NC Idea Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Summit 2019 – Day 1

NC Idea Ecosystem Summit

I heard about the NC Idea Summit a few weeks ago in a business meetup with Daryl Shaw of Royalty Marketing. (Thanks, Daryl!) It is a statewide meeting of organizations who are working hard to promote entrepreneurship in North Carolina. By design, it is an ecosystem to support, nurture and grow businesses across the state.

Summit Opening

The first day of the Summit today started at 2pm, and was opened by Thom Ruhe, the president of NC Idea. He quickly got to the heart of the need in the US today. Ruhe said that we have lost our pioneering spirit, the ability to solve problems creatively.

In his experience of working with entrepreneurship communities globally, he has seen other countries excelling at creative problem solving. What we need are healthier ecosystems across the US. The answer for entrepreneurial efforts aren’t always more ideas, but help with resources to further what’s already working. It was great to see such a passion from Ruhe for his role and for what we are trying to accomplish in North Carolina.

Maryann Feldman from the Department of Public Policy at UNC

For the second session of the day, Maryann Feldman from the Department of Public Policy at the UNC Business school shared some of her research into economic disparity. The large urban areas of Charlotte, RDU and the Triad are seeing more small businesses start up and grow. These small businesses, offer new economic opportunities to our citizens. However, in rural counties, it is a different story. Many of our rural counties are not experiencing the boom of small businesses occurring elsewhere. For NC to succeed as a whole, there must be more resources dedicated to our rural citizens.

Gary Schoeniger of the Entrepreneurship Learning Initiative

One of my favorite sessions of the day was led by Gary Schoeniger of the Entrepreneurship Learning Initiative. Originally working at the Kauffman Institute, he left to focus on understanding how to promote an entrepreneurial mindset. He showed graphs of how fast technology is developing and how slow the human ability is to adapt to change. The gap is ever-widening. The only thing that will help is for a larger portion of our population to adopt an entrepreneur mindset.

In his years of work, he has helped develop entrepreneurial education materials – some of which have now been adapted for middle school students. His Ice House program has started giving people the entrepreneurship mindset that is needed for the future. Ultimately, his goal is to create a framework for us to go into the future and solve the big problems that we will face. In closing, Schoeniger said that the entrepreneurship spirit is the human spirit. It is the desire to rise above challenges to make a better life.


Craig Buerstatte, the director of the US office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Craig Buerstatte, the director of the US office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was interviewed about what he sees across the US and NC that supports entrepreneurship. He gave NC high marks for what we’re doing, and encouraged us to not compare ourselves to anyone else (looking at you, Silicon Valley). Instead, we should carve out our own reputation and brand.

Scott Hamilton, the new president of the Golden Leaf Foundation, was interviewed by Ruhe about funding new initiatives. Hamilton said that their approach is to fund that are a piece of a larger strategy that will benefit the entire ecosystem for entrepreneurs.

George Taylor, TRU Colors

In one of the most moving sessions of the day, George Taylor told his story (in video and in person) of his entrepreneurial effort to end gang violence in Wilmington. It was truly inspiring. In only 3 short years, he has been able to recruit the head of every gang to be involved in starting up a new brewing company. He has given them business training, and set them loose to be entrepreneurs. In turn, they have made a pledge to stop gun violence and to lead their gangs to do the same. The results have been outstanding. Once again, it was such an inspiration to hear from an entrepreneur who is creatively solving a problem that benefits an entire city.

Closing Remarks – Precious Wilson

After a moving tribue to honor David Rizzo, the founder of NC Idea back in 2006, Precious Wilson, COO of Gryppers, gave a challenging closing talk. She is the product of the ecosystem in NC, and expressed her gratefulness to NC Idea. In one of her most poignant moments, she reminded us that

“Education may prepare us, but relationships propel us.”

Wilson challenged to all of us to continue to grow our networks and ask for help from mentors. The people around us who are willing to help will make us all better entrepreneurs.

After the main sessions were over, there was a reception for everyone. Ecosystem partners had info tables set up, and there were plenty of networking opportunities.

All in all, a great first day.

Posted in ,

Micah Ray

Leave a Comment