An effort is underway to build an environment that supports entrepreneurs in Wilkes County.

Wilkes County Next Generation Entrepreneurs (WilCoNGE) was begun earlier this year as a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. initiative by local entrepreneur Gary Daemer; Dr. Jeff Cox, Wilkes Community College president; LeeAnn Nixon, Wilkes EDC president; and Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, Wilkes Small Business Center director.

 “Jeff (Cox) and I are working to make Wilkes an entrepreneurial hub for people already here and to draw others from across the state and nation to come” to Wilkes, said Daemer, founder and CEO of InfusionPoints, a cyber security company based in North Wilkesboro.

Daemer said the focus is on people of all ages and at all stages and levels of entrepreneurialism, including small business startups and even working remotely here for large companies based outside Wilkes.

The initiative is reaching people through a Facebook page (@WilCoNextGenEntrepreneurs) and with informal meetings on the second and last Wednesdays of each month at Anchor Coffee Co. on D Street, North Wilkesboro. Meetings are from 7-9 a.m. on the second Wednesday and from 5- 7 p.m. on the last Wednesday.

Startup problems and financial resources are discussed, business wisdom is shared and entrepreneurial resources such as articles, websites and books are suggested at the meetings. There also is discussion of the overall effort to promote entrepreneurialism within Wilkes.

The ultimate goal is improving lives and the economy in Wilkes and surrounding counties through entrepreneurship, according to the Facebook page.

The Facebook page also references the concepts of Brad Feld, an entrepreneur-turned-venture-capitalist in Boulder, Colo. Feld wrote “Startup Communities,” which explores what it takes to establish an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” anywhere and promote innovation, new business creation, and job growth.

Feld documented the strategy, dynamics, and long-term perspective required for building communities of entrepreneurs who can feed off each other’s talents, creativity, and support.

In his blog, “Feld Thoughts,” Feld emphasized the importance of entrepreneurs leading these movements and said they must have a long-term (20-year) commitment to their success.

In addition to Daemer, current leaders include marketing expert Felisha Daemer and professional business coaches Greg and Gia Galifianakis.

Feld said “feeders” play a vital supportive role and listed lawyers, accountants, angel investors, venture capitalists and governments as examples.

Daemer said, “On the feeder side, Jeff Cox is looking at what can be done at Wilkes Community College to provide the infrastructure needed to grow a business.”

He said Laurie Brintle-Jarvis, as director of the Small Business Center at WCC, is an example of a feeder and is involved.

Leaders, feeders, entrepreneurs (at different stages) and other interested people attend the meetings at Anchor Coffee.

Feld also said, “Continually get fresh blood into the system,” be open to anyone wanting to join the “startup community” and have activities and events that engage everyone involved.

The Facebook page listed InfusionPoints, WCC, EDC, Winston Starts, Startup High Country, Mountain BIZworks, Silicone Hollar, and NC IDEA as resources and affiliates of Wilkes County Next Generation Entrepreneurs.

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