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Entrepreneurs

An Inclusive Space For Startups

By Jenny Callison, posted May 7, 2021
PROFESSIONAL SERVICES | GENESIS BLOCK | GIRARD NEWKIRK, CEO & TRACEY NEWKIRK, PRESIDENT | YEAR FOUNDED: 2019 | EMPLOYEES: 3 (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
Envisioned by husband-and-wife team Girard and Tracey Newkirk, Genesis Block provides business development services that support small business owners, entrepreneurs and early-stage startups.

Its mission is to build an entrepreneur class in Wilmington that is inclusive of everyone, while having a special focus on ventures led by minorities and women.
 
“The company has a vision to become the anchor organization for minority- and women-owned business services and economic development in Southeastern North Carolina,” Girard Newkirk said. “Genesis Block combines coworking, meeting and event spaces with educational programs and technology to create dynamic service offerings for small business owners.”
 
Three “Cs” form the basis for Genesis Block’s culture. The company emphasizes “community” connections to engage its clients with their environment and enhance the community as a whole. It promotes “collaboration” over competition as a way to strengthen the entire entrepreneur class. And it aims to foster an environment that encourages “creativity.”
 
Since its founding, Genesis Block has gained a number of tenants and clients, as well as funding. For example, in December, Genesis Block received $50,000 as one of eight recipients in the state of an N.C. Black Entrepreneurship Council ECOSYSTEM grant. Early this year, New Hanover County officials agreed to award the company $25,000 in economic development funds.
 
Even during a year-plus of COVID-19 restrictions, the company has formed partnerships to represent and advocate for the interests of small businesses in the area. Those partners include ResilNC, Cape Fear Collective, NC IDEA, Castle- Branch and New Hanover County. It also collaborated with Cucalorus and University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on this year’s 10x10 Challenge, a pairing of startups and filmmakers to produce short promotional videos.
 
In January, Genesis Block launched the area’s first Minority Accelerator and has seen it blossom in the first quarter. Nearly 90 firms applied to be part of it.
 
Genesis Block now has 47 community members, 38 companies in its business community and 15 sponsorship partners. Black-owned businesses compose 68% of its clients and tenants, while women-owned businesses represent 71%. Genesis Block has offered 23 small business workshops in the first quarter, with more than 350 people attending. The Newkirks also launched the Genesis List, a directory of area Black-owned businesses.
 
Girard Newkirk himself is an entrepreneur. His tech venture, KWHCoin, seeks to combine renewable energy and blockchain technology to provide off-the-grid energy to customers all over the world. In 2019, KWHCoin was a Coastal Entrepreneur Award winner in the Emerging Company category.
 
Tracey Newkirk is a business consultant and co-founder of the African American Business Council, which is allied with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.

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