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Start-ups mushrooming in Charlotte

Whether you’re a long-standing brick-and-mortar small business or a mobile-based startup, you can (and should) find a home here in Charlotte.

But you have to know where to turn. There are plenty of entrepreneurial resources that help with everything from building a business plan and securing loans to pitching to investors and crafting an exit strategy.

Although Charlotte has long been known as a home for small businesses, its growing startup culture is making headlines.

Last March, the city (for the first time) hosted the Southeast Venture Conference – the largest of its kind in the region – which showcases emerging technology firms and offers exposure to private-equity investors and venture capitalists.

It was a major coup for the city, as many venture capitalists in the region and across the nation were known to merely pass through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on their way to start-up hubs in San Francisco; Austin, Texas; New York; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and Research Triangle Park.

Local startup leaders say that before 2008, there were only a handful of high-growth tech startups. Now, there are more than 200.

It’s still a far cry from Silicon Valley, no doubt. But there’s a hunger here.

Meet some of the major players:

Dan Roselli: A former Bank of America employee-turned-entrepreneur, Roselli founded the uptown startup hub Packard Place in 2011.

Packard Place is a 90,000-square-foot building, located at 222 S. Church St., where startups can rent space and where a steady stream of startup events, competitions and roundtable discussions take place.

Two years ago, Packard Place started RevTech Labs, a three-month program that focuses on early-stage mobile, software and web companies. Startups in RevTech Labs get free work space, mentorship and programming, and the program ends with a Demo Day spent pitching to investors and business leaders. Details: 704-248-5660; www.packardplace.us.

Terry Cox: In 2006, Cox founded Business Innovation Growth (a.k.a. BIG) Council, a nonprofit that works with high-growth startups in the Charlotte region. With a background in entrepreneurship and institutional asset management, Cox started BIG out with 13 entrepreneurs who committed to use their businesses to create economic value for the region.

Now, she works with more than 100 companies and organizes several events a month, including business book clubs and panels with experts on pressing issues, from exit strategies to securing investments. She helped lure the Southeast Venture Conference to Charlotte and has an extensive nationwide network. Details: 704-927-8064; www.bigcouncil.com.

Louis Foreman: A prolific inventor, Foreman decided in 2001 to create a home for fellow inventors. He named it Enventys. Twelve years later, Enventys, which operates out of renovated mill in Third Ward, is a one-stop shop with a staff of more than 50 industrial designers, engineers, graphic artists, marketing experts and attorneys who help develop your idea and product.

Also housed at Enventys are Foreman’s other projects: EdisonNation.com, an online community for innovators; “Everyday Edisons,” a reality series on public television; Inventors Digest, a trade publication; and Edison Nation Medical, a partnership with Carolinas Healthcare System to develop new medical technology. Details: 704-333-5335; www.enventys.com.

Other available resources

Your business doesn’t have to have a mobile app and a on-site developer to fit in the greater Charlotte-area entrepreneurial community. And, if you get plugged in, you’ll soon realize there’s no shortage of free services, seminars, networking events and mentors.

Ventureprise: Most people know it by its former name, the Ben Craig Center. A nonprofit business incubator, Ventureprise is supported by UNC Charlotte and rents out space and offers free consulting services to resident startups and early-stage companies. It also orchestrates the annual startup competition, the Charlotte Venture Challenge. Details: 704-548-9113; www.ventureprise.org.

Small Business Administration: Located in the SouthPark area, the North Carolina SBA office is a resource for businesses of all sizes, ages and industries. There are SBA lenders, resources partners for mentorship and a number of local events and workshops. The website also is a great resource. Details: 704-344-6563; www.sba.gov/districtoffices.

SCORE: A resource partner with the SBA, SCORE is a nonprofit, run by volunteers, dedicated to helping small businesses start and grow. Details: 704-344-6576; www.charlottescore.org.

Small Business Center Network: North Carolina Community Colleges have a network of small business help centers with a wide range of programs for existing and prospective business owners. You can find area centers at Central Piedmont Community College, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, South Piedmont Community College and more. Just search by county on the website. Details: 704-330-2722; www.ncsbc.net.

South Carolina Small Business Development Centers: South Carolina also has a number of regional state-funded small business centers, the closest of which is in York County at Winthrop University (803-323-2283; www.winthropregionalsbdc.org). Get help with everything from marketing and employee management to government contracts and financial management. The centers don’t lend money, but they work with other lending institutions and angel investors to help businesses meet requirements for loans or investment. They also oversee a Veterans Business Program.

For continuous small business coverage and resources, check out the Observer’s ShopTalk page and blog at www.charlotteobserver.com/shoptalk.

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