The Launching of LAUNCH

By: Jan Bolick

Have you heard about LAUNCH?

It’s a fabulous collaborative effort between The Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County, UNC-Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.  It  will help entrepreneurs develop  new ideas into businesses that will  grow and stay in Chapel Hill.

At last week’s Friends of Downtown meeting, entrepreneur and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Citizen of the Year, Jim Kitchen (that’s him in the photo) explained that the logo,  includes everything :

  • UNC (of course in blue)
  • Chapel Hill
  • Orange County (represented by the orange circle)
  • Moving up, acceleration (represented by the arrow)

Before sharing more about Jim’s presentation, I’d like to share a bit about his background.

While in school at UNC,  he launched several businesses including the local time-temperature-weather service and a marketing company.

Then – when frustrated by trying to plan Spring Break trips with friends, the idea for his next business was born.  He launched Spring Break Travel shortly after graduation, ran it for 18 years from his upstairs office on Franklin Street.  See the blue awning?  That’s the entrance to Jim’s office.

In 2005, he sold Spring Break Travel to a multi-national company.

What next?  What would he do with all his time, energy and talent?

In addition to earning an MBA and running in multiple marathons, he’s been helping  children and their families through his involvement with Make a Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina, The Public School Foundation,  UNC Childrens Hospital and Cramden Institute.

And what to do with all that empty space upstairs on Franklin Street?  Jim opened it up to UNC students so they could work on and accelerate business ideas.  Now called  Franklin Innovation Center,the  desk space is currently occupied by :  ABAN, Sweeps, BaseBald and FilmLab.

Great work. Great results.  Why not do more of it?

Why not launch LAUNCH?

So back to Jim’s presentation to the Friends of Downtown…here are a few key points he shared before inviting the group to take a look at the space.

  1. It’s not an incubator,  it’s a combination accelerator and co-working space.
  2. They are seeking to create a positive culture, surrounded by other entrepreneurs.
  3. Students and residents were invited to apply.
  4. Approximately 40 applications were turned in for the 15-20 spaces that are available.
  5. Applications are being reviewed by a selection committee.
  6. The selection committee is looking for:What are they looking for:
    • high potential founders
    • high potential ventures/ideas
    • they would rather have an A team and a B idea than vice versa
    • passion
    • a combination of students and residents
  7.  The businesses that are accepted will get:
    • high speed internet
    • desk space
    • use of conference room
    • parking
    • mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs
    • feedback
    • fundraising assistance
    • access to relevant workshops that will help with various aspects of starting a business
    • access to business services  like legal, accounting, marketing at special rates
    • subsidized rent and services for those in need
  8. There will be a fulltime administrator.  Details on that job are here.
  9. They are open now…softly.  The grand opening will be in March.

So next – we went over to see the space which is a 321 W. Rosemary Street.

This is what you see as soon as you walk in the front door, although I can’t promise Jim and Bobby (Bobby Funk is Assistant Director of  the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership) will always be standing there. But you will see the wonderful logo designed by 3 Birds Marketing.

As you walk through, you’ll see walls and steel beams painted a variety of bright colors.

Conference Room

Kitchen

Looking up from lobby

Going Up

View from above

Then when you get tired, you can sit in a colorful chair.

And speaking of furniture, all of it was donated  by Triangle Office Equipment.

It’s a total of 3500 square feet.

But as Jim pointed out at the end of his presentation to the Friends of Downtown…

This is not about a 3500 square foot space…it’s about the future of Chapel Hill.

Thank you Jim, UNC, Orange County, Town of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, 3 Birds Marketing, Triangle Office Equipment – and all the other individuals and organizations that have helped in so many ways.

The collaboration…the representation…the contributions… the innovation…such good business by many…with much opportunity and promise for more… ready to LAUNCH.

Meanwhile, for updates about LAUNCH,

  • Visit their website:  http://launchchapelhill.com/home
  • Follow them on Twitter:  @LaUNChapelHill
  • Follow them on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/LaunchChapelHill/timeline


 

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