More Wilmington startups have been applying for NC IDEA SEED grants thanks to more awareness in the community about the opportunity offered to entrepreneurs.
NC IDEA is hosting an information session 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina Wilmington to continue its efforts to bring awareness to the region about the grant program.
NC IDEA is a private foundation founded in 2006 that supports the growth of startups and has a mission of maximizing the economic potential of people in the state.
The program offers early-stage funding to innovative startups, comprising of $50,000 to selected companies. The funding competition takes place twice a year, once in the spring and another in the fall.
CIE director Diane Durance said the number of Wilmington applicants has increased in the past 12 months due to efforts to inform the region about the grant competition.
“I think many of the entrepreneurs were probably unaware of the grant opportunity,” Durance said. “I don’t think they knew about it.”
Durance said the Cape Fear region went from having no candidates three years ago to having 18 applicants in the spring.
A Wilmington-based company, myBeeHyve
, was one of the seven recipients of the grant last year. It received a partial award of $25,000.
Part of that increase is due to NC Idea hosting two information sessions at the CIE center in the spring and fall of last year.
“NC IDEA has come for the past couple of cycles to visit Wilmington to talk about their process,” Durance said. “They do want to make entrepreneurs aware of their program in all parts of the state. They felt Wilmington and Asheville were underrepresented because the entrepreneurs weren’t fully aware of the opportunity.”
At the information session, representatives from NC IDEA will talk about the various parts of the grant application, including tips and best writing practices. They will also discuss some of their other programs.
The CIE will also provide information on the types of support they can provide to anyone planning on applying for the grant.
“It’s a fast cycle and it closes Sept. 7,” Durance said. “They have to move quickly, and we will provide them info on what kind of support we have and other mentoring services where we help companies that are maybe not ready, but we can help them with the next cycle in the spring.”
The CIE has a consultant that specializes in helping companies and entrepreneurs prepare in applying for the grant, Durance said. The consultant can work one-on-one with applicants and help them with the application questions.
Durance said the NC IDEA usually looks for innovative companies. The types of companies that apply should not be too early on the idea stage where they are not ready, but they should not be too developed where a $50,000 grant won’t be enough, she said.
“They would be companies were a $50,000 grant would help them achieve a milestone,” Durance said. “You are really trying to find these companies, they understand their competition and they are ready to take off. They are looking for businesses that will have an economic impact in the community.”
All NC IDEA programs are open to NC-based companies. For more information on the grant or to apply online visit the foundation's website