Entrepreneurial opportunities key to Cape Fear Future’s strategies

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Published: Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Kristen Beckmeyer, co-owner of Coastal Cupcakes, was fed up with the hectic pace in Washington, D.C. She’d moved to the capital after graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in 2001. But, she missed the beach. “I thought I wanted to be the big-city girl, but I realized I wanted to be the beach girl,” Beckmeyer said. So Beckmeyer and Meredith Sullivan, a college friend who also missed the beach, opened Coastal Cupcakes, a gourmet cupcake shop, in downtown Wilmington. With the help of UNCW’s Entrepreneurship Center, they hooked up with a mentor who helped them grow from a startup to two locations with the most recent in at Wrightsville Beach. “It is hard to find jobs in Wilmington. We realized that if we wanted to live here forever, we had to make our own,” Beckmeyer said. Building an economy where entrepreneurs like Beckmeyer are not only supported, but celebrated, is one of Cape Fear Future’s goals. Fostering entrepreneurship is a key plank in the group’s attempt to building a strong economy in the region. It is in this area that Cape Fear Future, thanks to the work of the university’s entrepreneur center, has seen the most success. In 2010, the center helped create 46 jobs, held 12 training seminars for future entrepreneurs and recruited three new startup companies to the region. They also helped get $4.2 million in equity financing for local small businesses. “A big part of the region’s economic foundation is and has been entrepreneurship and it is that foundation that will be a key part of the regions success and jobs in the future,” said Jonathan Rowe, director of the Entrepreneurship Center and member of Cape Fear Future. Sallie Smyth, Cape Fear Future’s program coordinator, said the group is helping to build that foundation by making sure Wilmington has an educated workforce and stays a great place to live. All factors, Beckmeyer said, played a role in her moving back to the region. “It is a beach town and I want to keep that vibe. As an entrepreneur, I can choose where I want to be. I am the company and job. I can go anywhere,” she said. “I don’t want to have that crazy city life. Wilmington was the place. It is about enjoying life. Not living to work, but working to live.”   Kevin Maurer: 343-2223 On Twitter: @StarNewsOnline
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