For many entrepreneurs, solving a widely felt problem with a unique solution is the formula needed to launch and grow a successful startup. According to the article “The Importance of Innovation in Business” from Northeastern University, companies that currently stand out and are leaders in their pack all embrace innovation.
Innovation helps set a startup apart from the competition, said Heather McWhorter, regional director of the UNCW Small Business & Technology Development Center and interim director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“It can help to gain customer and investor interest in the product or service provided due to advancement, differentiation or even novelty. Innovation is also critical when pursuing SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) funding,” she said.
Innovative products or services don’t just appear from a once-in-a-lifetime idea; they can be harvested through systematic approaches, according to McWhorter.
“Some entrepreneurs find ideas through detailed research, some through evaluating every angle of points of customer pain and some by applying underutilized technologies to new markets,” she said.
Wilmington is home to an array of entrepreneurs creating unique services and products. Here are some of those entrepreneurs.
A Wilmington resident created a new drink that so far has been recognized for its originality by a global organization.
bevCacao, founded by Jason Walter, is a drink derived from the cacao fruit pulp.
“bevCacao uses an innovative process to squeeze juice from the pulp of the cacao fruit. It’s a new process which makes use of a previously wasted component of the cacao fruit,” a press release from the company states.
According to the company, cacao fruit has high levels of antioxidants, electrolytes, flavanols and minerals that help support the immune system, support cardiovascular health, boost energy levels and promote overall well-being.
In May, the company was named a finalist in the Best Functional Drink category from 2022 InnoBev Awards part of 2022 UK Soft Drinks Conference in London.
Wilmington is home to a company recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense as innovative. Geo Owl is a tech firm providing geospatial technology solutions and founded by geospatial analyst Nicholas Smith. As a U.S. Army veteran, Smith specialized in working with satellite imagery and geospatial data.
The company launched Patternflows, a software that collects and distributes information from aerial or ground based ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance operations) that can then be used for intelligence observations. Geo Owl’s main client is the U.S. federal government. The defense department selected Geo Owl to present at a Pentagon meeting highlighting innovative technologies.
At its Wilmington location, Geo Owl also provides cartography production, which encompasses map products for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
Smith credited the company’s unique offering and proprietary technology as a reason for its success, having grown to about 100 employees, 20 of whom are local.
The Wilmington community learned five years ago that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances were present in high amounts in its public water supply. This brought awareness to the importance of health and how outside chemicals can affect people’s bodies.
Melissa Strong became concerned about environmental and chemical exposures when she became a mom. Noticing how hard it was to find research- backed information, she used her doctorate degree with a focus on environmental health to launch IndiOmics, a startup that provides a kit, like home-mailed genealogy kits, for testing personalized chemical exposures.
Through the biotech company, users will create an online account, complete a questionnaire about their lifestyle, diet and consumer habits. Once their test results are in, IndiOmics recommends lifestyle changes based on their results and habits.
Moor For Less
In this coastal community, boat slips are a limited and coveted amenity. In an April story, Chris Capone, vice president of Off the Hooks Yachts, said two of their marinas are at 95% capacity. This is an issue Keith Markfield has seen for many years, and in 2015 he launched Moor For Less, an online boat slip marketplace.
Through the site, users can buy, sell and rent boat slips in Wilmington, the East Coast and down to Costa Rica.