Start. Grow. Succeed.
This is the life The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s executive director of the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship and Incubator, Thomas Hall, has cultivated.
The Bostonian brought this three-word mantra to UNCP when he was hired last fall, expanding the university’s ability to change lives through education.
“I like the rewarding challenge of developing the Thomas Family Center and help create jobs through entrepreneurship,” said Hall from his desk inside the Entrepreneurship Incubator in downtown Pembroke.
Hall has been in this environment before. He successfully helped expand the Hult International Business School in Cambridge after teaching global strategy and innovation in Dubai and Shanghai.
Hall brought extensive knowledge to his class from his experiences with Procter & Gamble and Beiersdorf, a European pharmaceutical company.
His enthusiasm for the area and the growth potential is undeniable.
“People ask me all the time ‘Why did you leave Boston to come here?’ and I ask them why wouldn’t you want to be here. With the support this area has to build the entrepreneurial community, I want to contribute to this program, because there is no doubt it will be successful.”
Hall’s belief in the potential in and around UNCP, Robeson County and the surrounding area echoed the words of Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings at the Incubator grand opening in December 2015:
“While the idea of a university-sponsored incubator is not a new one, I cannot think of a region that stands to benefit more from this type of project than southeastern North Carolina.”
Changing lives at the Incubator benefits more than just expanding one’s intellect. It includes practical, hands-on development of potentially profitable businesses and skills that entrepreneurs develop in a safe, learning environment.
An entrepreneur himself, Hall can relate to the daily visitors to his office. He was president and CEO of Brandworks Partners LLC, a packaged goods firm he founded in 2002. Before that he was president of Lansinoh Laboratories, a therapeutic lotions and baby care products company.
He also has extensive marketing experience from his days working at Procter & Gamble in brand management. He later joined Beiersdorf AG as director of the Personal Healthcare Division, before being promoted to director of the Medical Division in Athens, Greece.
Before coming to UNCP, Hall served as executive director of Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University.
Hall has wasted no time in putting drive behind expanding the Incubator, its programs and its outreach. Since he was brought in, he has developed programs geared toward helping entrepreneurs go from idea to commercialization and introduced programs like One Million Cups, designed to help entrepreneurs connect to their communities and customers.
This year’s Entrepreneurship Summit featured a Chancellor’s Challenge in which local residents pitched ideas for a start-up business. The winner pocketed $1,000 in cash and three months of free work space at the Incubator.
Hall has done this while re-structuring the physical facility to facilitate the growth of a business from idea, into an accelerator and marker’s space, and finally into the Incubator.
“Following this development model, ideas are carefully developed, feasibility assessed, and risk reduced, leading to a successful business launch,” he said.
“Not everyone will be successful. However, by going through this cycle they avoid the financial pitfalls before it is too late.”
Start. Grow. Succeed.
Contributed by Todd Coates, former intern with University Communications and Marketing at UNCP