Have you heard about LAUNCH?

It’s a fabulous collaborative effort between The Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County, UNC-Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership. It will help entrepreneurs develop new ideas into businesses that will grow and stay in Chapel Hill.

At last week’s Friends of Downtown meeting, entrepreneur and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Citizen of the Year, Jim Kitchen (that’s him in the photo) explained that the logo, includes everything :

  • UNC (of course in blue)
  • Chapel Hill
  • Orange County (represented by the orange circle)
  • Moving up, acceleration (represented by the arrow)

Before sharing more about Jim’s presentation, I’d like to share a bit about his background.

While in school at UNC, he launched several businesses including the local time-temperature-weather service and a marketing company. Then – when frustrated by trying to plan Spring Break trips with friends, the idea for his next business was born. He launched Spring Break Travel shortly after graduation, ran it for 18 years from his upstairs office on Franklin Street. See the blue awning? That’s the entrance to Jim’s office.

In 2005, he sold Spring Break Travel to a multi-national company.

Now what? What would he do with all his time, energy and talent?

In addition to earning an MBA and running in multiple marathons, he’s been helping  children and their families through his involvement with Make a Wish Foundation of Eastern North Carolina, The Public School Foundation,  UNC Childrens Hospital and Cramden Institute.

And what to do with all that empty space upstairs on Franklin Street?

Jim opened it up to UNC students so they could work on and accelerate business ideas. Now called  Franklin Innovation Center, the desk space is currently occupied by: ABAN, Sweeps, BaseBald and FilmLab.

Great work. Great results.  Why not do more of it?

Why not launch LAUNCH?

So back to Jim’s presentation to the Friends of Downtown…here are a few key points he shared before inviting the group to walk over and take a look at the space:

  1. It’s not an incubator, it’s half accelerator and half co-working space.
  2. They are seeking to create a positive culture, surrounded by other entrepreneurs.
  3. Students and residents were invited to apply.
  4. The selection committee is looking for high potential founders and ideas, great teams as opposed to necessarily great ideas, passion and a healthy combination of students and local residents.
  5. The businesses that are accepted will get high speed internet, desk space, use of conference room, parking, mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs, fundraising assistance, feedback, access to relevant workshops, access to business services like legal counsel and subsidized rent for those in need.
  6. There will be a full-time administrator. Details on that job can be found here.
  7. They are open now, softly. The grand opening is in March.

So next – we went over to see the space which is a 321 W. Rosemary Street.

This is what you see as soon as you walk in the front door, although I can’t promise Jim and Bobby (Bobby Funk is Assistant Director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership) will always be standing there. But you will see the wonderful logo designed by 3 Birds Marketing.

As you walk through, you’ll see walls and steel beams painted a variety of bright colors.

Then when you get tired, you can sit in a colorful chair.

And speaking of furniture, all of it was donated by Triangle Office Equipment.

It’s a total of 3500 square feet. But as Jim pointed out at the end of his presentation to the Friends of Downtown…

This is not about a 3500 square foot space…it’s about the future of Chapel Hill.

Thank you Jim, UNC, Orange County, Town of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, 3 Birds Marketing, Triangle Office Equipment – and all the other individuals and organizations that have helped in so many ways.

The collaboration…the representation…the contributions… the innovation…such good business by many…with much opportunity and promise for more… ready to LAUNCH.

For updates about LAUNCH,

  • Visit their website: http://launchchapelhill.com/home
  • Follow them on Twitter: @LaUNChapelHill
  • Follow them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LaunchChapelHill/timeline