Young Entrepreneurs from UNC are Doing it For Themselves — and Others
UNC students in the recent graduating class of 2014 are entering a slightly better job market than some of their recent predecessors.
But rather than waiting to be hired, some of them are doing it on their own, utilizing skills they learned at UNC.
“There’s definitely been an upsurge, an uptick in the number of student ventures we’re seeing created on campus at Carolina,” says Jim Kitchen, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. “There’s roughly 100- to-125 ventures that are being created every year.”
He’s also the brains behind 1789 Venture Lab, a business incubator that helps students develop and materialize new business ideas; and Launch Chapel Hill, a business accelerator for start-ups that have already gotten off the ground.
According to Kitchen, those include for-profit, non-profit and social-entrepreneurial ventures. He says that students now seem more willing to take a chance on their own ideas than they were 10 or 15 years ago.
He says that roughly half of the start-ups are tech ventures. But he’s also seen a lot of non-profit social ventures, including one that helps get homeless women off the streets in Ghana.
There was also a project to provide gifts to disadvantaged families during the holidays.
Kitchen says the business skills that students acquire through social entrepreneurship are transferable to many fields.
“Grants are sort of a thing of the past,” says Kitchen. “What they’re doing is, they’re coming up with sustainable business models. Even if it’s a social entrepreneurial venture, there’s a business model inside that venture.”
In a recent conversation with WCHL, UNC Career Services Director Ray Angle said, overall, the outlook is bright for UNC graduates who just received their diplomas on May 11.
Kitchen agrees, adding that he’s seeing a lot of optimism in his students at Kenan-Flagler.
“The sentiment is a lot more positive over the last 12 months than it was two or three years ago,” says Kitchen. “I think there are a lot more opportunities – consulting positions, some of the higher-paying positions that we saw a decade ago, are returning to these opportunities for students.
“And I think there’s a little more optimism of the graduates that are graduating from Kenan-Flagler, versus just a few years ago.”