University Advancement & Alumni Relations

NC IDEA Foundation

Heather McWhorter, Regional Director, SBTDC; Susan Bales, Bales Consultancy Company, LLC

Heather McWhorter, Regional Director, SBTDC; Susan Bales, Bales Consultancy Company, LLC

Since receiving a $100,000 ECOSYSTEM Partner Grant from NC IDEA Foundation last fall, the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has seen its team-based mentoring program grow to 110 mentors and has helped 14 startup ventures reach key milestones.  

The CIE program surrounds entrepreneurs with a team of mentors that bring fresh perspectives and a critical mix of experience to the table. Many CIE mentors are career professionals that have relocated to Wilmington from other parts of the country and are generously contributing their expertise and connections.

They’re knowledgeable in marketing, law, finance and management — and they come from a variety of industries including construction, film and media, financial services, life sciences, marine sciences, consumer products, heathtech, edtech and more.

Paige O’Neill, Co-Owner, Atlantic Garage Doors

Paige O’Neill, Co-Owner, Atlantic Garage Doors 

As the first anniversary of the grant approaches, the CIE reports that NC IDEA funding has already supported significant achievements. Renaissance Fiber, a company using proprietary methods to produce high-quality fiber from industrial hemp, was being coached by a CIE mentor team when they were awarded a $50,000 NC IDEA SEED grant in May 2019.

CISME, a company with a diagnostic tool that non-invasively measures the vital signs of coral, was assisted by a mentor team on an application that resulted in being selected as one of 40 ventures worldwide to meet investors at the Fish 2.0 Global Innovators Forum. Skilly-do, an early childhood education venture, also working with a mentor team, made it through multiple rounds in the MIT - Solve Challenge.

The CIE mentor program continues to grow and provide an increasing number of high-potential ventures with critical support, and UNCW is grateful to the NC IDEA Foundation for making this possible.

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