Why Wilmington? Why not
In the 30 years since I moved to Wilmington, this relatively small southern town has found its energy and refined its identity to become what USA Today recently recognized as a vibrant coastal city.
Back then, Wilmington remained distant from a major highway and was comfortable in its weekend-driven resort-minded lifestyle. Retirees were the fastest growing demographic.
But, a pretty good measure of how far this city has come over the past three decades occurred on Wednesday with Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s annual Coastal Entrepreneur Awards. Ten nascent companies gathered with hundreds of Wilmington business and community leaders to celebrate what we all agree is a start-up ecosystem that is fully supportive of a 21st Century economy.
This year’s winners in each category represent what happens when entrepreneurs are nurtured by a university dedicated to innovation, or a tech-focused incubator that creates community, or an economic development engine that re-purposes what’s already here, or a population that is simply bound and determined to make the Cape Fear region work as hard as it plays.
Because, when all is said and done, this city still loves to play!
On Wednesday, we applauded the following companies:
Tri-Tech Forensics, a biotech company that manufactures and assembles evidence collection kits and crime scene investigation products, and, through a recent acquisition, now sells emergency medical kits.
SportGait, Inc., a platform for monitoring and managing concussion symptoms for youth and school-aged athletes and their coaches.
Cardinal Foods, which packages, sells and distributes regional farmers’ crops, expanding the existing facility from a three month to twelve-month operation and broadening their product line to serve more farmers, more produce and more markets.
Hensler Surgical Technologies which sells its surgical supplies worldwide, among them the Hensler Bone Press, a patented device that maximizes the collection and separation of bone. His inspiration was a French press – go figure!
KWH Coin is a blockchain company that merges crypto-currency and renewable energy with a goal of bringing affordable renewable energy to the world’s 600 million off-grid households. Talk about social impact!
Compass Bracelets, each of which has a unique number that can be tracked on a map, encourages its wearers to log on to their website and check in with journal-like entries and photos to create a world-wide community.
myBeeHyve, a women-owned enterprise, is a contact management system, originally developed to support network marketing representatives. Used also by real estate agents, independent consultants and independent contractors, myBeeHyve is now in supporting other (mostly) women-owned businesses in 11 different English-speaking countries.
Coastal Stormwater Services designs new or retrofits stormwater management projects, restoring wetlands and mitigating runoff throughout the region. Ultimately, his work (it’s just one guy who loves “mucking about in the mud”) means better water quality for swimming, fishing and marine life – critical for a coastal community.
The non-profit winner was the Good Shepherd Center, which over several decades, has expanded its services from soup kitchen to homeless shelter to, new this year, permanent, supportive and affordable housing for some 40 chronically homeless single adults with disabilities – a good reflection of (one of!) Wilmington’s commitment to combat urgent social problems.
And the winner of all was Connected Investors, a fast-growing online social platform for real estate investors. With revenues of $10 million in 2018 and some $3 billion in loans flowing through its portal every month, CI is a terrific reflection of Wilmington’s entrepreneurial energy. As Founder Ross Hamilton said, “Wilmington was a desert (when he started in 2006). I traveled just to surround myself with people who would speak my language.” Then came the CIE, tekMountain, and the influence of entrepreneurial activity in Raleigh and Charlotte, all of which, he said, helped Wilmington area entrepreneurs pursue their dreams and ideas.
Amen to that!
Oh, and! The prize, aside from bragging rights? Natch, a hand-crafted surfboard, that, while not water-worthy, reflects the craftsmanship of youth in our city courtesy of Kids Making It – another fine reflection of what makes Wilmington extra special.
Well done, All!