to get money from the feds. When they do, they’re pulling a sworn officer, and you have one less person on the street. The vendor writes the specification. It may not be what the agency needs, or it may not be good for them to grow into in five years. In my experience in law enforcement, I’ve seen a lot of poor buying decisions. It was not uncommon for me to see departments go before city council and explain how they spent $250,000 and bought a mobile command center and it was not what they thought they were getting.”

Leimone said he sees a correlation between economic difficulty and opportunity in the private security business.

“As this recession continues, you’re going to have more people laid off,” he said. “People are going to have more financial constraints. Holidays are very stressful. Suicides go up. More people are going to develop drug habits. They’re going to drink more. They’re going to make bad decisions. I see that crime could increase on several fronts.

“I’ve been laid off before,” he added.

“I know the host of emotions and the roller coaster you go through. You’re mad one day, and sad and depressed the next day. I’ve got a family to support, and I know what that’s like.”

Merry Christmas.