UNCP incubator holds program for entrepreneurs

By: By Mark Locklear - For The Exchange

PEMBROKE — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke soon will be the newest home of a national program to engage, educate and connect local entrepreneurs.

One Million Cups — based on the notion that entrepreneurs network and discover solutions over a million cups of coffee — is a free, weekly gathering that helps to build start-up communities on a grassroots level.

Beginning this week, entrepreneurs, innovators, funders and other interested community members are invited to attend each Wednesday from 8 to 9 a.m. at various cities throughout neighboring Robeson County.

UNCP’s Entrepreneurship Incubator, located at 202 Main St. in Pembroke, will host the first gathering on Wednesday. Programs will be held in Red Springs on Feb. 15, in Lumberton on Feb. 22, and in St. Pauls on March 1. All four towns will host an event each month.

The program’s model is consistent in each city across the country: Every Wednesday morning, two early-stage startups present their companies to an audience of mentors, advisers and other entrepreneurs. Each founder presents for six minutes, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session with the audience.

The inaugural One Million Cups in Robeson County will feature presentations by Theo’s, a new Caribbean themed gourmet deli, and Next Level Design, a restaged sports clothing and embroidery company. Theo’s, located in Pembroke, is owned and operated by Theo Gumbs, who previously served as Sodexo’s executive chef in residence at UNCP.

In each One Million Cups city, local entrepreneurs drive the program as community organizers. Volunteering for the leadership roles in Pembroke are: Judy Sampson, president, Pembroke Area Chamber of Commerce; Thomas Hall, executive director, Thomas Center and UNCP Incubator; Cheryl Rogers, administration, Thomas Center and UNCP Incubator; and Leah Kinney, Student Project director at UNCP.

“This is a great opportunity for the community to help startups in their formative stage, so they have a better chance of succeeding and creating jobs,” Hall said.

“The Pembroke Chamber and our community business leaders welcome the opportunity to help new businesses grow,” Sampson said.

View the national website at www.1millioncups.com and access the Robeson County microsite at www.1millioncups.com/robeson.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. Visit www.kauffman.org for more information.

By Mark Locklear

For The Exchange

Mark Locklear is Public Communications specialist for UNC Pembroke.

Mark Locklear is Public Communications specialist for UNC Pembroke.