UNC Wilmington Entrepreneurship Center Repositioned to Increase Support of Southeastern North Carolina Economic Initiatives

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The University of North Carolina Wilmington announced plans to reorganize its Entrepreneurship Center as a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) under the auspices of the UNCW Research Foundation at a press conference today, Tuesday, Feb. 28. The change is designed to ensure the center's continued growth and to provide it with greater flexibility to support entrepreneurship and innovation in Southeastern North Carolina.

Established within the UNCW Cameron School of Business in January 2010, the UNCW Entrepreneurship Center LLC (EC) serves as a catalyst for entrepreneurial growth in the region and at the university. The EC strives to create business growth, jobs and innovation by linking emerging and high-growth ventures, entrepreneurs and partner organizations. The center operates in partnership with area business leaders, organizations and initiatives including the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce's Cape Fear Future.

Jonathan Rowe will remain as the center's director and will become managing director of the LLC. UNCW Chief of Staff Max Allen will serve as the foundation's executive director and the foundation's board will be expanded to include Allen, UNCW Provost Cathy Barlow and Larry Clark, dean of the Cameron School of Business. In addition to empowering the EC to better serve the region, the change will enable the center to further support campus wide entrepreneurship efforts, including innovative student and faculty ventures.

"Supporting entrepreneurship is critically important to the region's economic future. The new organizational model will position UNCW's Entrepreneurship Center to better support future growth in the eight counties of Southeastern N.C. The reorganization will enable the center to become more nimble and innovative as it expands its programs and creates new initiatives," said Chancellor Gary L. Miller. The center will also assist UNCW in its innovation and commercialization efforts, such as MARBIONC."

Since its inception, the EC has:

  • Indirectly created 52 jobs and 27 student internships for area startup companies and small businesses
  • Helped startup companies secure $5.2 million in equity financing through its signature Rocket Pitch events and meetings facilitated by the center
  • Recruited 3 businesses and helped launch 12 new startup companies in the region, three owned by UNCW graduates
  • Educated area small business owners through 52 entrepreneur speakers and classes, 62 individual advice sessions, and 18 training seminars

"The Cameron School of Business will remain actively involved with center initiatives," said Clark. "This reorganization will enable the school to focus greater attention on academic entrepreneurship programs while working with UNCW's Entrepreneurship Center to assist student and faculty initiatives associated with entrepreneurship and business development."

Rowe has been charged with developing an expanded business plan for the center, which was previously operated with university and membership funds. With the help of donors, he hopes to make the center self-sustaining within the next few years.

Rowe said, "With this new structure, UNCW will be able to provide the center with a stronger platform to meet the needs of the region's entrepreneurship community while also providing an easier mechanism for supporters and donors to have a greater impact on entrepreneurship. It is exciting to see UNCW and the community rallying together to reinforce the importance of entrepreneurship and its role in our region's economic future."

In October 2011, the EC was identified as one of the Top 20 Emerging Entrepreneurship Centers in the nation by the Financial Services Forum as part of a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation research report.

The EC's Spring Rocket Pitch Event will be held 6-8 p.m. April 18 in the UNCW Burney Center. Since 2009, the event has enabled more than thirty high-growth startup companies to promote their business ventures directly to area investors during five-minute pitches.

Media contact:
Joy Davis, Marketing and Communications, 910.632.3903 or davisjc@uncw.edu