Launch Chapel Hill Named No. 4 Best University Business Accelerator

A business incubator at UNC-Chapel Hill has been named one of the top programs in the country.

Launch Chapel Hill reached rarefied air this week when UBI Global named Launch the number four best performing university business accelerator in North America.

Dina Rousset is the program manager for Launch. She attended the award ceremony in Toronto, on Tuesday.

“It’s an amazing honor for us,” Rousset says. “Some of the other awardees were groups like the MassChallenge, which is huge – millions of dollars in budget and, I think, about 50 employees, [and] 1871 – another huge organization.

“So that, in Chapel Hill, by the town, the county, the university and then a private donor coming together, its just amazing that we’ve been able to accomplish and be on the same stage as some of those larger players.”

Rousset says Launch makes the innovative mindset being instilled by leadership at UNC more tangible.

She says Launch provides much needed support for young businesses with big ideas.

“We really heavily layer on mentoring resources,” she says. “We help them get access to networks and access to capital that really allows them to scale out their businesses.

“We work with students, faculty, staff and members of the community.”

Rousset adds that a sense of collaboration permeates the community to make Launch Chapel Hill a feasible program.

“Not only the university, the town, the county, the downtown partnership,” Rousset lists, “but, as well, partners from across the community – accountants and lawyers and marketers and [public relations] folks, different departments across UNC and even some at Duke – come in and volunteer their time to work with the startups.

“We really want to thank the community for that.”

Launch accepts a new class of entrepreneurs twice every year; in July, the program brought in seven local companies. Rousset says companies accepted by Launch have gotten past the idea portion of the development process.

“They will have tested their ideas,” she says, “which means they will have gone out and they will have spoken to some customers.

“They’ll really be ready to scale.”

Rousset says Launch is currently accepting applications for businesses that would like to be part of the program.

“We accept a new cohort of companies, or class of companies, every January and July,” she says. “Right now through November 15, we are accepting applications for our cohort that will begin in January.”

The seven companies accepted in July are preparing to host its first “demo day” in early December at the new Silverspot Cinema at University Place.

Chapel Hill Business Receives $100K Grant

Vimala Rajendran is the owner and chef of Vimala’s Curryblossom Café on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

And a crowd gathered in the courtyard outside the restaurant on Wednesday as Chase delivered a $100,000 grant to Vimala’s.

“I am so humbled. It is just so amazing,” Rajendran says. “The mayor of Chapel Hill said [Wednesday] there is no one more deserving in the entire city of Chapel Hill than me, but I just feel like it was a super surprise. [I] had no idea.”

Chase representative Brent Gore was at Vimala’s as part of the celebration, and he says Vimala’s was one of 20 nationwide recipients of a grant through Chase’s Mission Main Street Grant Program out of more than 30,000 applicants.

“What Vimala’s doing here through her work in the community is exactly the kind of thing that Chase is looking to celebrate and support,” he says. “We were really pleased to get her application and be able to give her this grant.

“We’re just looking forward to seeing her do a lot of great things in the community.”

Vimala says she feels a lot of emotion beyond the initial shock.

“Not just the surprise and great level of insurmountable joy, but also a sense of responsibility that this community that put us in business is here for us [and] will be here for us,” she says. “[Wednesday] when I spoke to the crowd gathered in the courtyard I just said, ‘thank you for the hope you have given us today.’”

Vimila’s opened in 2010 and has garnered attention for its “Vimala Cooks, Everybody Eats” program, where patrons who cannot afford a meal can still eat thanks to the generosity of other patrons who have the resources to give a little extra. Vimala’s has also been recognized for paying all of the employees a living wage.

Rajendran says this grant money will go toward furthering the restaurant’s mission.

“[We’ll] utilize some of that money for further advancing our mission to feed those who cannot pay,” she says, “as well as do some writing to document the story. Because it has been a phenomenal and unique story of creative resiliency that myself and my family have gone through.”

Orange County Living Wage Project Aims To Reward Local Businesses

Durham and Asheville both have programs to certify and reward businesses that pay employees a living wage. Starting in October, Orange County will too.

Two of the organizers of the Orange County Living Wage project are Mark Marcoplos, who owns Marcoplos Construction, and Stuart Bethune, who retired from SAS to work as an independent program management consultant.

They spoke with WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend about why the Living Wage Project is important for Orange County.


Bethune says his group has already certified an opthamologist, plumbers, a contractor, a brewery, a faith organization and an auto mechanic shop. The Orange Water and Sewer Authority is also looking into the process of getting certified.

Bethune says he hopes to roll out the full program with at least 30 certified businesses in October.

OC wage page

Carrboro Moving Forward with Arts and Economic Development

Art and economic development are converging in Carrboro and planning the best pathway to move forward.

A public hearing has been called on a proposed new Arts and Innovation Center in Carrboro. Mayor Lydia Lavelle says this is your chance to voice your opinion on the project.

“We want to hold this meeting to get input from Carrboro folks, from Carrboro residents, business owners, property owners,” she says. “We’ve had a request submitted to us by The ArtsCenter (and) Kidzu…that we construct, own, or lease to this partnership, an arts center building.”

The meeting will be held at the board meeting on Tuesday, January 20th, and Mayor Lavelle adds that she believes this will be the first of several meetings on the topic.

Mayor Lavelle is also working to push forward economic development involving arts in Carrboro. “We purchased a condo that was formerly owned by Fleet Feet, which is located above Acme. And that enabled the Fleet Feet building and some of the projects in that development to move forward.”

But now the question is raised of what to do with the building. One proposition is to use the building as a common work space for small businesses in the area. Perch, which operates a co-working space in Carrboro, has lobbied to lease the space from the town and add a larger co-working space for Carrboro entrepreneurs to collaborate.

Mayor Lavelle says, “Our sense of it is that it would be an incubator, of sorts, for all kinds of small businesses. It’s a pretty large area.”

While the theory of the small-business incubator is fairly agreeable, the process to get there is still to be determined. The mayor said the question remains, “do we want to subsidize, to a degree, this project for a period of a minimum of two years? What’s the value we’re going to see out of this?” she asked. “Will we end up with Carrboro businesses that form, and grow, and that stay in Carrboro?”

While there are many decisions to be made, it appears the arts and economic development projects are converging and moving forward in Carrboro.

Chapel Hill Chops Food Truck Fees

CHAPEL HILL- The town council on Monday speedily approved a measure to reduce food truck regulatory fees from $600 down to $200.

In the year since the council voted to allow more food trucks in town, only one vendor has signed up for the privilege.

Many food truck operators complained that the regulatory and permitting fees, which totaled nearly $750 dollars, were too much to pay to set up shop.

In response, the council voted unanimously to trim those fees down to a total of $343, which legal adviser Matt Sullivan told the council is in line with what the city of Raleigh charges.

“We are $25 less in the regulatory fee than Raleigh, but the zoning compliance fee in Raleigh is about $25 or $30 dollars less,” said Sullivan. “Our neighbors in Carrboro charge a $75 fee, which I’d equate to a regulatory fee.”

The council also voted to allow food trucks to operate as caterers, making it easier for individuals to hire them for private parties, as well as setting up a framework for public sales at special events like food truck rodeos.

Dock to Door: Fresh seafood from Carolina fishermen delivered weekly

Memo: Summer is almost over. 

I’m bummed about this reality check. While most of you readers escaped to Pawleys Island or Topsail at some point this season, this little piggy stayed home. I might not have road tripped it to the beach nearly as much as I wanted, but I was sorta productive, and I have the pasty white skin to prove it. 

A few big projects kept me indoors this summer. Amongst other things, I launched a biz that should be on the radar of every food-lovin’ person in the Piedmont, Dock to Door. Dock to Door is a fresh seafood delivery/distribution service based here in Chapel Hill. I saw the need to connect friends and neighbors with restaurant quality fresh seafood from the boats of Carolina fishermen, and I jumped. The idea is simple: make super-fresh seafood available to folks in the Triangle on a weekly basis. 


  1. Visit and order online by 10pm Wednesday evening. 
  2. Pay for your order online. You’ll receive e-confirmation of your order. 
  3. Pick up your order at 3Cups in Chapel Hill on Friday evening between 5pm – 7pm. 

ZZIIIING! Fresh seafood from North Carolina fishermen will be on the table in no time!

Preparing your seafood couldn’t be easier! In addition to including recipes with each item online, I bring several each week as takeaways for customers needing additional inspiration. 

Last week shrimp stole the show, people couldn’t buy enough of those gorgeous 16/20s for just $13. Plenty of you readers picked up a pound or two so I’m curious…without channeling Bubba, what are some of your favorite ways to prepare shrimp?