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Entrepreneurs

2015 CEA Winners: Where Are They Now?

By Staff Reports, posted May 4, 2018
Coastal Entrepreneur winners from 2015 (File photos)
BRAND ASSURANCE
COMPANY: Brand Assurance aims  to help apartment complexes keep residents happy and maintain good management.
YEAR FOUNDED: 2015
EMPLOYEES: 4
UPDATE: “Since we started, we have not lost a single customer, and we have added new customers,” founder Jim Kittridge said. Brand Assurance collects feedback from apartment complex residents and uses that to improve their experience. Happy residents are invited to provide testimonials. New features of Brand Assurance services include executive reports that enable upper management of apartment complex-es to see how on-site managers are performing.
PHOTO: Jim Kittridge, founder and CEO 
 
CAROLINA GREEN BUILDING
COMPANY: Carolina Green Building was a construction company dedicated to renewable technologies. 
YEAR FOUNDED: 2010
UPDATE: Carolina Green Building founder Robbie Sutton launched his company primarily as a solar installer and provider of energy services. It later expanded into a full-service construction company. Efforts to reach company officials were unsuccessful.
PHOTO: Robbie Sutton, founder 
 
ELITE INNOVATIONS
COMPANY: Elite Innovations LLC is a product development firm.
YEAR FOUNDED: 2013
EMPLOYEES: 5
UPDATE: The firm has moved from Chandler’s Wharf to the Murchi-son Building.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The biggest challenge that Elite has faced when trying to grow in Wilmington has been the talent pool in the area. Unfortunately, Wilmington and UNCW do not have a [soft-ware] engineering program.  . . . However, through hard work, and constant recruiting and the willing-ness to take chances, we have been successful in this particular area of the state.”
PHOTO: Andrew Williams, founder and CEO 
 
THE HARRELSON CENTER
ORGANIZATION:
The Harrelson Center is a centralized campus of nonprofit organizations specializing in humanitarian services that meet basic needs, address social determinants and offer hope, opportunity and empowerment.
YEAR FOUNDED: 2008
EMPLOYEES: 7
UPDATE: The center, located in the former New Hanover County detention center, now has 12 nonprofit organizations on campus and seven associate partners and Friends of the Center. Three partners have been on campus for more than 10 years. The center has $3 million of its capital campaign goal for additional renovations, anticipating a renovation of the tower in 2019 as the Vicki Dull Annex. Among other accomplishments, the center opened Help Hub, a direct services emergency financial assistance program. “On a part time schedule we have ad-vised over 4,000 neighbors in two years.”
PHOTO: Vicki Dull, former executive director 
 
FILMWERKS INTERNATIONAL 
YEAR FOUNDED: 1999
EMPLOYEES: 100
COMPANY: Filmwerks International is a production equipment rental company. 
UPDATE: “We have purchased 14 acres to place a 100,000-square-foot warehouse. Our growth has been exponential, and we needed more space to house an ever-growing inventory/fleet. On that same note, we plan to have full-functioning branches in NYC and Las Vegas in 2018.”
GROWTH AND INNOVATION: “Our most unique product is our large format battery power supplies that have cut our fuel consumption within the broadcast industry, drastically. These units, called UPS (uninterrupted power supply), are proving their worth by utilizing utility power. These battery systems also condition utility power allowing us to use a much more economical source of electricity.”
PHOTO: Michael Satrazemis, CEO   
 
GIGSALAD 
YEAR FOUNDED: 2006
EMPLOYEES: 30
COMPANY: GigSalad offers a marketplace for booking bands, musicians, entertainers, speakers and services for parties, productions and events of all types and sizes. 
UPDATE: The company is nearing 10 million all-time gig requests, growing from 3 million in 2015. GigSalad has more than 110,000 performers/vendors, up from 55,000 in 2015, and has been on Inc. Magazine’s list of the top 5000 growing companies from 2015 to 2017.
TOP THREE TIPS: BE AUTHENTIC; BUILD THINGS THAT MAKE SENSE; STICK TO YOUR CORE PRODUCT AND DON’T CHASE MONEY.
PHOTO: Steven Tetrault, co-founder   
 
KOOLBRIDGE SOLAR INC.
COMPANY: Koolbridge Solar designs and creates electrical products that allow renewable energy to be integrated into homes in a manner that is more efficient and economical  
YEAR FOUNDED: 2013 
EMPLOYEES: 10 
UPDATE: The company’s Smart Load Center patent was granted in February 2017 and is a foundational patent, giving the Koolbridge product very broad protection. The Smart Load Center is a device designed to allow customers to use their solar or wind energy sources along with utility-based energy in a complementary fashion. 
TOP THREE TIPS: 1. Have common goals. 2. Be austere and frugal in the management of all available funds. 3. Recruit the smartest technical, marketing and business management people that have the most amount of successful work experience in a similar technology field.
PHOTO: J. Stephen Burnett, co-founder/ chairman/CEO     

MIMIJUMI
COMPANY: mimijumi makes award-winning breastfeeding bottles. 
YEAR FOUNDED: 2014 
EMPLOYEES:
UPDATE: “Since receiving our CEA award in 2015, mimijumi has continued its mission to provide better feeding for all babies. In 2016, we built a robust digital community in the USA to reach moms where they live online. In 2017, we repurchased distribution rights in Europe and launched new websites in the UK, France, Germany and Italy.” 
CHALLENGES: “The two biggest challenges we have faced have been 1. streamlining a complex global supply chain; and 2. unwinding damaging distribution agreements that preceded current management. . . .To streamline the supply chain, we toured every facility around the globe to meet every partner faceto- face to understand how and why processes existed.”
PHOTO: Brendan Collins, CEO   
 
PERFORMANCE CULTURE
COMPANY
: Performance Culture is an employee performance management software company. 
YEAR FOUNDED: 2015 
EMPLOYEES: 6  
UPDATE: The company now has more than 6,000 users and more than 130 clients. “This past year, six healthcare organizations have implemented our software. We believe healthcare will be a great niche market. . . . We continue to bootstrap our company and have not raised capital outside of our Angel Investors.” 
GROWTH AND INNOVATION: “Our software has significantly evolved since we won the CEA Award. Our initial software was a ‘proof of concept’ built on a platform as a service (Knack.com). We knew we would eventually have to migrate off this platform to scale our company. We began developing Performance Culture 2.0 in July 2016.”
PHOTO: Dallas Romanowski, CEO, and Melissa Phillippi, president   
 
SURGILŪM
COMPANY: Surgiūm LLC is a medical products developer. 
YEAR FOUNDED: 2013 
EMPLOYEES: 7 
UPDATE: Surgilūm’s flagship product is the RoboMarker, the world’s first self-leveling corneal marker with pre-inked disposable tips and an integrated fixation light. Its second product, the iLight Speculum, is an illuminated eyelid speculum. “We have enjoyed continued healthy sales with over 30 percent growth year over year . . . Word of mouth has become our growth driver until now but we do have plans to enter into advertising later this year to accelerate sales.”
A TOP TIP: “Know yourself. Do you have what it takes, and are you willing to really stretch to get there? Doing the impossible takes guts and, often times, a lot longer than anticipated.”
PHOTO: Alan Brown, founder
 
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