UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


UNC Kenan-Flagler graduates 15 firms from sustainable business accelerator


An incubator for sustainable businesses at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School recently completed its second year and “graduated” 15 innovative, early-stage sustainable businesses.

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise (CSE) at UNC Kenan-Flagler created the interdisciplinary UNC Business Accelerator for Sustainable Entrepreneurship (BASE) to connect entrepreneurs with a range of sustainability resources—from expertise to capital—to accelerate their growth and impact.

“The BASE program has delivered value at a critical time for Spotlight Solar,” said Craig Merrigan, CEO of Spotlight Solar. “As we refined our business model and readied our product for launch, BASE mentors, educational events and networking have made essential contributions. We now have product installed, a strategic alliance, and a seed investor – all related to our BASE involvement.”

BASE is one of the first business incubators specifically designed to support businesses that address the triple-bottom-line of financial profitability, social equity and environmental sustainability. It provides expertise and resources during the crucial startup phase. It provides access to business coaching, workshops/training, a network of entrepreneurs, investors and small business experts. BASE’s intended outcome is to develop businesses that provide environmental/social solutions to society and to model green business practices. Its goal is to strengthen communities across North Carolina by growing innovative scalable green ventures and to build knowledge, talent and skills around the state.

“The BASE program provides a crucial service in encouraging, educating, connecting and supporting sustainable entrepreneurship for North Carolina growth,” said Alganomics founder Kim Jones. “The free Legal Clinic sponsored by BASE and NC LEAP was a sorely needed and extremely valuable resource.”

Over a 12-month period entrepreneurs received counsel by BASE mentors, MBA and BSBA students, and advisory board members; participated in networking events, training and workshops; received access to funding opportunities, service providers and the BASE resource network; and joined a network of innovative sustainable entrepreneurs. BASE worked with:

  • Alganomics, a producer of reliable, environmentally responsible, natural and renewable bioproducts from algal sources http://algaeresource.com/
  • Be Green, Be The Change, a manufacturer of 100% organic cotton t-shirts and baby clothing designed by the community http://www.begreenbethechange.com/
  • Builders of Hope, a non-profit organization that recycles homes slated for demolition using green building standards and sell them at cost to workforce households http://www.buildersofhope.org/
  • Carolina Wind Power, a developer of vertical axis wind turbines that are designed to capture the lower wind speed markets in rural areas and atop commercial facilities.
  • Common Ground Green Building Center, a provider of retail showrooms specializing in eco-friendly products for building and home improvement and sustainable kitchen design http://www.commongroundgreen.com/
  • Mistti, a specialty baked-goods company which brings the richness of Latino culture, its histories and folklore to the forefront http://www.meetmistti.com/
  • EcoMaintenance/Waddler & Associates a distributer of green product line cleaning supplies and provider of green maintenance service that replaces harsh chemicals, caustic products and dangerous solvents http://www.myecomaintenance.com/
  • Fullsteam Brewery, a brewery using seasonal farmed products, heirloom grains and Southern botanicals http://www.fullsteam.ag/
  • Green Energy Lawn Care, a lawn care company using emission-free mowers recharged by solar panels mounted on small fuel efficient trucks http://www.greenenergylawncare.com/
  • Into Green Fashions, a retailer, wholesaler and manufacturer of bridal and special occasion dresses with mission to make green apparel alternatives accessible and affordable.
  • Liberación Juice Station, an environmentally sustainable green mobile juice bar that serves organic smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, and teas using local ingredients. http://www.liberacionjuicestation.com/
  • Machen Advisory Group, offering property and facility management; brokerage; LEED services; construction services; sustainable redevelopment; new development team assemblage, direction and project marketing. http://www.machengroup.com/
  • Oxide Architecture and Oxide Structure, a provider of architectural solutions and structural methods that are sensitive to societal and environmental wellbeing while attending to the dreams and needs of their individual clients. http://www.oxidearchitecture.com/
  • Spotlight Solar, a designer and manufacturer of aesthetically appealing solar structures which differentiate customers' property. http://www.spotlightsolar.com/
  • Tec-Cel, a manufacturer of building block Li-ion cells that are incorporated into electric/hybrid vehicles and laptop computers

"The resources provided to us by BASE have been invaluable to our development as a start-up,” said Mistti co-founder Liliana Valle. “Both, the legal and entrepreneurial advice we've received have been phenomenal, and we will continue these relationships beyond our time with BASE,"

RainWater Solutions was a 2009 BASE member. The firm “took full advantage of the many business development resources available and benefited greatly from our experiences,” said Lynn Ruck, co-founder of the firm, which provides rainwater harvesting systems for residential and commercial applications. “As alumni, our company continues to hit different stages of growth and find revisiting some of the seminars and resources advantageous in our decision making as we move forward and keep our mission of being a Triple-Bottom-Line company.”

BASE advisory board members are:

  • John Hardin, deputy director and chief policy analyst, Office of Science and Technology, N.C. Department of Commerce
  • Lisa Jones Christensen, assistant professor, UNC Kenan-Flagler
  • Justyn J. Kasierski, attorney, Hutchison Law Group
  • Bonny Moellenbrock, executive director, SJF Advisory Services
  • Jonathan Philips, managing director, Anka Fund Management
  • Beth M. Ritter, senior vice president, human resources, Burt's Bees
  • Brian Schneiderman, vice president and director, real estate and facilities lending, Self-Help Credit Union and Ventures Fund
  • Brett Smith, Founder, Counter Culture Coffee
  • Tim Toben, partner, Greenbridge Developments
  • Jesse White, director, UNC Office of Economic and Business Development
  • M. Rhem Wooten Jr., managing director, Hannon Armstrong

To find out more about BASE, contact Jessica Thomas, 919-843-9731, jessica_thomas@unc.edu or visit www.cse.unc.edu/base.


About UNC Kenan-Flagler

Consistently ranked one of the world's best business schools, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is known for extraordinary learning experiences, superior teaching, innovative research and a collaborative culture. UNC Kenan-Flagler's commitment to developing socially responsible, results- driven leaders distinguishes its programs, which educate people at every stage of their careers. Its range of innovative programs that prepare business leaders to manage successfully in the global business environment include MBA, MBA for Executives (Evening, Weekend and OneMBA Global), MBA@UNC, Master of Accounting, undergraduate BSBA, PhD and Executive Development programs. UNC Kenan-Flagler is the only top business school with a unit that helps business and government tackle problems with impact on society; the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise has operations on the UNC campus and in Bangkok.

Media contact: Allison Adams, 919-962-7235, aadams@unc.edu