Last year, Wake Forest University joined leaders from five other local colleges and universities in pledging to incentivize entrepreneurship among their students and keep the best and brightest young business minds in Winston-Salem.
Inmar’s chairman and CEO David Mounts envisioned this collaborative program and announced its launch during a press conference at the inaugural meeting of Venture Café Winston-Salem in May 2017.
At Wake Forest, the Center for Entrepreneurship is at the forefront of fulfilling this commitment. The University has awarded more than $75,000 in cash and in-kind services to startups during the 2017-18 academic year. Student entrepreneurs with a high potential for success have access to local industry experts with technical, legal and business know-how.
The Venture Café Winston-Salem, Winston Starts and the Winston Salem Chamber of Commerce, in addition to committed individual business and community leaders, are inspiring college entrepreneurs to launch and build their businesses in Winston-Salem.
“There is strength in numbers and as an entrepreneur and business and community leader David understands the power of collaborative work,” says Dan Cohen, executive director of Wake Forest’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “It’s exciting to see the success we have had this past year with student startups remaining in Winston-Salem and the momentum building for the future.”
Examples of recent Wake Forest student startups and the kinds of support entrepreneurs received from the University and community partners follow.
- “The Wake Forest Center for Entrepreneurship has served as a one-stop shop for a developing entrepreneur such as myself,” says Courtney Toll, co-founder of NORI, an innovative, handheld, wrinkle-removing solution inspired by the technology of a hair straightener. “Professors Dan Cohen and Greg Pool have repeatedly encouraged me to abandon a student identity in favor of an entrepreneurial mindset that prioritizes mentorship and action. The many connections of this department have allowed our startup to meet new mentors that now serve on our board of directors, connect with a product design firm that is now manufacturing NORI, and gain access to professional legal advice when filing patents and trademarks.”
- “Startup Lab was the best thing to happen to me at Wake,” says Billy Candela, co-founder of Chune, the Bleacher Report for music. “I’ve always wanted to own my own business, and the Startup Lab in the Center for Entrepreneurship gave me all of the tools I needed to help me grow my idea, such as around the clock coaching, financial support, a strong network, and the opportunity to pitch my idea to investors. Dan Cohen and Greg Pool are a great team, and it’s exciting to see the direction they are taking the program in, a program that I think will soon be regarded as one of the best in the country. Thanks to one of the connections I made through Startup Lab, I’ve been given the opportunity to grow my startup in Winston-Salem after I graduate.”
- Former Startup Lab student and graduate of the Center for Entrepreneurship, Jake Teitelbaum, founder of Resilience Gives, says, “Since I initially stepped foot on campus in 2012, the growth of the entrepreneurship community has been staggering. Interest among students always felt strong; however, in the last few years, the University and city of Winston-Salem have committed a tremendous amount of resources and dedicated personnel to create a truly entrepreneur-friendly environment. Relationships I initially formed as a student with the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Wake Forest School of Business have only grown stronger, and it’s this combination of access to human and financial capital that have been instrumental in our decision to keep Resilience Gives local.”
- Lauren Miller, co-founder of UpDog Kombucha and graduate of Startup Lab, shares, “We are so thankful for the Center for Entrepreneurship for its continued support since graduating. We grew quickly while we were undergraduates at Wake Forest and have continued to keep growing with the continued mentorship and resources we’ve received over the last year. The Center for Entrepreneurship is sponsoring two interns for us over the summer who will offer tremendous support as we move through some growing pains we are experiencing right now. Since graduating, Winston-Salem has proven to be an amazing city to grow a young business. There is such a thriving entrepreneurial community with so many resources and opportunities. Not to mention, everyone here wants to see you succeed. We are part of Winston Starts, a startup incubator, in downtown Winston-Salem where we have access to office space and a wide network. We are so grateful to be part of such a vibrant entrepreneurial community!”
After raising capital from a local investor, Chune is excited to stay and build in Winston-Salem. Both UpDog Kombucha and Resilience Gives are also committed to staying and growing their businesses in Winston-Salem.
The Center for Entrepreneurship seeks to complement and enrich the first-class liberal arts education provided at Wake Forest by educating and inspiring entrepreneurial leaders through engaged teaching, coaching and mentoring within a robust and vibrant entrepreneurial culture.