RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Triangle investor and entrepreneur Donald Thompson is one of seven North Carolina executives cracking the new “Next 100″‘ list of rising business stars from Forbes.
The list of “main street companies” was selected from a pool of nominated small businesses that qualify only if they’re under $10 million in revenue (or have less than $10 million in Series A funding) and have been in business for more than a year.
“Although these businesses are small, their importance to the U.S. economy is enormous,” Maneet Ahuja wrote in announcing the initiative. “Before the pandemic, small businesses with less than 500 employees accounted for two-thirds of net new American jobs and generated 44% of U.S. GDP.”
Founder, The Diversity Movement. Raleigh
Many businesses are looking to reassess their impact on diversity, equity and inclusion, and Thompson is hoping that his tech-first consultancy, the Diversity Movement, will show them how. Using lessons from his own career trajectory (Thompson went from managing a Dollar General to the CEO spot at tech firm I-Cubed), Thompson is hoping his consultancy can change the conversation.
[Thompson also is a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire.]
Cofounder, Vraiment Financial , Raleigh
Working as a mother of three in the banking industry, Bradley found that her schedule was often at odds with her family responsibilities. She and her husband Vincent decided to open their own financial services firm, Vraiment Financial, in 2019, offering accounting, tax preparation and grant research services to its more than 300 clients. To date, the couple’s grant research service has assisted business owners in receiving up to $50,000 in funding.
Founder, Grow Fragrance, Durham
As a child, Swimm learned the ins and outs of fragrance from his father, who worked as a chemist in the industry. After starting his own family, he became more aware of the safety of the products in his home and was dissatisfied with existing fragrances sold as clean and safe for the home. In 2018, he launched Grow Fragrance, a plant-based, toxin-free home fragrance brand, selling candles and air fresheners.
Founder, Pip & Grow, Davidson
Compton Barr, who holds a master’s degree in public health, cofounded Pip & Grow, a socially responsible baby product company, alongside fellow MPH Amber Kroeker. The company got its start bringing Finnish “baby boxes”–a type of portable crib–to the U.S., and now offer sleep courses and coaching to thousands of customers. “I’m not your typical entrepreneur,” Compton Barr says. “I’m an older mom. I have a manufacturing/retail business, not a cool, sexy app.”
Founder, It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn, Charlotte
Doyle is the founder of It’s Poppin! Gourmet Kettle Korn. She always dreamed of starting her own business and made it a reality in 2017. Poppin! Has partnered with several large companies including Google and Hampton Hotels. Their 10,000 customers enjoy a variety of unique flavors including their most popular, fried chicken.
Founder, QuirkChat, Concord
“No racists, sexists or trolls” are allowed on QuirkChat, a collaborative social video and networking app created by 28-year-old Law to disrupt the white male dominated “geek fandom” industry–anime, gaming, comics and more. With recognition from Snap’s Yellow accelerator and the Techstars Anywhere incubator, QuirkChat’s technology enables users to send video responses to one another, limit online harassment, build niche communities within the app, and even monetize with in-app transactions.
Founder, Strickland Bros 10 Minute Oil Change, Thomasville
After being turned down for a management-track position when working as an oil change technician, Strickland opted to start his own lube shop, Strickland Brothers 10 Minute Oil Change, in 2010. Unable to secure traditional funding at first, Strickland used a $35,000 HELOC loan from his grandfather to open his first shop; 135 locations are now in the works, and the chain is valued at $55 million.