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CUBE Dives into Wilmington’s Start-Up Culture

July 13, 2018 • Erin Reitz • No Comments

On Thursday, July 12, the Campus Y CUBE teams headed east to meet some of Wilmington, North Carolina’s most dedicated and influential social entrepreneurs. While the coastal city is well-known for its beaches and fine dining, UNC alum Dana O’Donovan introduced students to Wilmington’s blossoming reputation as a hub for technology and start-ups.

The inspirational day included conversations with:

Missio, a hair product company started by Lorin Van Zandt (’06) and her husband Kyle. The couple spoke about their unique double bottom line approach, which allows them to reach customers who want to purchase their “products with purpose” while unlocking the potential of the cosmetic industry to directly fight human trafficking. In addition to selling their affordable luxury hair products, Missio also educates stylists and salon owners how to identify potential victims of human trafficking; mobilizes stylists and volunteers to use their gifts to serve people in recovery from human trafficking; and gives to non-profit partners who aid in the recovery and restoration of victims of human-trafficking.

Bitty & Beau’s provides more than just a good cup of coffee. Started by Amy Wright in 2016, the coffee shop is a community gathering place run by employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). With over 80% of people with IDD unemployed nationwide, Wright has dedicated her life to advocating for the value, inclusion, and acceptance of people with IDD (watch her 2017 CNN Hero of the Year video here). Cashier Jesse Guillaume shared her story with CUBE participants and answered questions about how the opportunity to work at Bitty & Beau’s has changed her life.

TekMountain is a modern entrepreneurial incubation space started by CastleBranch, one of the top 10 employment screening companies in the nation. CEO Brett Martin, Senior Director Sean Ahlum, and President Lauren Henderson provided lunch to the CUBE cohort while the students heard from TekMountain entrepreneurs about their start-up journeys. Community Manager Amanda Sipes gave the group a tour of the striking TekMountain space, which is outfitted with dozens of startup offices, hanging chairs, meeting rooms, a brewery and gym.

Tru Colors Brewing founder and serial-entrepreneur, George Taylor, spoke about starting his newest business and working towards ending gang violence in Wilmington and beyond. After the drive-by shooting of a 16-year-old in 2015, Taylor created Tru Colors Brewing as a way to employ rival gang members and support them in communicating and working together. Tru Colors currently employs 23 active Bloods, Crips, and Growth & Development members who, are driving gang culture to be a positive influence in communities and inspiring others to stop violence. Taylor chose a beer business model because it has the potential for national distribution and allows for a number of employee professional development tracks, such as manufacturing and sales. Since Tru Colors’ inception, gang-related deaths in Wilmington have dramatically decreased.

DREAMS of Wilmington, Inc. is a nationally award-winning nonprofit providing youth in need with high-quality, free-of-charge programming in the literary, visual, multimedia and performing arts. DREAMS provides arts programming to more than 800 young people and their families each year in its newly-renovated inner-city center on Wilmington’s North Side. Interim Executive Director Kevin Blackburn gave the CUBE cohort a tour of the space and spoke about building a creative, committed community one child at a time.

Pine Valley Market chef Christi Ferretti prepared a delicious meal featuring local cheeses and meats to finish off the day. CUBE participants enjoyed a delectable spread of charcuterie, sushi, chicken tacos, and more while learning how Ferretti combined an entrepreneurial drive with her lifelong love for food.

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