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Blue Ridge Design Workshop
501 Ada Street
Blue Ridge, GA 30513
Thinking Small. The emphasis [in Blue Ridge/Fannin County] is clearly on small, entrepreneurial operations that are better suited to a budding tourist community. Almost 90 percent of businesses are small concerns with 25 or fewer employees, say officials.
Fannin has worked hard to attract and nurture these operations. It was one of the first counties in the region to be certified entrepreneur friendly. The county also launched a program called Vision Quest geared toward showing local high school kids the business potential in Fannin when they graduate.
As the population has grown, the area has attracted a number of outsiders with an entrepreneurial bent. Sarah Auman opened her store in Blue Ridge after years spent
running the commercial division of Showcase, a photography supply retailer in Atlanta.
Steve Martin, owner of Blue Ridge Design Workshop, operated a successful graphic design firm in Midtown Atlanta, lived in a high-rise condo, drove a fancy car and had all the other trappings of urban life. About 20 years ago, friends invited him here to spend the weekend at their cabin. It didn’t take long before this urbanite had fallen in love with Fannin's slower pace and natural splendor.
"Then after weekends up here we asked ourselves ‘Wouldn’t it be great to somehow stay up here,’” Martin recalls. He left the firm in the hands of his partner and joined other transplants making their way up the newly four-laned Highway 515 to Fannin. After moving into a little cabin, he opened a one-man graphic design shop in town.
“It was a leap of faith, but it was a good decision,” he says now. Many of the county’s new businesses are being headed by ex-corporate types who are starting over at a much smaller scale. Some have enjoyed greater success than others.
“It’s a great place for an entrepreneur—if you’re wired the way you need to be,” Martin says. For one thing, relocating here has meant downscaling. A simple cabin replaced the condo and the fancy car is gone, too. The clients and their budgets are also smaller, but Martin says the rewards are often greater than he found in the city.
“When it’s a local somebody starting an enterprise that needs a graphic identity it’s really satisfying to help them,” he explains. He still maintains clients in Atlanta and they sometimes seem envious of his new home. “I’ll mention Blue Ridge and people seem to think that’s really kind of cool,” he says.