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Corporate, foundation partnerships support Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub

Thomas Hall
Thomas Hall, Executive director
Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub

Several initiatives at the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke (formerly Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship) and Entrepreneurship Incubator will benefit from the support of corporate and foundation partners whose generosity will encourage job growth, economic development and educational opportunities in Southeastern North Carolina.

A recently announced gift from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust will allow the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub to hire a sustainability coordinator who will team with the Entrepreneurship Incubator staff to launch small businesses and create stronger ties between economic development and health improvement efforts. The Hub hopes to bring 30 new jobs to the region over three years as a result of the gift.

The grant funds will be spread over three years.

The Entrepreneurship Incubator – located inside the Hub – supports business growth across a 10-county region.

The Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF) has made a gift to support the Entrepreneurship Hub’s Executive Sponsorship Program. The program will generate a base of general funding that supports sustainment and expansion of vital initiatives necessary to fulfill the Hub’s mission. CSBDF’s gift will fund the purchase of technology that will allow the Hub to facilitate training sessions, recognize sponsors, and welcome visitors. As the program’s first donor, CSBDF’s leadership will encourage others to lend their support.

Partnering with the Entrepreneurship Hub fits well with CSBDF’s mission to empower entrepreneurs across North Carolina by working with small business owners to shape and hone their strategies, said Lenwood Long, Sr., president and CEO of CSBDF.

“We’re partnering with the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke because it provides the tools and training a new generation of entrepreneurs needs,” said Long.

“Their mission to propel a diverse student population and small businesses within the region toward success is totally aligned with our goal to foster economic development, especially in historically underserved communities.”

Tony Hayes, chairman of CSBDF’s Board of Directors, said the organization shares a natural synergy with the Hub.

“The Hub offers support to small businesses, and we are focused on providing real opportunity for small businesses in communities and regions that face economic challenges,” said Hayes.

Students at the Communities in Schools of Robeson County (Pembroke charter) will benefit from grants by the Wells Fargo Foundation and the N.C. Community Foundation. The gift will be used to create a “Young Entrepreneurs” program which will bring 20 eighth graders to the Hub once a week to learn about entrepreneurship. The program is scheduled to begin in September.

“Our goal is to stimulate these students, most of whom are at risk, so that they stay in school, hopefully in STEM fields, and someday start businesses of their own,” according to Thomas Hall, executive director of the Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub.

Students will learn how to develop concepts, conduct simulations and build prototypes, all key steps in the entrepreneurial process. 

“The Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub at UNC Pembroke plays an important role in helping to build future community and business leaders by providing young people guidance, knowledge and hands-on opportunities to develop the skills needed to be successful business owners,” said Joanna LeClair, community relations manager with Wells Fargo.

“Through this investment, we can be part of ensuring the economic success of this region.”

Education is just one of the areas supported by the Wells Fargo Foundation, which works with organizations across the country to help revitalize and strengthen communities.

The sustainability coordinator position funded by the Kate B. Reynolds will be responsible for finding and evaluating high potential technologies, develop and present proposals, and build and manage strategic relationships globally. The goal is to attract jobs in the home health care and agribusiness sectors, specifically in the areas of aging in place and nutrition. Addressing poverty as an underlying driver of poor health is also a key aim of this project.

“Economic opportunity, health and education are intertwined issues that our founder, Kate B. Reynolds, focused on during her lifetime. We work to interpret her vision today, and we know there are a lack of economic opportunities for many Robeson County residents,” said Dr. Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

“We are excited to partner with The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to spur economic growth in the community and across Southeastern North Carolina.”

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947. Today, it is one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the health and quality of life of financially-disadvantaged residents in North Carolina.