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      Local woman braves economy; opens dream business

      673. That's how many businesses have opened in 2012 according to the Treasury department - proving that many people are willing to chase their dream in a struggling economy. Shanna Shealy is one of them.

      "Of course the economy is bad right now, but I feel like it's building. We're in a process that we're recouping, rebuilding, and we need locally owned businesses here, especially in Albany, to help build our economy," said Shealy.

      On August 4th, Shealy opened Sweet Pototoes, a Children's boutique, after years of careful planning. Located on the border of both Lee and Dougherty County, the 25-year-old chose not to locate the store downtown.

      "I wanted to be surrounded by businesses that would bring in the customer that I needed," said the new business owner.

      Sandwiched between Buffalo Wild Wings and Bliss Nails and across the street from the movie theatre, Sweet Pototoes has many families close by. Although 612 businesses closed in 2012, including the Donut Factory in the same shopping center, Shealy says she isn't worried. Despite being in a town with lots of department stores and chains, she says her business is different because it provides an experience, and shoppers agree.

      "This is so much more convenient. I like small-town shops as opposed to large chains because usually they're so much more apt to work with you, said customer, Hillary Horton.

      Horton's experience proved right when she was able to custom-order a tutu for her daughter's birthday party at no extra charge - she says the experiences like these are why people should continue supporting local businesses.

      "It's so important because if we don't, they're just going to disappear, said Horton.