Shining A Spotlight On Entrepreneurs

By Craig Galbraith, posted May 6, 2016

May 24 is an important date for the entrepreneurial community in the Wilmington region. On this date we again award the annual Coastal Entrepreneurship Awards, which honor soof the most significant efforts in developing innovative and interesting ideas, products and services within the region.   

Since 2009, the Coastal Entrepreneurship Awards has been a joint effort between University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and the Greater Wilmington Business Journal to identify and recognize fast-growing organizations and businesses that have the potential to make a significant impact on the region.   

The awards are given to organizations from a variety of sectors and orientations – some are technology-based enterprises that are starting to create traction in the marketplace, some are developing services that enhance the region’s economy and others are focusing of social activities oriented toward making the community a better place to live for all.   

Regardless of their particular focus, these organizations combine a high-powered formula of entrepreneurial spirit and a clear sense of what the market needs.    

The category winners are recognized in the Business Journal and at the awards breakfast. This year we had over 100 entries, and 10 category winners. At the event an overall winner will be announced.   

The awards breakfast is an important part of the Coastal Entrepreneurship Awards tradition. Not only does it give us an opportunity to shine a light on some of the regions most interesting entrepreneurial efforts, but it also provides an opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs, potential investors, professionals and academics and customers and suppliers who are all interested in seeing the entrepreneurial spirit continue to growth with the region.   

Overtime, the Coastal Entrepreneurship Awards has developed some fun traditions.

In addition to a heavily attended awards banquet, the perpetual trophy for the overall winner is a surfboard. The surfboard was chosen as the Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year’s perpetual trophy for several reasons. Not only does it symbolize the coastal nature of the region, but a surfboard also reflects very much the nature of the entrepreneurial spirit of recognizing risk and opportunity, balancing different forces at the same time to pivot and stay upright and harnessing resources to keep moving forward.

Like surfing, entrepreneurs do all of this with a full range of emotions – passion, joy and even a little bit of trepidation at times. And for the serial entrepreneurships, you get to do it all over again. This is the “fire within” that so many entrepreneurs speak of. 

The process of identifying the candidates for the awards is difficult. In the first round, the nominations are judged by a panel of regional experts and slimmed down to the final 10 candidates. The evaluation criteria include the nature of the entrepreneurial effort, the path to market and whether the panelists would, in theory, invest $100,000 in the venture.  

For the nonprofit category the criteria focused on whether the effort would make a significant difference in the community. 

For the second round, a new panel is formed, and after hearing a rocket pitch by each of the finalists an overall winner is selected to be announced at the awards banquet. 

We hope that you can join us on May 24 for the awards breakfast at UNCW’s Burney Center. 

At this event you will have a chance to meet all the category winners and network with the like-minded, entrepreneurial thinking community here within the Wilmington region.

Craig S. Galbraith, Ph.D., is the director of the UNCW Office of Innovation and Commercialization and a professor of Entrepreneurship and Technology Management at the Cameron School of Business.



The Coastal Entrepreneur Awards (CEA) is run by the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.

CEA’s goal is to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming companies, helping them make connections in the community as well as showcase our region’s entrepreneurial activity.

The competition involves two rounds of judging in which the applicants are judged on two criteria:

Is the organization entrepreneurial? 

Of those that are entrepreneurial, which organization is most likely to be financially successful?

For nonprofits, the standard is which is likely to have the most impact.

First, all the applications are evaluated by representatives of area business groups and the competition’s sponsors. This group picks the category winners.

A second round of judges selects the 2016 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year.

The first-round judges were:

John Gardner, BB&T

Scott Gilland, Hampton Inn Southport

Dana Fisher, North Brunswick
Chamber of Commerce

Sandra Miller, SunTrust 

Shaun Olsen, CloudWyze

Tammy Proctor, Pender County Tourism

Sara Raleigh, SCORE

Roxanne Baily Reed, SBTDC 

Greg Reynolds, Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce

Haskell Rhett, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

Adam Shay, Adam Shay CPA 

Reggie Shropshire, Action Coach

Doug Tarble, CFCC-Small Business Center

The second-round judges were:

Brendan Collins, CEO of Mimijumi (2015 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year) 

Dana Cook, Owner of Julia’s Florist

Judy Girard, Former President of the Food Network and HGTV and Co-Founder of the Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington 

Tom Janicki, UNCW Professor of Information Systems

Robert Preville, CEO of KWIPPED and President of the Business Journal (and a previous CEA winner)

The 2016 Coastal Entrepreneur Awards ceremony takes place May 24. The breakfast event starts at 7:30 a.m. at UNCW’s Burney Center where the 10 winning companies will be honored and an overall winner announced. Go to for more event or ticket info.

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