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Meet The 2023 CEA Winners

By Vicky Janowski, posted May 5, 2023
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?

Our panel of outside judges deliberated and picked the 11 category winners in this year’s CEA process. The winning companies represent fields ranging from tech startups to manufacturing to retail. 

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 2023 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year. Keep an eye out on our website (WilmingtonBiz.com) and social media channels for the announcement of this year’s event to name the overall winner. 

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years in the awards program 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 for the next year after it’s been passed down from a long line of successful companies that also have earned the title.

On May 31, the 2023 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year, Apiture, will announce this year’s overall board recipient. Read more about this year’s category winners to find out who might surf into the spotlight.
 
Vicky Janowski, editor
Greater Wilmington Business Journal
[email protected]
(910) 343-8600, ext. 208

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 this year were:

Chris Babcock, Apiture 
Mel Beasley, Wide Open Tech
Rob Burrus, UNCW Cameron School of Business
Chris Capone, Capone & Associates 
Wes Carter, Atlantic Packaging 
Jaron Cayton, TeamLogic IT 
Chakema Clinton-Quintana, Live Oak Bank
Jerry Coleman, CFCC Small Business Center
Katherine Daniel, Montani Consulting
Barrett Earney, Earney IT 
Natalie English, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce
Dana Fisher, North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce
Steven Hill, Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce
Randall Johnson, N.C. Biotechnology Center  
Adam McCombs, Vantaca 
Lakesha McDay, New Hanover Community Endowment 
Romondo McEachern, Excite Credit Union 
Heather McWhorter, UNCW CIE
Michael McWhorter, Mojotone 
Mallorie Moore, Dualboot Partners
Russell Nugent, The Humphries Law Firm P.C. 
Tammy Proctor, Pender County Government 
Sara Raleigh, SCORE 
Jason Wheeler, Pathfinder Wealth Consulting 
Parker Wilson, Dualboot Partners

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