1789 helps Tar Heel businesses develop

In mid-May, 1789 — a business incubator for UNC entrepreneurs — moved into 173 1/2 E. Franklin St., an office space just above Four Corners.

Now, as 1789 nears the two-month mark, a dozen fledgling businesses are operating out of its space.

1789 provides UNC-based business founders with basic resources — a space to work, mentorship and a community of like-minded individuals, said Taylor Smith, the incubator’s community manager.

The initiative joins another downtown business incubator, LAUNCH Chapel Hill, which was created through a University and town partnership and also opened in May.

And like the businesses it houses, Smith said the idea for 1789 was born right on UNC’s campus.

Jim Kitchen, a lecturer at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, teaches an introduction to entrepreneurship course called Business 500 every fall. After each semester, students would visit Kitchen’s office to work on their business ideas.

Running out of space for these students, Kitchen decided Chapel Hill needed an incubator for early-stage entrepreneurship. Kitchen leased the Franklin Street space to create 1789 and a productive environment for young entrepreneurs.

Use of the space comes with one basic rule: you must be UNC-educated.

A major goal of 1789 is to keep Tar Heel minds and projects in Chapel Hill post-graduation.

Smith said without incubators such at 1789, entrepreneurs end up leaving for tech-heavy places like Raleigh and Durham — even Silicon Valley and New York City — after graduating.

He said with a nurturing and business-focused environment, business founders are encouraged to stay in the area.

“We’re setting up an entrepreneurial pipeline in Chapel Hill,” said Smith.

Entrepreneurs interested in working out of 1789 fill out an application — provided on the incubator’s website — with general questions regarding their business ideas. Once approved, the incubator is free to users.

“Pretty much all you need to come here is a good idea and a willingness to work on it and be a part of our community,” said Aaron Scarboro, 1789’s assistant director.

Among 1789’s users is Corey Harris, a 2010 graduate with an economics major and entrepreneurship minor who founded Blinkness.com — a UNC-specific professor-rating site. Now, he is working on his newest startup, Mobile Webie.

Mobile Webie will help small businesses create one-page websites to attract potential clients.

“1789 helped people to take my work more seriously,” Harris said. “I have a place we can bring potential clients for meeting. It legitimizes what I’m doing.”

Nicholas Thomas graduated from UNC in December 2010 with a management and society major and business minor. Now, he uses 1789 to work on his company, FilmLab, which helps startups tell their story through video and design.

“1789 believes in you, so you must be doing something right,” said Thomas.

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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