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Apr 26, 2024

So, You Have an Idea for an Amazing, Life-Changing Company... Now What?

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

This article was contributed by Lydia Thomas, UNCW CIE Program Manager.

Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs don’t wake up one day with a lightbulb, game changing idea. Maybe a few do, but more often than not, aspiring entrepreneurs have multiple ideas, refinement, validation, and lots of brainstorming before finally landing on a viable idea. 

Entrepreneur support organizations, such as UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, have programs to support founders in this position. Pre-accelerator programs are designed to assist early-stage founders in taking their ideas from vision to creation and implementation. 

At UNCW CIE, Idea Test Lab (sponsored by Wells Fargo) is designed to enable founders to determine if there is business value in an idea. Each of the four sessions focus on different entrepreneurial design topics such as value proposition, identifying the customer's problem, competition, and market analysis. 

Why go through an early-stage ideation program?
There are numerous benefits of these types of programs including connections to ecosystem partners, mentorship and guidance (CIE has a 145+ person mentor group with a variety of expertise), identifying value proposition, validation of ideas, post-program support, and cohort experience. Joining a cohort allows you to learn from experiences of other entrepreneurs and share those challenges with peers. 

Demo Day
Often, programs such as Idea Test Lab wrap up with a Demo Day, where founders have the opportunity to showcase their business idea to community members, students, and other founders.

UNCW CIE wrapped up its inaugural cohort of Idea Test Lab – Female Founders Cohort on April 8th, 2024. After a six-minute pitch, presenters were allowed five minutes of Q&A with the judges. The judges deliberated and chose three winners, each receiving a few thousand dollars to put towards business needs such as prototyping or legal services.
 
Idea Test Lab – Female Founder Cohort of 2024

Participants 
Megan Rowe (Check What’s Good), Janeé Folston (Jay Streams Consulting), Kiara Bennerman (TC Tough Cookie), Ellie Ebrahimi (LookUpp), Nadia-Bautista-Perz (Math4I), Christy Owens (UTap2), and Kimberley Cheatam 

First Place ($5k) - Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN-BC, FNP-BC, FGSA, FAAN (AgeWiseU)
Melissa Batchelor is a board-certified registered nurse in geriatrics and a family nurse practitioner with over 25 years of experience caring for older adults and their families. Batchelor is the Founder and CEO of MelissaBPhD Productions, LLC focused on helping caregivers of older adults living with dementia and their caregivers.

She hosts a weekly podcast called This is Getting Old: Moving Towards an Age-Friendly World, where she talks about aging, age-friendly initiatives, and Alzheimer’s disease. In March of 2024, Melissa launched a new venture called AgeWiseU - a hub of digital curated content, courses, and resources plus an interactive community for caregivers of older adults, adult children caring for aging parents, and anyone interested in learning more about brain health and healthy aging.

Second Place ($3k) - Jessica KovarIt’s A Go Pursuits
It’s A Go Pursuits works with Architecture and Engineering firms through all stages of the pursuit lifecycle… everything from finding and evaluating federal opportunities, to building pursuit teams, to developing and submitting the proposal. The bonus is that we share our processes through training and tools. Our next big move is to launch Studio 330, a critical software program designed specifically for Architecture and Engineering firms. This game-changing tool will automate key processes, increase collaboration and compliance, and turbocharge your ability to pursue and win even more federal work in record time.

Third Place ($2k) - Laavanya Rachakonda, SanaSolo
Dr. Rachakonda is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She received her Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of North Texas, Denton in May 2021. Currently, she is working with a diverse multi-disciplinary research group of High Schoolers, Undergraduates, and Graduates as the Director of the SIPS: Smart and Intelligent Physical Systems Laboratory at UNCW. Her primary research includes developing and improving computational methods using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for Consumer Electronics for Smart Living. As a faculty at UNCW, she has been involved in many outreach activities involving the broadening of participation in Carolinas Women in Computing and STEM. 
 
What’s Next?
CIE plans to host a second cohort of bluetech and climatetech companies throughout May 2024, followed by a Demo Day on June 5th, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Registration coming soon! In addition, CIE hopes to have cohorts of Idea Test Lab again in early 2025. 

If you have any questions about CIE’s Idea Test Lab, please contact Lydia Thomas at [email protected].
 
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 uncw.edu/cie
 
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 www.uncw.edu/cie.

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