Who would you invest $100,000 in? That’s one of the pieces of advice we give our Coastal Entrepreneur Award judges each year when they’re faced with the task of making their picks. Who shows high-growth potential?
Who is making a name for themselves and cutting through the noise?
Who, out of these stacks and stacks of nominations, do you see as entrepreneurial?
This year in particular the judges considered the unprecedented conditions all businesses are operating under.
The coronavirus pandemic has made such an impact that we added an 11th CEA category this year – COVID Innovation. (Spoiler alert: This year’s winner is a gin distillery that pivoted to hand sanitizing production when the stuff became as valuable and scarce as toilet paper. And if that’s not the most 2020 sentence I’ve ever written, I don’t know what is.)
Our panel of outside judges met (via Zoom) to deliberate and pick the 11 category winners in this year’s CEA process.
The nominations, submitted to the Greater Wilmington Business Journal from company employees, directors, clients and in some cases just outside admirers, represent a cross-section of the region’s business community.
The awards are a joint effort between the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and the Business Journal to identify and recognize fast-growing organizations and businesses with the potential to make a significant impact on the region.
You can read more about the companies that rose to the top of their categories this year on the following pages.
One of them will be named the 2020 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year. In years past we’d gather together for an awards ceremony at UNCW’s Burney Center to name that overall winner, but like in many areas, this is the year of adapting.
So, keep an eye out on our website (WilmingtonBiz.com
) and social media channels for the announcement of this year’s overall winner.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the Stanley Cup of Southeastern North Carolina entrepreneurship – the CEA surfboard.
This year’s Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year adopts the wooden surfboard – custom made by local nonprofit and former category winner Kids Making It – to proudly display at its office (or home office) for the next year and passed down from a long line of successful companies that also have earned the title.
So jump in, find out this year’s category winners and send them a note of congrats.
If ever there was a year to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit, 2020 is it.
Judging the Applicants
The Coastal Entrepreneur Awards (CEA) is run by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
CEA’s goal is to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming companies, helping them make connections in the community as well as showcase the 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 to determine the category winners. During the second round of evaluations with more detailed information, the judges select the Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year.
The judges were:
Michael Barron, Quality Chemical Labs
Rob Burrus, University of North Carolina Wilmington Cameron School of Business
Jerry Coleman, Cape Fear Community College’s Small Business Center
Diane Durance, UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Natalie English, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce
Dana Fisher, North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce
Randall Johnson, N.C. Biotechnology Center’s Southeastern Regional Office
Heather McWhorter, SBTDC at UNCW
Brad Neigel, First National Bank
Tammy Proctor, Pender County
Sara Raleigh, SCORE Cape Fear
April Scott, Brunswick Community College’s Small Business Center
Jason Wheeler, Pathfinder Wealth Consulting
Adrian Wilson, CloudWyze
2020 CEA Winners by category:
2020 Chamber of Commerce winners