“The interactions with the other entrepreneurs were really helpful,” Henriod said. “People who were all working on problems that were at a similar stage — and you could augment and mentor each other.”
Launch Chapel Hill, a business incubator that aims to support entrepreneurs, opened in 2013. Launch is accepting applicants for its spring 2015 class of ventures until Sunday.
Henriod said though he decided not to pursue his business — a website allowing people to split the cost of group gifts — he gained valuable insight from Launch.
“The first lesson I learned was just how hard it really is to start a company, and when I do it, I want to make sure I’m super passionate about the idea,” Henriod said.
Dina Mills, program manager at Launch, said the incubator will accept six to 12 entrepreneurs into its 22-week program. She said Launch usually receives about three applications for each available spot.
Launch requires applicants to fill out an online application and interview with a committee made up of local entrepreneurs and people affiliated with the county, town and UNC.
Mills said admitted applicants have good ideas, a scalable business and an interest in growing the local entrepreneurial community.
“The idea is to support and develop high-growing businesses in Chapel Hill and Orange County that then remain in the community and support and grow and create jobs,” Mills said.
Michelle Bolas, program director at Innovate Carolina, said Launch fills Chapel Hill’s need for an affordable business accelerator and provides startups with mentors, potential investors and accounting and legal advice.
“Before Launch, we had to direct our companies to Durham,” Bolas said. “For those that want to stay and contribute to the Chapel Hill economy and be part of our community, we want to make that available, so Launch has filled that need.”
Fred Stutzman, founder of technology startup Eighty Percent Solutions and a former Launch participant, said he appreciated the help.
“It’s given us a lot of networking in the community and the ability to meet people in the community, both advisors and mentors and potential employees; it’s given us a place to start our business and have the credibility of having an office space,” he said.
“All of those things added up to helping us grow quite a bit.”