It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Starting a lemonade stand out of lemons: Entrepreneurship and the Economy by Nheeda Enriquez
flickr photo credit: gabe mulley

flickr photo credit: gabe mulley

I’ve written about how recessions are great catalysts innovation and entrepreneurship, since tough constraints force new ways of thinking about problems.  A job loss is one of the toughest constraints of all, so as a Plan B to finding new positions, many think about starting their own businesses, converting that daydream of being one’s own boss into an true option worth considering.

With the city’s financial sector and the businesses around it in turmoil, Gov. Perdue recognized that Charlotte is ripe for entrepreneurs, and she is funding programs to encourage displaced talent to stick around and try their own thing.  One is the Fast Trac New Ventures Program, a class developed by the Kauffman Foundation, delivered free through the Small Business & Technology Development Center recently graduated its first two classes targeting downsized workers.

George McAllister, SBTDC’s regional director, is no stranger to entrepreneurial thinking in this economy.  In a conversation with him, I learned how he and his team “made a village come together” to get this special program up and running quickly.  He says many candidates that have been through the course saw niches and new opportunities because of all the layoffs.  This gives them the kick in the pants they need, arming them with tools to evaluate the feasibility of their business plans (as well as lifelong skills and professional networks.)

Here’s a few more local entrepreneurship resources I’ve come across this summer:



Innovation in the news by Nheeda Enriquez
photo via charlotte magazine

photo via charlotte magazine

This week, Charlotte’s put some focus on local innovators and its impact on our town.  Charlotte Talks hosted three Innovation Leaders on its program on Tuesday.

  • Monty Montague – Co-founder and Design Principal, BOLT Group
  • Paul Wetenhall – President, Ben Craig Center Business Incubator, UNC Charlotte
  • Barbara Spradling – Director, Innovation Institute, McColl Center for Visual Art

Also, Charlotte Magazine’s August issue is dedicated to local “Geniuses” that “will change this city forever.”  Though the stories aren’t on the magazine’s website yet, some of the individuals featured include PreGel‘s Gelato King Marco Casol, soccer innovator Akbar Majeed, and the Know Your Farms‘ Christy Shi.