Kenan-Flagler Launches Sustainable Business Accelerator

The Kenan-Flagler Business School has launched a business accelerator to speed the growth of firms with environmental and social objectives.

The UNC Business Accelerator for Sustainable Entrepreneurship, or BASE, aims to connect entrepreneurs to a range of sustainability resources – from expertise to capital – with the aim of accelerating their growth and impact.

Kenan-Flagler’s Center for Sustainable Enterprise created the interdisciplinary program, believed to be the first business incubator to specifically to support businesses that address the triple-bottom-line of financial profitability, social equity and environmental sustainability.

“BASE will benefit entrepreneurs, UNC and the wider community alike,” said Katie Kross ’04 (MBA), executive director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise. “Entrepreneurs’ chances of long-term success will be improved by minimizing costs and injecting expertise and resources during the crucial startup phase. UNC students will take part in interdisciplinary experiential learning that shows how to integrate environmental and social considerations into all aspects of business. And BASE will raise the visibility of sustainability issues and foster the growth of new businesses that have a positive impact on the environment and society.”

BASE will host a launch event April 16 in partnership with The Change, a Chapel Hill-based brand strategy and design firm. The public event will feature a panel discussion, “Branding for Good,” focused on branding for sustainable entrepreneurs and will be held at the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.

Now in a pilot phase, BASE will work with seven early-stage Triangle-based sustainable businesses:

  • CaraGreen, a distributor of environmentally sustainable building materials;
  • Counter Culture Coffee, a fair trade micro-roasting coffee company;
  • North Carolina Choices, a provider of sustainably and locally produced meat and poultry;
  • PVee, a provider of large-scale turn-key solar energy solutions;
  • Trinity Design/Build, a provider of sustainable architectural design, building and preservation services;
  • WaterPLUS, a developer of a water purification device for use in the developing world; and
  • Zebra Crossings, an online fair trade wedding boutique.

The entrepreneurs will receive mentoring by BASE advisory board members; participate in networking events, training and workshops; get access to funding opportunities, service providers and the BASE resource network; and join a network of innovative sustainable entrepreneurs.

“The BASE initiative is a terrific example of how like-minded, caring people can help build momentum for the businesses of the future,” said advisory board member Rhem Wooten Jr. ’81, president of Allied SynGas Corp. “I am delighted to be included with such a group of innovative and energetic leaders.”

“BASE is the right idea at the right time,” said advisory board member John Hardin, deputy director and chief policy analyst for the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Office of Science and Technology. “In today’s increasingly dynamic, interconnected, socially and environmentally conscious world, businesses must broaden their focus to grow and survive. By drawing on the expertise of its advisory board and aggregating and connecting key resources, BASE gives businesses the support they need to address the triple bottom line.”

The pilot phase of BASE will run through September, when it will enter its full-scale phase, which will include a physical incubator with space for up to 10 businesses. Participants will benefit from access to faculty and students for consulting projects and internships; business support services, such as quarterly progress review sessions; and networking and learning opportunities.

BASE advisory board members are, in addition to Hardin and Wooten:

  • Luther Hodges Jr. ’57, president, Phoenix Associates, Inc.;
  • Lisa Jones Christensen ’07 (PhD), assistant professor, Kenan-Flagler;
  • Henry McKoy, chairman, Fourth Sector Bancorp;
  • Bonny Moellenbrock ’92, executive director, SJF Advisory Services;
  • Brian Schneiderman ’93, vice president and director, real estate and facilities lending, Self-Help Credit Union and Ventures Fund;
  • Neeta Patel, director, technology monitoring and development, Duke Energy;
  • Bill Starling ’75, CEO, Synecor;
  • Tim Toben ’81, partner, Greenbridge Developments; and
  • Jesse White, director, UNC Office of Economic and Business Development.

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