Ted Zoller, an associate professor and director of the UNC Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said the goal of LAUNCH is to keep business-minded UNC graduates in the area.
“This is our opportunity to mix business leadership with what the University is producing,” he said. “The stuff on campus will affect what is happening here, and what is happening here will affect what happens on campus.”
Zoller said the demand for office space has exceeded expectations. LAUNCH received five times more applications than the number of open slots, he said.
“I think this shows just how impactful this program will be,” said Zoller.
Meg McGurk, executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said funding for LAUNCH has primarily come from the town of Chapel Hill, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Orange County and the University.
Other funding has come from private donors, such as Triangle Office Equipment, which provided $75,000 of furniture for the building.
“We wanted to get involved simply to give back to the community,” said Trey Jones, the company’s sales manager.
In addition to space in the venture lab, LAUNCH participants are given access to mentors from Kenan-Flagler, the UNC Center for Entrepreneurship and the Chapel Hill business community.
Recent UNC graduate Taylor Smith became involved with helping LAUNCH take off after taking a course with UNC entrepreneurship lecturer Jim Kitchen.
“Kitchen approached me about helping LAUNCH get started, and I’ve been involved ever since,” said Smith. “It has been a fantastic experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of this program.”
Town Council member Sally Greene said efforts to keep young businesses in Chapel Hill benefit everybody.
Greene also said LAUNCH’s location is indicative of the possibilities for revitalization on Rosemary Street.
And Zoller said the project could help Chapel Hill’s economy as a whole.
“Our goal is to be building a set of stories that will drive our economy forward,” Zoller said.
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