Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Innovate Carolina launches new skill-building programs in Chatham

Innovate Carolina partners to provide programs at 79° West, a new coworking space and innovation hub just north of downtown Pittsboro, to help people expand entrepreneurial skills and professional networks.

People sitting in a workshop.

Entrepreneurs, business professionals and people with impact-driven ideas in Chatham County and neighboring communities have a new way to create momentum around their enterprising efforts. Innovate Carolina is now a program partner of 79°West and is providing skills-based workshops and programs at the new innovation hub and coworking space located in the MOSAIC mixed-use community of Chatham Park in Pittsboro.

During the sessions, people learn and practice skills that they can use to build startups, new programs and their professional connections. Although the full workspace at 79°West is slated to open in early 2023, anyone in the local community can immediately participate in Innovate Carolina’s programs offered at the hub’s smaller Launch Pod space located next door to the future – and full-size – permanent space.

Innovate Carolina, the central team for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, kicked off programming at 79°West over the summer with a workshop series. Those who attended the summer sessions learned how to pitch their ideas, create online stories and content, and tap into economic development trends in Chatham County.

“We offer programs that are open to innovators and entrepreneurs at any stage of their ideas, ventures, startups or businesses,” says Kimi Yingling, Innovate Carolina’s engagement and events manager who oversees programming at 79°West. “Whether you have an early-stage idea, an established small business, want to connect with mentors, or just want to see what a coworking community is all about, you’ll benefit from coming to these events.”

Innovate Carolina’s innovation programs at 79°West are designed for entrepreneurs and innovators in the community who want to share ideas, grow their ventures and make a difference in their communities. These include educational and diverse sessions that introduce people to useful tools and resources that they quickly apply to create economic and social good in Chatham County and surrounding areas.

“79°West is a tremendous resource for the community,” says C. Michael Smith, president of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation. “Its programming is a quality addition to the robust resources available for small business owners and entrepreneurs in Chatham County. They are able to take someone with an idea, passion or side business and help shape and grow it into a future for them. The EDC is glad to be engaged with our small business ecosystem.”

“Innovation programs at 79°West bring people together from across Chatham County, Orange County and other parts of central North Carolina,” says Yingling. “Problem solvers see power in the connections they make during the sessions because they gather with others who want to grow their businesses, create economic momentum and solve the most pressing challenges happening across our region.”

Programs at 79°West tap into the wide-ranging and deep content expertise of Carolina faculty and practitioners, local community members and industry. From workshops to panel discussions to fireside chats – programming at the hub provides practical tools that innovators can use to establish and apply core entrepreneurial skills. Programming over the summer saw full attendance from a variety of attendees, including business owners, local citizens, entrepreneurial mentors, and people who work at all types of businesses, nonprofits and public organizations across the area.

“We want to help community members build skills, create connections and minimize risks while encouraging frank conversations and innovative solutions,” says Yingling. “By creating a collaborative environment, we help people work together to generate new positive outcomes for the economy and community.”

Networking is a cornerstone of Innovate Carolina’s programming at 79°West and is engrained throughout all programming activities. That means plenty of time for people to meet, talk and discuss areas of mutual interest before workshops or panel discussions begin.

“The power of networking is real,” says Yingling. “These events provide opportunities for innovators to make connections organically, allowing them to extend their networks and find new avenues to work with others to turn their ideas, early ventures and business plans into something bigger than they may be able to do by themselves.”

Upcoming fall programs include a panel discussion to celebrate the success and resiliency of the Latinx community, a workshop on funding options for small businesses and ventures, and a panel discussion on food, farming and social innovation. Read more about the fall series and register here.

Learn more about the hub and innovation programming at 79westhub.com