On May 24, one of the 10 companies featured in the preceding pages will be awarded Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year for 2017. Here’s an update on some of the awards alumni:
YEAR WON: 2016
Bitty & Beau’s Coffee
THEN: When Beau’s Coffee won the top award last year, the coffee shop started by Amy and Ben Wright that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, had only been open for half a year. But award judges pointed to the company’s rapid growth, above-industry average revenue and loyal following in their award pick. Judges also pointed to the company’s potential to expand its model of providing meaningful jobs and training to workers with IDD, who often face limited employment opportunities.
NOW: Beau’s Coffee, initially named after the Wrights’ son Beau, changed to Bitty & Beau’s Coffee at the behest of Beau who asked for his sister’s name to be added to the brand. The business, which moved to a 5,000-square-foot space donated by the Rippy family at 4949 New Centre Drive, has grown from 19 employees to 40. They changed from their original plan to expand through franchising and instead have more direct control over their next location. In April, the Wrights announced they picked Charleston as home to Bitty & Beau’s second spot, with a fall opening targeted.
YEAR WON: 2015
THEN: Mimijumi, maker of an ergonomic baby bottle, caught the judges’ attention for how its leadership team streamlined the company’s operations and increased both capacity and revenues since moving the company’s headquarters to Wilmington from Nashville 18 months earlier.
NOW: “Mimijumi continues its exciting growth and we now have more than 300,000 bottles in use with a perfect safety record and a legion of loyal mimijumi moms around the world who are now breastfeeding and bottle feeding without limitations,” CEO Brendan Collins said. “We are now seeking partners to reach more moms and offer solutions to other parenting challenges.”
YEAR WON: 2014
THEN: When Wilmington-based startup Next Glass launched, it was to be an app that functioned as “the Pandora of wines,” as company officials described. Using chemical analysis on hundreds of thousands of wines and beers, it was intended to let users create personal profiles and recommendations. Judges saw potential in the company’s user base and ability to become a major player representing Wilmington’s tech startup pool.
NOW: Since winning, Next Glass grew, added staff and moved to a renovated building on South Front Street. Seeing greater potential in the growing craft beer movement, Next Glass turned its focus to beer. In early 2016 it announced it was merging with Untappd, an app-based social platform for beer lovers with an established following. While Next Glass is the parent company, it primarily operates under the Untappd name now, said Next Glass founder and CEO Kurt Taylor. He said the company now has 76 full-time employees – most in the downtown Wilmington headquarters but also in teams in New York and Los Angeles; six million downloads; and 7,000 business customers worldwide. The company recently released its second business product called Local Badges, a loyalty program for bars, bottle shops and breweries.
YEAR WON: 2013
THEN: Waste hauler Pink-Trash launched in late 2011 and outperformed its projections for the commercial, residential and construction roll-off markets. The company, which provides waste collection and recycling for commercial businesses, construction sites and residential customers, also made a distinctive mark with its pink dumpsters. The color choice reflected its philanthropy philosophy to donate 1 percent of all gross receipts to the Pretty in Pink Foundation, a nonprofit that helps breast cancer patients.
NOW: Now the company in its sixth year has 52 employees servicing New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Onslow counties. It serves about 19,000 customers a week and has contributed more than $1 million to Pretty in Pink.