Editor’s note: Monica Doss is in her 20th year as president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, and WRAL Local Tech Wire recently asked Doss to reflect on the organization’s remarkable growth as well as challenges it faces in the future. This is the first of a two-part interview.
________________________________________________________________________________________It’s quite fair to say that the Council for Entrepreneurial Development has come quite a long way since being created more than 20 years ago.

The CED, which works with hundreds of entrepreneurs and their companies across North Carolina, is moving into new headquarters. It recently merged with an entrepreneurial organization in Wilmington. And 19 people now work for the CED on a full-time basis.

That’s a far cry from 1986 when Monica Doss was hired as the CED’s first full-time president.

“When I came to CED, in August 1986, I was it,” Doss told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “My predecessor, Tom Gunning, was semi-retired and joined CED in year two part-time to develop the business plan and get the organization set up, but he had moved out of the area. It was me, a phone, and a typewriter in a single room office.”

Doss was hired by attorney Fred Hutchison and Horace Johnson of Ernst & Young. Hutchison served as chairman of the CED in 1984-85, and Johnson succeeded him for two years. To this day, Doss said the two influenced her. “(B)oth infected me with their excitement about the opportunity to make something important happen,” she recalled.

Monica, Congratulations on starting your 20th year as head of the CED. Does it really feel as if 20 years have passed?

In terms of time passing, no. The technological, scientific, political and economic changes have been so intense and rapid that there’s been no sense of time passing. But, stepping back and reflecting on what the Research Triangle region and entrepreneurship here was like in 1986, I-40 west ended at the (now) Radisson, Cary was a small town, and we were all using Selectric Typewriters.

What is the biggest change in the entrepreneurial community that you have seen over that time?

Entrepreneurs have transcended their “sub-culture” status in the Triangle. They are both embraced by the entire community and they are playing active roles in the future of the region.

What are some of the good characteristics that haven’t changed – or have gotten better – about the entrepreneurial community?

The Triangle is truly one that acts on the mantra that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” The entrepreneurial community enthusiastically shares expertise, time, rolodexes and resources to help each other succeed. That, combined with a very attractive humility that is indigenous to North Carolina, makes our entrepreneurial community the best.

What are some of the weak areas that have yet to be built up and need work?

We need to start building on our successes; we are not seeing the spinouts and secondary entrepreneurial growth from our powerhouses that we could. And, our overall commercialization rates, in relation to the incredible wealth of research and technology, is lower than average.

The Triangle has grown so much over the past 20 years. What role, or roles, do you believe the CED have fulfilled in helping RTP become such a vibrant place for entrepreneurs?

CED has focused squarely on the entrepreneur, whether we are talking about networks or education, or helping to build a shared awareness in the community about how important entrepreneurs are to our community’s vitality and prosperity. We put entrepreneurs on a pedestal because we believe that when nurtured and supported, they provide the best jobs, the philanthropy and the innovative ideas that make our entire community the best place to be. There is no other place in the country where 20 people go to work everyday to make sure that entrepreneurs have what they need to achieve their visions.

Part Two: Monica Doss talks about CED’s recent merger and plans for the future.