• Stephanie Rzonca

E-Commerce Fuels Opportunities in Rutherfordton

“Hi, I’m Kate Dillon. I’m the girl who sells racecar parts.”

Have you ever seen that special gleam in someone’s eyes? The one where you can’t help but recognize their drive, enthusiasm, and joy? The one that makes you think, “This person would succeed at anything they try, because ‘giving up’ is not in their vocabulary.” Kate Dillon has that special gleam in her eyes. Her delightful spark of confidence and creativity is infectious and contagious.

Kate Dillon is one of the increasing number of women launching and expanding businesses in the United States. According to the 2018 State of Women Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express, “the number of women-owned businesses surged 58%, while all businesses increased only 12%” since 2007. The number of jobs created by women-owned businesses, and the overall revenues generated by women-owned businesses have been growing at a higher and faster rate than businesses overall in the United States. Close to home here in Rutherfordton, Kate Dillon is one of the many female entrepreneurs creating their own opportunities for success. Entrepreneurs don’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come to them. Instead, with eyes wide open, they find and craft their own opportunity, and drive their own success.

For Dillon, that opportunity sounds like the roar of a revving crate engine. Her online store, Crate Insider, sells racecar parts, engines, accessories, gifts, apparel, and more. After figuring out how to build her website and online store on her own, she launched her site in 2014. Now, her web-based business has grown to generate millions in revenue. Rutherfordton turned out to be the perfect place for her to build her startup, during that make-or-break time in the business life cycle when the fledgling entity is at its most fragile. Rutherfordton’s relatively low cost of living, combined with the calm and quiet of small town living, proved to be the perfect space for Dillon to nurture a brand new business, and make it the roaring success it is today.

Dillon grew up in the racing world, but never thought she’d build a career there. “I went off and got a degree in Interior Design, and worked in architecture for several years,” she told me. “But one day, my dad and my brother called me. They had a racing trade show, and they asked for my help. I packed my bags and moved from Idaho to North Carolina.” While at the trade show, she quickly saw a need within the industry that would make a great business opportunity - no one else was selling the parts and supplies that crate engine racers were looking to buy. She grabbed that chance and took the daunting risk to start that business herself. Dillon had never built an online store like this one, and when the person she hired to do the web design abruptly left, she had two choices: admit defeat and close up shop before it ever opened, or hang on tight, learn new skills, and drive forward on her own. The gleam in her eyes and her sheer tenacity both tell me she only ever saw one option. She put the pedal to the metal and built her business.

The advent of the web-based store has brought with it a shift in customer habits and practices, and traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are feeling that shift. Like any economic paradigm shift, the firms able to adapt to consumer behaviors are the ones most likely to endure long-term. In the spirit of paying it forward and increasing the possibilities for others, Dillon coaches and mentors entrepreneurs seeking to expand their business reach through e-commerce and online marketing strategies.

Rutherfordton was a great location for Kate Dillon to drive her opportunities forward and find e-commerce success. As our economic landscape transitions to remote work and web-based self-employment opportunities, Rutherfordton may see even more of a work-from-anywhere type of workforce. The community amenities like the Purple Martin Greenway, Historic Downtown, and small town friendly atmosphere, all make Rutherfordton an attractive location for home office users wanting to improve their quality of life.

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The Town of Rutherfordton recognizes these assets and workforce trends, and seeks to provide resources and amenities to fill the unique needs of those who can work from anywhere. Recently, The Town of Rutherfordton and Rutherford Town Rising launched the “Rutherfordton Pop-Up Opportunity Box,” or P.O. Box, inside the Woodrow W. Jones Building as a meeting space and quiet work space for community users. This space offers WiFi, business books and resources, and more, to accommodate a range of users and needs.

For entrepreneurs like Kate Dillon, the economic future is bright. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, innovation, creativity, and drive are essential elements to long-term success. Our community is all the better for creators and innovators like Dillon, who choose to call Rutherfordton home.


Want to learn more about Kate Dillon and all of her resources? Click here to go to her website. Click here to check out Crate Insider!