Jon “Leo” Leonardo, Sarah Wechsberg and their team at Triangle Entrepreneurship Week offer their own unique way of helping launch and grow new businesses with their second TEW over the coming days.

This energetic band’s goal is to link startups and funders as well as to promote new businesses.

And get this: They also are taking the TEW concept to more cities.

Yes, they are growing their own business at the same time.

Their mission is clear:

“Triangle Entrepreneurship Week strives to get entrepreneurs past the breakthrough point and addresses some of the most difficult transitions for startups to navigate successfully. TEW takes entrepreneurs and investors to new heights by providing meaningful access to resources and ideas that can change up the economy. Join us and hear a lineup of coveted mentors, start-up successes and industry specific discussions.”

The agenda is growing – and cutting edge:

“We will be addressing topics including digital and mobile media, starting up green, women in business and financial pitfalls of a startup, among many other events and networking opportunities.”

The Skinny recently caught up with Leo to talk about TEW and how the idea is turning into a franchise.

Tell me how the concept came about. Why do this?

I first got the “bug” while I was in school Elon University where I graduated with a BSBA in Entrepreneurship. After my junior year while living in DC we created and put together the first Entrepreneurship Week to connect entrepreneurs with capital, highlight local leaders and entrepreneur organizations, and really give them the exposure and connections they need.

My partners, Charles Paret and Peter Stuart, from D.C., had the same vision.

In 2010, DC ranked 51st out of 51, on the list of best places to start a business. Entrepreneurs were experiencing certain disconnects within the entrepreneurship community so we were inspired to create Entrepreneurship Week to bring interested capital and resources directly to entrepreneurs.

I was still in school and had started my first venture, so our team would get together to brainstormed and plan over the phone until 2am most nights. We held the first Entrepreneurship Week 3 months later. The unique pitch sessions focused on intimate, informal sessions and discovery sessions with the right audience proved to be a successful model. Half of the companies that pitched got funded and we had over 600 attendees.

Whydp you do this?

I know entrepreneurs can change the economy. They bring new technologies to the market, create businesses that hire people, and stimulate the economy by providing consumer income. Income that consumers will go out and spend. The issue is people are working so hard to start a business and they don’t have the connections, time or resources to make it to the next stage. Entrepreneurship Week is that platform to collaborate with potential partners, funding, mentors and peers.

Why start in the Triangle?

The Triangle was the perfect second market to replicate our model. With the major universities pumping out well educated, driven entrepreneurs and Triangle has become a powerhouse for entrepreneurial support.

I knew one person when I came here (Chris Leith from ShareFile) and he introduced me to and number of people including my co-founder and director of TEW, Sarah Weschberg.

I built a network quickly of people that wanted to help get access Triangle angel investors, VC’s, entrepreneurs with successful exits and so many initiatives that wanted access to or supported entrepreneurs.

What are some of the reasons people should attend?

We want to highlight entrepreneurs and all the initiatives but actually make real connections in one action packed week to get those meetings, to get advice, to gain uprated access that typically takes a long time

How will TEW differ this year?

More major sponsors recognized our efforts and they wanted to get involved in the events. Our presenting sponsors American Airlines and Citrix want to help entrepreneurs get the resources they need to succeed and have been a tremendous help to us this year. We also have a much larger team this year working with amazing companies like Brasco Marketing, Slade Development Group and Legacy event planners.

We continue to grow and learn from each year. We want a strong focus on getting more companies the funding they need this year.

What is your Triangle connection? Please tell me a bit about yourself and your partners.

I went to Elon, had one friend in Raleigh and he introduced me to my co-founder, Sarah Wechsberg, through a mutual friend. Sarah is an entrepreneur, a business consultant, and native to the Triangle.

We instantly hit it off and felt our complimentary skills and combining contacts, we could make TEW a success in the Triangle. In addition to directing all logistics for TEW, Sarah continues to consult startups on strategy, social media, marketing, and sustainability, and she’s starting another business within the food industry and is excited to unveil it soon.

It is important to find partners with similar values and goals. We were lucky this year to add Brasco Design & Marketing, Slade Development group and Legacy Event Planners to our team.

How are you funded/financed? Are you raising money or plan to?

Through sponsorship money, everyone involved also has day jobs but work so hard to make this event happen. We built a model making it sustainable so we can do it and so we can make the event free for entrepreneurs, which is unlike any other event out there. Our costs are low thanks to sponsors like Laser Print Marketing, American Tobacco Campus and The State Club.

No, we’re not raising money.

How do you make money?

Through my other ventures, I’ve started four companies here.

Where have you expanded, and where else do you plan to go? Why those markets? Are other events following same format?

We are planning on expansion to Miami, Atlanta and Denver/Boulder in the spring.

We are building out the model to expand 8 cities over the next year. We chose the cities based on existing partners, a supportive entrepreneurial community and the value we know we can create for them.

Do you find local partners/backers/sponsors in each market?

Yes, our backers are local businesses that want to support entrepreneurs because they have had the same start-up experiences and have helped multiple startups be successful. Partners like Brasco Design+Marketing, partnered with Triangle Entrepreneurship Week to provide help with branding and marketing.

Slade Development Group is doing our public relations and making connections into to Triangle entrepreneurial community because they are very well networked and they are also investors in several start-ups.

Legacy Event Planners and our volunteers are seamless and our coordinating every detail. We have national sponsors that are tracking along with us like American Airlines and Citrix.