Leslie Scott, on the NC Entrepreneurship Summit

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The N.C. Entrepreneurship Summit is fast-approaching, with activities beginning on November 19th, and CharlotteBusinessResources.com had the honor of interviewing the 2013 Program Chair herself!  Learn what 2013 Program Chair Leslie Scott has to say about this year’s event.

Charlotte Business Resources (CBR)Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Ms. Leslie Scott (LS): I am an independent consultant helping community leaders develop their local economies by focusing on strategies that help their entrepreneurs, both startups and existing small businesses wanting to grow.  I worked at the N.C. Rural Center for 9 years directing the Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship and before that at UNC’s Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise and at RTI International.  I have studied and worked in economic development in North Carolina for 20 years.  I still think the “three-legged stool of economic development” – recruitment, expansion, and startup – is practiced with too much emphasis on outside investment and not enough on homegrown companies that generate most of the job growth.

CBR: How long have you been involved in the N.C. Entrepreneurship Summit?  Tell us a little bit about its history and what has inspired you.

LS: I have been involved in the N.C. Entrepreneurship Summit since its inception in 2006.   The initial idea for a statewide entrepreneurship summit came in a 2004 white paper from the North Carolina Business Resource Alliance, a virtual organization of business resource providers working to develop a comprehensive network of business services for the state. At that time, there was no annual statewide event to celebrate and assist entrepreneurs and no state policy makers taking about entrepreneurship.

I am the person who put the startup costs of the first three summits into a proposal budget for a three-year project with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  When the project team, including a dozen Alliance organizations, won that grant, the summit came to life. While the Rural Center was an initiating partner of the summit, it was and is always intended as a statewide event with urban host cities.

The themes and locations of the prior summits to date have been:

2006:  Building the Foundation, Chapel Hill
2007:  Framing our Economic Future, Raleigh
2008:  Doorways to Entrepreneurial Communities, Greensboro
2010:  Keys to NC’s Economic Future, Wilmington
2011:  Breaking the Mold, Durham
2012:  Creating a Scene, Asheville

And now 2013:  Revving up!, Charlotte.  The summit was not held in 2009 because the recession and major budget cuts precluded many of the partners from attending.

CBR: Each year, what does the summit hope to achieve?

LS: The summit is the gathering point for both entrepreneurs and the business service providers and community leaders wanting to build their economy from the inside.

Summit activities and speakers address six key imperatives for making North Carolina a great state for entrepreneurs:

  1. Foster entrepreneurship education at all levels.
  2. Broaden financial options for start-ups, research and development, and business growth.
  3. Invest in a high-quality, integrated system of support services.
  4. Strengthen business-to-business networking opportunities.
  5. Enhance the environment for entrepreneurship.
  6. Provide leadership through both policy and community support.

See more here.

CBR: What are the goals of this year’s summit?

LS:

1) Rev up entrepreneurs about the business opportunities starting to emerge after the recession.

2) Inspire community leaders to focus on their own entrepreneurs as their best local economic engine.

3) Bring the rest of the state up to date with the burgeoning entrepreneurial community in Charlotte, our largest city.

4) Give entrepreneurs based in North Carolina a voice in shaping state policy and ecosystems.

CBR: What kind of impact have you seen the NC Entrepreneurship Summit have on the entrepreneur community?

LS: Over time it is rewarding to see entrepreneurs get more engaged in shaping ecosystems to serve their needs better.    There are many conferences and seminars for entrepreneurs within NC regions that help individuals with specific tactical challenges, such as accessing capital or improving their marketing.  The NC Entrepreneurship Summit tends to draw out the community-minded entrepreneur who sees the connections between firm success and quality of life in communities and who wants to help other entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls they encountered.   Also, starting in 2011, when one of the session topics was the fourth sector, the summit has drawn a number of social entrepreneurs building businesses that do good.  That thread continued in 2012 and 2013 and is likely to carry forward.  This year, Queen City Forward is hosting a Demo Day on the evening of November 19th where ten social innovators will be honored.   Summit attendees are welcome if they register, and it’s free.

RSVP: Charlotte Demo Day

CBR: Tell us about this year’s speakers.

LS: One example of a give-back entrepreneur is Dan Roselli, the founder of Packard Place in Charlotte.  In 2011 Dan spoke at the summit in Durham as part of a breakout session.  In 2012 he participated in a plenary session on what communities can do for entrepreneurs.  In 2013 he is a summit host, emcee and sponsor.   The summit is a great platform for entrepreneurs like Dan who want to be successful as well as help others succeed.

The planning committee for the summit has a strong bias toward successful entrepreneurs as speakers.  With no slight to service providers, a business owner is a great draw for others like them who want to learn how to be an effective entrepreneur.  Most of the individuals who speak at the summit are based in North Carolina, but they hail from across the state, not just the host city.

This year the keynote speaker Doug Lebda, founder of LendingTree, is one of Charlotte’s best-known entrepreneurs.

CBR: How will this summit be different?

LS: Last year the summit was in Asheville, which drew a large contingent of lifestyle entrepreneurs in industries including the arts, recreation, and beer.  While Charlotte has vibrancy in these sectors, too, in 2013 there is a stronger emphasis on technology-based businesses among the speakers.  Interestingly, tech-based companies are involved in many industries from estate planning to custom men’s socks.

Last year one of the highest rated summit sessions was the Capital Exchange, where participants could meet one on one with capital providers.  It was offered as a shoulder event on the front end of the summit.   In 2013 the Fueling your Business session is in the heart of the program on the first day and leads naturally into networking and dinner.

CBR: What do you hope attendees will take away?

LS:

  • Practical information about how to build a better business or a more business-friendly community.
  • An appreciation for the many amazing individuals in communities large and small across NC who rev up their local economy through innovation every day.
  • Points of contact for weighing in on state policy and programs that affect entrepreneurs.

CBR: Anything to say to attendees?

LS: Come to the summit again if you came in a prior year, and check it out if you haven’t.   It has a different vibe from some conferences for entrepreneurs.  The summit is friendly, informal, low-pressure, but rich in content.  It is a lot more affordable, too.