Incubator makes it easier to ‘Launch’

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Nicholas Thomas, founder of Filmlab, and Leeann Chen, a marketing intern, discuss ideas for promotional content for other businesses in the Chapel Hill area.

In Chapel Hill, business incubators are working with up-and-coming entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into a concrete business model.

Launch Chapel Hill, one of three business incubators in Chapel Hill, is starting a program to streamline the incubation process.

Dina Mills, program manager for Launch Chapel Hill, said the Accelerator Program will offer a three-day boot camp that will work to acclimate the accepted businesses to the incubator’s resources, environment and technology.

“We will have a team of businesses going through the start-up process together at the same time,” she said. “This will allow us to obtain better resources and businesses will also have the ability to actively learn from each other.”

The boot camp is part of a 22-week program that will run from Jan. 6 to June 6. Business owners can learn more at two interest sessions on Oct. 28 and Nov. 12.

Mills said Launch Chapel Hill’s businesses are mostly based in town, but they have international reach.

She said Launch Chapel Hill tries to draw resources from the area to assist its small businesses.

“We have around 250 different mentors in the Kenan-Flagler Business School that take the time to help our businesses,” Mills said.

The incubator supports a total of 16 start-up businesses that have collectively raised $1.25 million in funding ventures over the past two months.

Mills said the location on West Rosemary Street has been key to the incubator’s success.

“We are in UNC’s background and in a highly educated area so we see a high demand for our services,” she said.

Fred Stutzman, president of 80% Solutions Corp., said his software company has grown due to the community the incubator creates.

“Being in a community of fellow companies is far and away the best thing,” he said. “So many people can offer so much experience. Being around these people with day-to-day conversation is an advantage.”

EmPOWERment Inc., the first business incubator in Orange County, was established in 2001. Delores Bailey, executive director for EmPOWERment, said it specializes in supporting women- and minority-owned small businesses.

EmPOWERment currently has 10 tenants and two openings. Bailey said the company works to help service-based entrepreneurs.

“I look for both sustainable and viable businesses,” she said. “Our goal is to help people grow their business and I think we are pretty good at it.”

1789 Venture Lab is Chapel Hill’s third and most recent addition to the community of incubators. Aaron Scarboro, director of 1789 Venture Lab, said that since its opening in May, the company has grown to help over 20 start-up businesses and caters to student entrepreneurs at UNC.

“I feel that we fill a different niche,” he said. “We are more geared for student-based start-up businesses. We try to foster future potential.”

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