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Wilmington Startups Among Winners Of State Entrepreneurship Grant

By Johanna Cano, posted May 12, 2022
Screenshot of the Essential Personnel website, one of the two local winners of the NC IDEA SEED grant announced Thursday.
Two Wilmington startups are recipients of the latest round of the NC IDEA SEED grant program, according to a Thursday press release.

CICIL and Essential Personnel have received $50,000 each aimed at supporting the early-stage companies with “critical funding they need to scale faster,” the release stated.

“This group of companies demonstrates that entrepreneurial potential isn’t limited to specific areas of the state or a select few,” Thom Ruhe, CEO and president of NC IDEA, said in the release. “From the mountains to the coast, this cohort hails from large metros to Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas of the state; with each either being female-founded, Black-founded, or veteran-founded and in some cases, combinations thereof.”

The two companies are among nine grant winners in the state that were chosen after a three-month application process which also included a presentation before a review panel.

CICIL is a manufacturer of home rugs that uses natural materials. It describes itself as having a sustainable and domestic supply chain, sourcing wool directly from a farmer collective, and minimal processing with no dyes or chemicals.

Essential Personnel provides performance management, safety/wellness and training for public safety agencies through a software-as-a-service model. The company also won the NC TECH Startup Showcase, a pitch competition the startup was selected to participate in.

Caroline Cockerham, co-founder and chief product officer of CICIL, said as a new business that has been bootstrapped so far, the grant will have a “huge impact” on the company’s growth by allowing it to share its story and products as widely as possible.

“We will be using this funding primarily to reach new customers, refine our e-commerce experience and launch new, N.C.-centric natural fiber stories,” Cockerham said. “We're really excited about where this funding will take us and so grateful to NC IDEA for the opportunity.” 

Scott Monroe, CEO and founder of Essential Personnel, said he is honored to be recognized as a winner out of the many companies that initially applied for the grant.

Monroe, a former master firefighter with the Wilmington Fire Department, said the startup provides a solution to a very specific problem within the public safety agency industry which helps the company stand out. With the grant, the company plans on scaling and expanding its sales effort. Currently, the company’s service is used in six states. One of its goals is to continue providing jobs in Wilmington.

Click here to read about all of the winners of the Spring 2022 cycle.

“We are confident that these companies are well on the path to creating a lasting impact on the state’s economy,” Ruhe said in the release.

Since its inauguration in 2006, NC IDEA, a private foundation with the goal of advancing entrepreneurship in the state, has awarded $8.5 million in grants.
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