RISE29 interns share ideas at semester showcase

New marketing ideas and expansion plans were shared Tuesday as eight East Carolina University RISE29 student teams presented their final projects for regional businesses and community partners at the program’s fall semester showcase.

Closing its third year, the student entrepreneurship program saw 16 student interns work with seven eastern North Carolina businesses and one Greenville-based nonprofit, totaling 4,800 hours of field work.

RISE29, led by the university’s Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, connects small business ideas with regional community needs.

By using a mix of student teams, regional businesses and community leaders, the program aims to launch new enterprises, strengthen existing companies with long-term continuity plans and commercialize new technology.

“The fall semester proved to be very successful,” RISE29 Program Manager Tristyn Daughtry said. “This was the first semester that we were able to be in-person since spring 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic. It allowed students to actively engage with small business clients, stakeholders and communities throughout the region.”

RISE29 interns Kelly Rawls Jr., left, and Ritik Patel share their business research on Transworld Business Advisors at the program’s fall semester showcase. Sixteen students participated in the entrepreneurship program this semester. (Photo by Matt Smith)

This year’s business partners included:

  • Transworld Business Advisors, Pitt County
  • Intermarket Technology, Beaufort County
  • The Breakfast Bar, Pitt County
  • P&G Manufacturing, Beaufort County
  • The Painted Peacock, Pitt County
  • Carver Machine Works, Beaufort County
  • Katura Dance Academy, Pitt County

A RISE29 team also worked directly with NC CIVIL— a nonprofit focused on building capacity for vulnerable communities of color — to create small business centric pop-up markets in the West Greenville community.

Wrenn Whitfield and Javier Limon, who worked with the Painted Peacock in Greenville, shared that their experience with RISE29 helped prepare them for their futures outside the world of business.

The pair helped the Painted Peacock partners explore opportunities for an offshoot business developed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including an expansion plan, marketing strategy and new customer acquisition techniques.

“Neither of us are business majors,” said Whitfield, a biochemistry major and ECU Honors College Chancellor’s Fellow. “It took us both out of our comfort zone and helped us get used to doing research that isn’t traditional lab research. It was a really great experience for me to see this side of how businesses operate.

“I want to go to dental school,” she added. “Learning how to run a business is going to be very important down the line.”

Limon, an EC Scholar who’s interested in political science, added the things he learned as a RISE29 intern span across disciplines.

“Just because it’s not something we’re familiar with doesn’t mean it isn’t something we can utilize,” Limon said. “Learning different ways to research and learning how to work different demographics is setting us up for success in the future.”

Funded in part by a $1 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, RISE29 represents a partnership between ECU and the eastern region it calls home. The program leverages university and partner assets to support these ventures, including laboratories, greenhouses and collaborative spaces at ECU.

The program was honored as one of the best in the nation in 2020 by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE).

Making Their Mark
Farmville’s Café Madeleine, RISE29 interns connect over confections
RISE29 internship team partners with nonprofit to explore canning business
Simply the Best