Bunker Labs, a nonprofit that provides resources for veteran entrepreneurs, will launch a Wilmington chapter in February as part of its plans to grow in the state.
There will be a launch event Feb. 13 at Ironclad Brewery, where city leaders and partners in the community will be introduced, said Dean Bundschu, Atlantic regional executive director for Bunker Labs.
As a nonprofit, Bunker Labs provides online courses, networking opportunities and other resources to help veterans start their businesses. The organization is made up of a network of veteran entrepreneur volunteers.
“Locally, we will have three volunteer city leaders, who will focus on three core areas: entrepreneurship, community and operations,” he said.
The Wilmington chapter will have monthly Bunker Brews networking events and eventually run a CEOcircle Entrepreneurship program, where CEOs gather to get resources to further grow their companies.
The official chapter is opening in Wilmington because of the entrepreneurship environment present here, Bundschu said.
“According to USAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and IVMF, Wilmington is the No. 6 rated city in the entire U.S. for veteran entrepreneurs,” he said. “Additionally, Jim Roberts did a fantastic job building and connecting the Wilmington entrepreneur community through Network for Entrepreneur in Wilmington. His WALE angel group also helped four local veteran-run business raise funding. So Bunker launching a formal chapter there is an extension of his work.”
Roberts was the previous community development director for Bunker Labs, and he also ran a monthly Bunker Brews networking event in Wilmington.
Bunker Labs will address the need to support veteran entrepreneurs in Wilmington by providing free programs to military veterans and military spouses who are interested in starting a business, Bundschu said.
In addition to Wilmington, Bunker Labs will open chapters in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Greensboro and Asheville this year with support from NC IDEA Foundation.
NC IDEA was awarded a grant as part of its Ecosystem Partners program that will fund the launch of the five new chapters in the state.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will collaborate with the local chapter, he said.
While there are many programs in the U.S. designed to support aspiring entrepreneurs, they are heavily concentrated in a few major metropolitan areas and most charge some fee and/or expect to take equity in a company, Bundschu said.
“These programs can be inappropriate for military veterans or military spouses who have nothing more than an idea or for those who don’t really know if entrepreneurship is the right path for them,” he said.