Business Begins Where the Ocean Ends … that’s the theme for Opportunity 2004, a conference of entrepreneurs, investors, and service providers hosted by the Coastal Entrepreneurial Council (CEC).

This two-day event, which is being held from March 29-30 near Wilmington at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort in Wrightsville Beach, NC, will deliver entrepreneurial insights, investment opportunities, and high-level contacts.

In addition to eight keynote presentations by nationally known speakers, such as Guy Kawasaki, founder and CEO of Garage Technology Ventures, participants will be able to choose from 24 workshops on developing and growing profitable business.

Opportunity 2004 will also feature the return of the Entrepreneurial Women’s Panel, moderated by Robbie Hardy from Tryon Capital. The panel of women will speak on “Things You Wish You Knew Last Year: Ten Views of Crucial Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned.”

Headlined by Kawasaki, who will discuss “The Art of the Start — For Anyone Starting Anything,” the lineup of keynote speakers also includes Dennis Gillings, chairman and CEO of Quintiles, with “Scanning the Horizon and Leveraging Knowledge: Quintiles Remarkable Journey,” and Les Bethune, a partner with Ernst &Young, on “Getting in Step: Climbing the Stairs to Start-Up Success.”

Rounding out the list of keynotes is Joseph Zell, general partner atGrotech Capital Group, with “Sailing Uncharted Waters: My Life on the Start-Up Waves”; Bill Scheessele, founder, president and CEO of Mastering Business Development Inc., on “Knowing What Your Customer Needs”; Andy White, president of GE Global Nuclear, with “The Quintessential Entrepreneur”; and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Dreams Do Come True with Project Controls,” with Bob Graham, who has co-founded Crag Technologies, Ridge Technologies, and Manufacturers’ Services Limited.

The 24 workshops offered at Opportunity 2004 will each cover one of five tracks. These tracks include developing customers, developing ideas and funding, developing products, growing your business, and returning value to investors.

Each workshop consists of a presenter or panel of experts for each topic. Among those participating are Debbie Erickson from Talk PR, Gene Haley with Wilmington Pharmaceuticals, Jeff Clark of The Aurora Funds, John Philips from Talking Nets, VisionAIR’s Dan Crawford, and Greg Montgomery with RBC Centura. Several professors from UNC-Wilmington are involved, as well.

Local entrepreneurs also will be on hand to share the success stories of their companies. They include Bob Welch from Trion Group, which is focused on the production of ultrapure gases and chemicals in Russia and Asia for distribution and sale to Western manufacturers; Peter DeVita with Cape Fear Riverwood Corp., which harvests and processes old-growth timber from navigable streams and rivers in the area; Mike Bender of Image Products, a supplier of premiums to the banking and insurance industries; Frank Longino with Southport Boat Works; and Howard Rasheed from the Institute for Innovations.

Opportunity 2004 is presented by the CED, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 to help entrepreneurial and growth firms in Wilmington and southeastern N.C. For more information or to register, visit www.cec-nc.org .