The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Photo courtesy of Heidi Messina, UNC Wilmington
The CIE began in 2009 as the “Entrepreneurship Initiative,” a small enterprise housed on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Seven years later, we now occupy an 11,000-square-foot space adjacent to university with nineteen tenant offices (and 42 tenants), a large coworking space, and two executive suites. In the first eight months of 2016, we have sponsored 50 events of our own and served as the location for 138 events for groups, companies, and nonprofits.
The CIE has come a long way—we are now the largest sponsor of events, training, and educational programs for the entrepreneurial community in southeastern North Carolina. In the past month, we have cosponsored the Paul Singh #RJTechTour stop in Wilmington, NC, which brought three days of entrepreneurial programming and investors to the city; we partnered with 3 Day Startup to give 26 students and locals the chance to build startup ideas from nothing to the pitch stage; and we hosted multiple workshops, including the Small Business Association’s Entrepreneurial Academy, a Progressive Web App Workshop series, and a Google Analytics certifications series. In November, we will be involved in Cucalorus Connect, a piece of the iconic film festival geared exclusively toward technology and business innovation.
Events are at the core of the CIE as an organization that strives toward educating and preparing new entrepreneurs. We are also home to the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, which assists with patents and other efforts to commercialize technology and solutions that come out of the UNCW community, and Seahawk Innovation, which provides services that include venture funding, consulting, and more. We have a device lab and a slew of professionals able to offer consultation and assistance, as well as a staff of student and independent employees able to assist in many aspects of startup establishment.
But the most compelling part of our story isn’t what we do—it’s who we do it with, and what they do.
“It’s a tremendous amount of support,” says Cameron Meredith, CIE grad student assistant and owner of two different startups housed there. “I don’t think I would be where I’m at right now without them.”
“I do anything they ask me to do,” says Dr. Jennifer McCall, CEO of SeaTox, which commercializes marine natural products. “There have been some really amazing events, especially the legal events. I don’t think the CIE was that big when I was starting my business, but I wish that it had been… a lot of that information would have been very helpful.”
“There's professors here who have started companies—they built mobile apps ten years ago!” says Sarah Ritter, grad student and founder of Turnip Learning. “They've been there and done that, and it's really special.”
“The CIE is continuing [what it did for me] and reaching out to small businesses and engaging them, encouraging them, and providing resources,” Mack Coyle, CEO of solar power startup Coyle, LLC, told us. “They did all of that for me before I was even a member of the coworking space.”
They say it better than we do—and in the end, it’s them that matter.
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