Western Carolina University’s wholly owned, wholly operated campus-based company has a name, has a mission and is up and running, six months after start-up.

The Corporation for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Inc., which was announced in April 2015 as part of WCU’s inaugural LEAD:Innovation summit, “is in its infancy right now,” said Ed Wright, management professor and director of entrepreneurship and innovation programs. “But we’re on the right track and already involved in direct support of exciting ventures across Western North Carolina.”

The for-profit company provides a strong link between college and community, offering entrepreneurial business, scientific and technical services to assist economic development, while providing students with hands-on learning experiences.

“We help entrepreneurs create and sustain businesses, to turn their good idea into a viable business, and to help existing commercial enterprises operate more efficiently, more profitably. And that generates jobs,” Wright said. “We bring the diverse resources of the university and engage students and faculty to work with a wide range of customers, from artists and craftsmen to high-tech and industry, tourism to agriculture, and a variety of inventors and entrepreneurs.”

The corporation generates revenue from the professional and consultative services provided by faculty and staff. It is owned by the WCU Research and Development Corporation and operates through the WCU College of Business. It is designed to be profit-generating and self-sustaining after a brief start-up period which, like most other businesses, will be funded through the support and investment of outside sponsors.

Examples of current customers and services provided include development assistance for an equestrian facility in Polk County, forensic research for a crematory and funeral services group, market research for a local real estate development company, and project training for information technology groups.

“Small businesses and entrepreneurs represent an increasingly important segment of the economy in Western North Carolina,” said Darrell Parker, dean of the College of Business. “We are in a position to better leverage the resources of our faculty, staff and student expertise to create a nourishing environment that will foster the creation of new businesses and new jobs in our region.”

The company enables faculty and students to be more responsive when dealing with requests for services from local entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses, and lets WCU engage in commercial activities and enterprises with greater flexibility, Parker said. It provides broader access to financing necessary for product development, business expansion and technology transfer, and enhances the potential to generate revenue for internships and other forms of student financial aid, he said.

The company also is partnering with WCU in the development of the region’s newest “angel” investment fund – the Pinnacle Enterprise Fund – being formed to support early investment in local businesses.
For more information, contact Wright at ewwright@wcu.edu or 828-227-3603.