DURHAM, N.C. — After 20 years of handing out awards, Monica Doss was finally “crowned” herself Wednesday night.
And a most fitting honor it was.
Doss, who has spent the past 20 years as president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development into a sprawling 4,000-member organization, received a crown as the “diva” from Christy Shaffer, the CED’s chairperson.
The crown represented the light side of the surprising moment for Doss as the CED’s 20th annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards program drew to a close at the American Tobacco Historic District. She also received 20 red roses and a collage of photos.
But most appropriate of all, Shaffer and other former chairpersons of the CED chipped in some $20,000 to launch the “Monica Doss Fund” for charities. Doss is an active supporter of community organizations well beyond her duties at CED, and the Doss fund has been set up at the Triangle Community Foundation.
‘Monica had the large vision.’
“We had a small vision,” attorney Fred Hutchinson, who helped create the CED in 1984 and then participated in the hiring of Doss in August of 1986, told WRAL Local Tech Wire. “Monica had the large vision.”
Shaffer, the chief executive officer of Inspire Pharmaceuticals, praised Doss for her relentless efforts over the years to build the CED into what Shaffer called “the largest organization of its kind in the nation”.
Hutchison told the crowd of several hundred people that he and co-CED founder Horace Johnson knew Doss was the right person for the job despite her lack of a business background when they interviewed her. Hutchinson told Doss she would have to raise money.
“She didn’t flinch,” Hutchinson said.
Doss has been a dogged fundraiser ever since, convincing thousands of companies and individuals over the years to invest in the CED and the state’s entrepreneurial community. She is widely acknowledged as one of the significant players who have helped create the high-tech powerhouse this region has become.
Charles Hamner, the longtime leader of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, insisted that the CED is a major reason RTP is such a “hot spot”.
“Why did it happen here,” Hamner asked, noting that other states and regions have similar resources such as universities and large high-tech and life science companies. “The CED has been that spark, that extra thing,” Hamner said.
“What makes the CED different? Leadership, And one name comes to mind immediately — Monica Doss. She has that positive attitude, that drive, that persistence to make this work.”
‘It’s all about the people.’
When Doss took the job, she was the only full-time employee. Now the organization has some 20 people. The CED’s membership is made up of more than 1,000 companies from Maneto to Murphy and recently merged with the Coastal Entrepreneurial Council in Wilmington. The organization recently moved into bigger office space, and continues to offer a wide variety of programs ranging from entrepreneurial training to matching venture capitalists with emerging companies.
At the heart of that growth and effort is Doss. No stranger to receiving awards, she received the first Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award as a Supporter of Entrepreneurship in 1999.
But those who know Doss will tell you that she is not in the entrepreneurial business for the sake of awards.
“It’s all about the people,” Doss told WRAL Local Tech Wire earlier this year in an interview discussing her 20 years at the CED. “Whether it’s by helping him or her make a critical connection, to giving a scientist the know-how to transform himself or herself into an entrepreneur, I am blown away by the impact that we have every day. We’re here to unleash the power of innovation and entrepreneurship in order to elevate opportunities for the entire Triangle community and I am proud that CED is always pushing that envelope.”
Wednesday night, many of the people she and the CED have helped over the years got a chance to say thanks.
And they did — with more than one warm, long, loud standing ovation.
Rick Smith is editor of WRAL Local Tech Wire.