Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Wilmington, NC

Wilmington, NC

The coastal town of Wilmington has a long and proud history of strengthening the economy of North Carolina as a port city.

Wilmington, NC, located on the coastline, is the eighth-most populous city in the state. As a port city, Wilmington was an economic hub for the state as well as its largest city until the end of the 19th century. While it no longer holds the same economic or political importance that it once had, it’s still a hotspot for entrepreneurship and small business.

Back in 2015, NerdWallet ranked Wilmington as the second-best city in the country to start a business. More recently, the city appeared 30th overall on Forbes’ 2019 list of the best places for business and careers. In 2018, the website Livability included Wilmington on its list of the best beach towns for entrepreneurs. The state of North Carolina as a whole also ranks well in terms of entrepreneurship, finishing 14th overall in WalletHub’s 2019 list of the best states to start a business, with a ranking of 10th in the “Access to Resources” category.


Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Wilmington’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:


Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The Business Alliance of NC – Wilmington hosts regular networking events to allow local business owners and entrepreneurs to meet one another and make connections.

Based just down the road from Wilmington, the Carolina Beach Business Connections meetup group aims to help business people in the area grow their networks.

Motivated Networkers of Wilmington is a meetup group that supports local business owners and entrepreneurs by hosting regular networking events.

Wilmington is home to one location of Tech Talent South, an organization designed to support technology entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the south.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Wilmington branch of 1 Million Cups meets every Wednesday to allow local entrepreneurs to present their startups and ideas to each other.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosts regular entrepreneurial events for students.

The Greater Wilmington Business Journal hosts a variety of business events and programs, including networking opportunities, awards ceremonies, an annual business expo and more.


Startup Competitions:

The Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington hosts an annual entrepreneurship competition for students.

UNCW hosts an annual entrepreneurship competition open to teams of high school students from 18 counties across the region.

The RIoT accelerator program based in the state’s capital of Raleigh hosts regular pitch competitions for entrepreneurs throughout the state.


Co-working Spaces:

Common Desk, a co-working company with locations across Texas and North Carolina, is opening a location in Wilmington soon.

Located in the Cargo District of Wilmington, Coworx is a co-working space that offers a number of membership plans at different levels.

Pioneer Lab is a co-working space designed primarily for creative entrepreneurs, with community membership and private office space available.

TekMountain is a company that works to support startups, including providing co-working and office space.



The Pine Valley location of the New Hanover County Public Library in Wilmington offers 3D printing to the public at a low price.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Digital Makerspace offers access to technology like 3D printing and scanning to students, faculty and staff at the school.



The Business and Industry Incubator at Brunswick Community College provides co-working space and other incubation services.

Cape Fear Community College organizes the Small Business Center, which helps entrepreneurs launch their businesses and startups.

The Small Business and Technology Development Center at UNC Wilmington runs several programs to support area businesses.



UNC Wilmington’s CREST Research Park provides commercial laboratory space and other forms of support for biotechnology and life sciences startups.

In addition to providing co-working space, TekMountain provides resources to launch startups and help them grow quickly afterwards.

The UNC Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosts events and provides co-working space along with other acceleration services for area entrepreneurs.



Brunswick Community College organizes a number of support resources for entrepreneurs, including incubation and co-working space.

In addition to the Business and Information Technology program, Cape Fear Community College offers a variety of business support resources through its Small Business Center.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington organizes a wide array of entrepreneurial resources for both students and the region as a whole.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Eshelman Ventures is an investment company that provides angel investments in startups as well as private equity investments and more.

The Cape Fear location of the Inception Micro Angel Fund aims to invest in and otherwise support early-stage startups in the region.

Since 2016, Tidewater Equity Partners has invested in small, family-owned businesses to help them achieve growth and break into new markets.

The network is a group of angel investors in the area that invest in high-growth startups throughout the region.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

Business North Carolina magazine, which covers business news throughout the entire state, offers an email newsletter to subscribers.

The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce offers a newsletter focusing on the region’s business news and economic development.

The Greater Wilmington Business Journal offers free daily email updates containing the biggest news and headlines from the local business scene.


Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Wilmington not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Asheville, NC, Winston-Salem, NC, Raleigh, NC

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.