Editor’s note: Lucas DiPietrantonio, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, already is a successful entrepreneur having launched creative agency Darkroom. In this article he explains how the Adams Apprenticeship program helps him and other UNC students.

CHAPEL HILL – I recently returned from San Francisco on what started out as another trip spent networking with seasoned entrepreneurs and selective companies. Soon after arriving, I realized it wasn’t going to be an ordinary lap around the Bay. The differentiator this time around was the quality of the people by my side—all members and advisors of The Adams Apprenticeship.

Lucas DiPietrantonio makes a friend in San Francisco. (Photo by Callie Brauel)

About five years ago, John Adams, Jr., creator of Mucinex, founded the Adams Apprenticeship with the sole goal of empowering young entrepreneurs. He wanted to help young professionals position themselves for lifelong success within a vibrant and ever-growing network of like-minded thinkers.

Simply put, the program is a highly-selective syndicate for entrepreneurs and alumni affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (apologies to anyone not in the Carolina network). Roughly 30 students are accepted, ranging from undergraduates to MBA and PhD candidates. Each cohort treks to San Francisco and New York to build relationships and accrue advice from a growing pool of UNC-affiliated business advisers.

As part of the 2018 cohort, our trip to San Francisco was my first taste of this delightful new program, and it allowed us to immerse ourselves in the tech-savviness of the city.

While there, we had the privilege of meeting with a variety of leaders, including Sunil Nagaraj of Ubiquity Ventures and Thomas Leighton, active angel investor and former CEO of Open Table.

The purpose of these trips is to introduce UNC’s top entrepreneurs to professionals in tech and venture capital, and to broaden each apprentice’s network in the process. And given its reputation as a hotbed for tech innovation, San Francisco posed an ideal opportunity for those of us with particular interests in VC and tech.

We toured a number of corporations, including First Round Capital, Optimizely, and Carbon 3D, the latter of which was founded by Joseph DeSimone, Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina.

Overall, the trek made clear that UNC’s connections in San Francisco and Silicon Valley remain quite strong.

As the head of a growing creative agency known as Darkroom, what I learned from these colleagues has proven invaluable. Apprentices shared personal entrepreneurial stories with seasoned businessmen and investors, and advisors detailed their own pitfalls and successes in return. I found myself bonding with like-minded UNC students, many with backgrounds that utterly impressed me.

All conversations seemed to revolve around trends in technology, positioning oneself for success, and how to seek funding. Needless to say, the trek allowed me to sharpen relationships with colleagues and advisers that have since thrived.

I recommend that any UNC student interested in entrepreneurship apply to the Adams Apprenticeship come Fall, regardless of major. The program has been both an insightful and rewarding experience.