The Southeast Entrepreneurial Alliance (SEA) launched on November 20 with the mission to encourage economic development through small business development in the region.
It is a project of UNC Pembroke’s Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development. Many community partners attended the kick-off.
The Southeast Entrepreneurial Alliance will serve five counties - Robeson, Scotland, Bladen, Columbus and Moore - and may be contacted at 910.775.4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Kim Pevia is the coordinator.
Attending the first meeting were approximately 100 individuals representing education, government, business, banking and finance, tribal, healthcare, nonprofits, agriculture and more. SEA is one of two such organizations in North Carolina funded by a three-year, $100,000 North Carolina General Assembly grant from the N.C. Rural Center.
Leslie Scott, director of the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship of the Rural Center, discussed the mission and some of the obstacles to success for developing rural entrepreneurship.
“Our mission is to cast a broad net to capture the many faces of rural entrepreneurship in order to build an e-community,” Scott said. “We like to support the whole continuum of entrepreneurs.
“The hardest job is selling the concept of entrepreneurship development to key stakeholders, especially elected officials,” she said. “North Carolina is good at industrial development, and we need to be just as good at entrepreneurial development.”
SEA’s new director said the new organization will nurture entrepreneurship in many ways, virtually from cradle to grave.
“Our mission is to stimulate a continuing conversation about entrepreneurship,” Pevia said. “When the economy is not at its best, it is the best time for entrepreneurs.”
She outlined several goals:
- Construct a seamless pipeline for starting and growing businesses;
- Educate people who want to start a business about business plans and financing and marketing, including creating a non-credit entrepreneurship certificate program;
- Incorporate a financial literacy program in kindergarten through 12th grade, including a summer program;
- Build business-to-business networks; and
- Create online resources and databases for entrepreneurs.
An entrepreneur herself and graduate of the University of Maryland, Pevia says she is passionate about entrepreneurship.
“The alliance is an invitation to people with a business idea to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality,” she said.
Several members of the new alliance spoke, including Illya Chavis-Lindsey, a concessions entrepreneur from Pembroke.
“Whenever I’m at a festival, I ask other business people questions and listen,” Chavis-Lindsey said. “Mentoring entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur will be an important aspect of the alliance.”
Terry Franklin, a Scotland County school administrator, said his schools are seeking ways to teach young people to run their own businesses.
“We have a course in small business entrepreneurship, and through the alliance, we can bring real life entrepreneurs into the classroom,” Franklin said.
Hillary Champaign of Blue Springs Community Development said her nonprofit would like to add entrepreneurship development to its existing poverty programs.
“I am extremely excited about SEA,” Champaign said. “We want to explain entrepreneurship in the simplest terms for people who don’t even know they are entrepreneurs.”
Beth Wilkerson, associate director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at UNCP, said she is looking forward to working with SEA. The SBTDC helps new and expanding businesses with planning, financing and technology.
Dr. Len Holmes, a UNCP chemistry professor, invited attendees to tour the new biotechnology center next door to the Regional Center.
Dr. Mike Menefee, the Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at UNCP, told the gathering about the University’s new minor and certificate programs offered to any student by the School of Business.
“We’re working on a Bachelor of Science in entrepreneurship that we hope will be ready for fall 2009,” Dr. Menefee said to applause.