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Oct 31, 2023

Entrepreneurs Thrive Here

Sponsored Content provided by Heather McWhorter - Director, UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Wilmington, North Carolina, is not just a coastal paradise known for its stunning beaches, historic charm, and thriving cultural scene; it's also emerging as a vibrant hub for entrepreneurship, consistently ranking top in the nation (and world). 

November is declared by the city as “Global Entrepreneurship Month” through a proclamation signed by Mayor Bill Saffo. As part of this worldwide celebration of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship, we are showcasing why entrepreneurs thrive in our community.

In this Insights post, take a closer look at the Wilmington, NC entrepreneurial ecosystem, exploring what makes it unique and why it's becoming an increasingly attractive destination for startups.

1. A Vibrant Startup Community
Wilmington's entrepreneurial ecosystem thrives on the energy and collaboration of its diverse startup community. This strong sense of community fosters an environment where aspiring entrepreneurs can connect, learn, and grow together. Wilmington’s startup community is just the right size – not too big or too small. The founders know each other but we have a robust network of expertise.

2. Access to Resources
Entrepreneurs in Wilmington benefit from a wealth of resources that support business growth including co-working spaces, networking events, and mentorship programs. As an example, the collaborative nature of the Wilmington Coalition ensures that entrepreneurs and small businesses get to the right program fast. We remove barriers and welcome all to entrepreneurship. Coalition members and supporters include:

Programs, Mentorship

Funding--CDFIs 3. Proximity to Educational Institutions
Wilmington is home to several well-respected educational institutions, including the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) and Cape Fear Community College. These institutions play a significant role in the city's entrepreneurial ecosystem, offering a pool of young talent, research opportunities, and collaboration prospects. UNCW recent designation as an R2 status continues to elevate our focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, which in turn nurtures the city's startup scene.

4. Booming Tech Scene
Wilmington's tech scene is on the rise. The city has grown and attracted an increasing number of tech companies, offering innovative solutions across various industries from fintech to biotech to bluetech to cleantech – and more. Tech startups have found an accommodating home here, thanks to a skilled workforce, affordable living, and a supportive community.

5. Strategic Location
Situated on the East Coast of the US, Wilmington boasts an advantageous geographical location. The city's port facilities and transportation infrastructure provide businesses with easy access to markets throughout the Southeast and beyond. This strategic location is a significant asset for companies looking to expand and distribute their products or services.

6. Thriving Arts and Culture
Wilmington's vibrant arts and cultural scene is not just about entertainment; it also feeds into the city's entrepreneurial spirit. Creative entrepreneurs, from filmmakers to artists and designers, find inspiration and support in the city's dynamic artistic community. This unique fusion of art and business creates opportunities for unique ventures and creative startups.

7. Quality of Life
Wilmington offers an exceptional quality of life that attracts both aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs. The city's coastal beauty, recreational activities, and a laid-back lifestyle make it an attractive destination. At the UNCW Ocean Innovation Conference, attendees learned about Blue Mind, which is why people are happier, healthier, and more creative and innovative near water. Being surrounded by beautiful waterways drives the resiliency and creativity of our innovators.

In conclusion, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wilmington, NC, is on the rise, and it offers a promising environment for startups. With a supportive community, access to resources, and a strategic location, the city has all the right ingredients to foster innovation and economic growth. As Wilmington continues to develop its entrepreneurial ecosystem, it's likely that even more exciting opportunities will emerge for innovators. I can’t wait to see what our future holds for everyone to succeed through entrepreneurship.

Connect with CIE
To learn more about CIE and our services, programs, and events, follow us on social media: InstagramFacebookTwitterLinkedInTikTok, or YouTube. CIE’s website is
What do you think helps entrepreneurs thrive in our region? Please comment below or connect with me!
Heather McWhorter, MS, PE, is the director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. CIE is a resource for high-impact start-ups and the early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit

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