RISE29 internship team partners with nonprofit to explore canning business

A group of East Carolina University interns are helping Beaufort County’s Alpha Life Enrichment Center (ALEC) support farmers in eastern North Carolina.

College of Education graduate student Tiffany Corey, College of Business junior Steven Hollingsworth and College of Allied Health Sciences sophomore Sma Almomani teamed with ALEC to develop plans for a regional cannery business and identify potential grant funders for the nonprofit’s food production and distribution programs.

The organization reached out to ECU’s student entrepreneurship program, RISE29, for help fulfilling its mission to support minority farmers in the region and provide impoverished areas with access to healthier food options.

An eastern North Carolina nonprofit is teaming with East Carolina University’s student entrepreneurship program, RISE29, to develop a business plan for a regional cannery that will help farmers develop new revenue streams. (Stock photo: Pixabay)

ALEC’s idea to build and manage a local food canning operation, the 5/C ENC Cannery, aims to help reduce food waste and provide local farmers an alternative revenue stream.

The internship team was tasked with developing a strategic business plan for the cannery, producing a grant guide, and creating an inventory of potential cannery clients and partners.

“I always knew that when it came to entrepreneurship that there was a lot of work involved, but I didn’t realize how much really went into it,” Hollingsworth said. “Even just making some of the simple decisions took a lot of time. There’s always the questions of, ‘Why are you doing this? How are you backing it up?’ I learned you have to come in with your research ready.”

By the end of the semester, the team provided ALEC with a draft business plan and created a list with 25 potential grants the nonprofit could apply for to help secure capital for the project. The team also developed templates for grant applications to help ALEC quickly apply for future funding opportunities.

ALEC is in the process of securing a site for the business in Beaufort County and will continue to update the RISE29 team’s business plan.

Almomani, who plans to open her own nutrition business after graduation, said RISE29 opened her eyes to what goes in to developing a company.

“This was a great experience learning all of the things that go into starting your own business,” she said. “There are a lot of details you have to think about. It’s going to be really valuable when I get to the point where I’m developing my own business.”

In operation since 1993, ALEC has reached nearly 105,000 residents in Beaufort, Bertie, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties. That expansive support network opened Corey’s eyes to issues facing eastern North Carolina communities.

“I’m born and raised in Washington, but I never understood food insecurity until I started working with ALEC,” Corey said. “It’s changed my idea of education in rural areas and what the focus of education should be. It was really eye-opening.”

With a new business plan in hand, the RISE29 team recommended that ALEC continue to secure the cannery’s financials and build partnerships with farmers and distributors.

“I’m really impressed with the work they’ve done over the past several months,” ALEC Executive Director Bill Booth said. “We’re honored to have had them take on the task. Without them, I would have been lost. We’re excited for the future of ALEC and 5/C ENC Cannery.”

More information about ALEC is available through the nonprofit’s Facebook page.