GREENSBORO — Melissa Wallace didn’t anticipate speaking to hundreds of people at an economic conference when she started Hops and Nuts, her Greensboro-based company that sells prepackaged gourmet nuts to breweries, wineries and specialty retailers.
But four years later, she found herself recently on stage at the Clinton Foundation’s annual domestic economic policy conference at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark.
The theme was “Economic Inclusion and Growth: The Way Forward.” And the conference and the experience couldn’t have been more appropriate for Wallace as a small-business owner.
“When you’re grinding it out sometimes, you’re like, ‘Well nobody notices the day-to-day work that small businesses put into daily operations,’ ” Wallace said. “To be recognized as being able to be a face and tell a story, it was truly an honor.”
Wallace was invited in part because of her participation in Retail Revival. The program, created by eBay to boost small- and medium-size businesses to a global market, was brought to Greensboro earlier this year.
Greensboro is just one of a few cities eBay chose for the 12-month program, and Wallace is one of about 40 small-business owners selected to take part in Greensboro’s partnership.
It was eBay that helped broker Wallace’s appearance at the conference.
“I found myself pleasantly surprised at the nature of the message, which is we have to do better to make sure our economy is inclusive,” she said.
By that, Wallace means nontraditional businesses such as those in rural areas and those that are owned by women.
Wallace got to meet former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the conference.
“It was awe-inspiring to hear that the (former) head of state, the head of a lot of global initiatives, wants to hear the story of a small-business person who boot-strapped her company in Greensboro, N.C.” Wallace said.
Wallace said the timing of her appearance at the conference was poignant because she is in the midst of a growth initiative. She sells her snack nuts to businesses in 22 states and recently topped 100 taprooms that put her nuts out on the bar. The company is also getting the attention of larger niche retailers.
“It’s crucial for the next level for us,” she said.
Today is designated as Small Business Saturday, and Wallace said she is grateful for the opportunity to have not only been a national face of small retailers but particularly of those in Greensboro.
It’s imperative to “get the message out that small business is alive and well in Greensboro,” she said.