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Small Business: What made the owner of Carolina Paper Guys decide to become an entrepreneur?

Freddy Trevino had been a sales representative for 15 years when he decided to venture out on his own. Trevino, 47, opened Carolina Paper Guys (CPG), a paper distributor, with the help of a business partner in 2012.

“It started with a seed in my head that at some point I was going to be a good enough sales rep that it didn’t matter what I was selling as long as there was a market for it and the product was decent,” said Trevino. “You’d be surprised how often that is true.”

CPG sells items like register rolls (think receipt paper), toilet paper, napkins, cups, branded cups and to-go cups to restaurants, convenience stores and nationally, regionally and locally owned companies.

In five years, CPG has reached between $500,000 and $1 million in sales per year, Trevino said. Trevino has seen more than an annual 30 percent growth in sales and has added two more partners to the business. CPG sources their products from local and regional manufacturers.

“There’s a cost saving that people undervalue,” Trevino said of using locally sourced products. “I feel like it benefits the region better; it benefits our bottom line. It contributes to the story that we want to present to the world.”

Trevino answered CharlotteFive’s questions for the small business series:

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

“I could serve this market better than what was currently in place.

“I knew that the cheapest way to get product was to order it online. I presented a strategy that obliterated that. (It) made buying local a better option than buying it online.”

How do leadership skills play a role in running your business?

“I’m going to take a chance with a metaphor: Imagine a bunch of rowers in a boat. The boat represents the business, how fast it goes means how well you’re doing.

“Each rower has an oar, and that oar is representative of the contribution they make to the business, in whatever aspect – sales, logistics, whatever.

“As the leader, it’s imperative that everyone be rowing in the same direction or at the same tempo. An effective leader gets everyone’s oar going in the same direction.” 

Where do you draw the line on taking risks?

“Can I absorb the loss? Every additional line that we bring on is a risk. There are challenges each time.”

How do you build relationships with your clients?

“It’s having the audacity and the courage to meet them at their place of business first.

“I’m borrowing this from a former employer — a fanatical approach to customer service. And it’s not that the customer is always right, it’s that the customer wants sensible resolution.”

What is your dream vacation?

“Any place that has blue water. It’s impossible to mess that up. If you can get to a place where there’s blue ocean water, you’re going to be all right.”


Photos: Freddy Trevino

Family history and my own fascination with people and their motivations prompted me to begin this series about Charlotte’s small business owners. Industry, situation and questions will vary. Have a suggestion for a small business owner or entrepreneur to interview? Email it to with the subject line “Small Business Series.”

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Autumn brings quiet to small town in the Northwoods | Terri Auchter

Up at our cottage in the Northwoods, the lake is calm and a light breeze whispers through the tall pine trees. There is nothing but the lonesome cry of a loon to break the silence.

The ferns which form a lacy lawn in our backyard have turned from lush green to a dull brown and soon will be buried under fallen leaves, not to be seen again until next summer. Unlike this time of year, summer is not quiet.

The high-pitched whine of jet skis; the rumble of engines on pontoon boats; the loud shrieks of children as they zip by on inflated rafts pulled behind a motor boat; these are the sounds of summer.

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But autumn is quiet. Boats have been stored away. Children are back in school. The main street of our small downtown is almost deserted. The summer folks are gone.

The ice cream shop, which was so crowded on hot summer days that customers spilled outside the store and sat at tables under umbrellas to eat their ice cream, is empty now.

A sign hangs in the window: “Thanks for a great season!” I’m sure the ice cream shop will reopen. But many of these businesses will not reopen.

Winter lasts long in the Northwoods and autumn is sometimes chased away early by snow. The shopkeepers and restaurant owners have a hard time making a living during winter.

Each spring “for sale” signs sprout up along with the daffodils. A few stores will be sold to some budding entrepreneurs who hope they can do enough business in summer to survive the slow sales in winter. But some will never open.

We used to have a Dairy Queen. It’s been vacant for two years. The hot dog place was sold and reopened as a bar and grill. That lasted six months. One vacant store has a sign that says a bakery will be opening soon. The sign has hung on the front window for several months.

Some dreams of success have turned to nightmares. A few places are thriving. We have two restaurants, a motel, two diners, a winery, a hardware store, a liquor store (though it’s for sale), three gift shops and a pharmacy.

On a recent fall day, I walked the three blocks of downtown and hoped no more “for sale” signs would be posted in shop windows. As I walk, my footsteps echo on the sidewalk. It is autumn. It is quiet.

Terri Auchter is a Neenah resident. She can be reached at Auchter’s book of selected writings and recipes, “Just Between Us” is being sold at Thos. Lyons Fine Books, 124 W. Wisconsin Ave., Neenah. $10. Proceeds benefit local food pantries.

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