DURHAM – Nine North Carolina startups have won $50,000 grants from NC IDEA after a competitive selection process, the 33rd since the inception of the NC IDEA SEED grant program.

“This group of companies demonstrates that entrepreneurial potential isn’t limited to specific areas of the state or a select few,” said Thom Ruhe, CEO and President of NC IDEA, in a statement shared with WRAL TechWire.

NC IDEA, a private foundation that supports entrepreneurial ambition and economic empowerment across North Carolina, has awarded nearly $8.5 million in total non-dilutive grants to 187 companies based in North Carolina, including the most recent nine companies.

“From the mountains to the Coast, this cohort hails from large metros to Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas of the state; with each either being female-founded, Black-founded or Veteran-founded, and in some cases, combinations thereof,” said Ruhe.  “Yet another competitive cycle, and we are confident that these companies are well on the path to creating a lasting impact on the state’s economy,” Ruhe added.

NC IDEA recently announced it had hired Allan Younger to lead its partnerships and programs work.

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How companies plan to allocate the new funds

Torrence Reed and Richard Berryman III launched Cybershield Security in May 2019 to provide a PCI compliance platform to early-stage startups.

That’s because many startups and their founders do not have consistent cybersecurity programming, said Reed in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

And cybersecurity is a critical component of every business in today’s world.

The company, which has been bootstrapped by Reed and Berryman, plans to use the grant funds from the NC IDEA SEED program to complete the company’s platform and expand the firm’s client base.  Down the road, said Reed, the company could provide a white-label solution and is preparing on “gearing up to compete.”

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Boost partnerships, nationally, to support parents

In Holly Springs, Kathryn Dunn, the founder of  on-demand perinatal education platform Nurtured Nest plans to expand the firm’s partnerships, including launching a partnership in July with UNC Rex.

The funding will provide the company, who seeks to help prepare parents through an in-depth, on-demand learning delivery platform, the opportunity to expand to hospital maternity units nationwide, Dunn said in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

“The NCIDEA grant process helped our team truly think through our business model, identify the strengths and where we were seeing traction, and then make improvements,” said Dunn.

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Preparing for future fundraising

In Winston-Salem, Jeff Livesay and co-founders Rob Reyenga and Rick Leander plan to use the new funding from the SEED grant program to boost the firm’s sales and marketing efforts to help position the company ahead of a future fundraising round.

Their firm, CopyForward, delivers a “unique model for royalties allows the first seller to determine a royalty pool and how to split it,” Livesay told WRAL TechWire in an exclusive interview.  “This has never been done in the history of art ownership and is a huge differentiator for CopyForward,” Livesay noted.

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Expanding service to public law enforcement agencies

The passage of NC Senate Bill 300 put in place specific requirements for all North Carolina law enforcement agencies on early intervention and wellness.

And the Wilmington-based Essential Personnel provides the software that supports the requirements of the bill, said Scott Monroe, a co-founder of the startup firm.

“We support a Sheriff or Police Chief’s efforts to support the mental health and readiness of their people,” said Monroe, in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

The company launched in July 2020, and raised a pre-seed round of funding in January 2021.  The firm is among those showcased at an event hosted by the North Carolina Technology Association, NC TECH, later today.

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Providing alternatives

Larry Kennedy, the founder and CEO of Green Solutions Group, a Salisbury-based startup that manufacturers a nontoxic tissue preservation and embalming solution as an alternative to formaldehyde, told WRAL TechWire that the funds from the NC IDEA SEED grant will enable the company to purchase the materials required to manufacture the firm’s products, so it can provide samples to medical schools.

“This will allow faculty and students to work in a toxic free anatomy lab for the first time, with a much better cadaver that enhances the teaching and learning experience in anatomy,” said Kennedy.  “Every dollar matters and this grant is a blessing to the company.”

Kennedy noted that formaldehyde is a Class 1 carcinogen and is known to cause cancer in humans.  The company plans to replace the use of formaldehyde with its products.

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Rachel Meyer, the founder of Botanical Bones, an Asheville-based superfood dog treat brand, called the grant funding a “game-changer for our business.”

Meyer told WRAL TechWire that the funds will allow the company to build out a production facility in order to scale up manufacturing of the plant-based, nutrient dense treats, and provide a basis to hire additional staff to help the company grow.

The company provides a direct-to-consumer model and Meyer told WRAL TechWire that she’s already chosen a way to celebrate the receipt of the funding: customers using “NCIDEA” at checkout will receive 10% off their order.

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New route to income and impact

Q. Nicole Vanderhorst launched WH Farms in November 2020 to help individuals create income and impact in a growing industry: CBD.

“Because there are so many restrictions around CBD,” Vanderhorst told WRAL TechWire, “Funding will be used to improve our marketing efforts.”

The grant funding comes at an important time for the company, said Vanderhorst.  The company also “cultivates premium industrial hemp on African American & Tuscarora legacy farmland in Eastern NC,” said Vanderhorst, adding that the wellness products may help with ailments ranging from pain relief to insomnia.

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Expecting tremendous growth

In Candler, Well Seasoned Table, will use the new grant funding to upgrade the firm’s processing kitchen, and will soon enter the market for a vehicle to explore sales channels at pop-up sites including markets, festivals, and expos, founder Sarah Wickers told WRAL TechWire.

The company is a producer of farm-grown seasonings, infused sea salts and sugars, and herbal beverages, and the grant will “provide us the opportunity to streamline our processes in a way that will position us for tremendous growth,” said Wickers.

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Refining ecommerce experience

CICIL, the self-funded sustainable home goods brand launched in September 2021 by Laura Tripp and Carolina Cockerham, recently launched a collection of East Coast wool rugs.

The NC IDEA SEED grant, the firm’s first infusion of capital, is coming at a great time, Tripp told WRAL TechWire.  “This funding is a huge opportunity for us to focus on growth,” said Tripp.  “We’re really excited about where we can take CICIL over the next few months with this funding .”

The firm’s products use a supply chain that totals 1,000 miles, and its rugs are sewn in North Carolina.  The products are made without synthetic materials and without known toxic chemicals, Tripp noted.

And now, said Tripp, the company can use the funding to reach new customers, refine the ecommerce experience, and launch what Tripp called “new fiber stories.”

“We’re creating products that we hope can be a part our customers homes for a lifetime,” said Tripp.

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List of companies

  • Botanical Bones, an Asheville-based superfood dog treat brand.  The company makes plant-based, nutrient dense treats with ethically sourced, clean-label ingredients.
  • CICIL, a Wilmington-based home goods brand.  The company produces all natural, non-toxic home goods, and uses a sustainable and scalable domestic supply chain.
  • CopyForward, a Winston-Salem-based startup that helps creators and collectors earn royalties on future resales of assets they have previously created or owned.  Based on the concept of Artist Resale Royalty Rights.
  • Cybershield Security, based in Huntersville, the company provides a software-as-a-service platform to assist organizations in cybersecurity compliance in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.
  • Essential Personnel, the Wilmington-based software-as-a-service provider of performance management and safety/wellness solutions for public safety agencies including fire departments, police departments, emergency medical services, and 911 dispatch.
  • Green Solutions Group, a Salisbury-based startup manufacturers a nontoxic tissue preservation and embalming solution, which is used in the combined $52 billion medical education, funeral, and laboratory markets.  It’s a safer alternative to formaldehyde.
  • Nurtured Nest, a Holly Springs startup that manages a hospital’s perinatal education programs, providing expert-led, on-demand classes for parents.
  • Well Seasoned Table, a Candler-based producer of farm-grown seasonings, infused sea salts and sugars, and herbal beverages.
  • WH Farms, a Charlotte-based industrial hemp cultivation and manufacturing company that produces beauty and wellness products and provides opportunities for clients to expand into the CBD industry through a white-label solution.