RALEIGH – As of today, June 1st, Raleigh Founded will have a new Director!
Lauren Romer, previously the Community Manager for Raleigh Founded, will step into her new role as Director of Raleigh Founded and Jess Porta, the current Executive Director, will move into her new role as Chief Strategist with Founded Communities (Raleigh Founded programmatic and economic development arm).
As a Raleigh native and NC State grad, Lauren has always been passionate about the local community, and in 2018, she joined Raleigh Founded as a Community Coordinator. Lauren quickly grew into additional roles as she built out the marketing strategy for the organization and refined the organization’s storytelling, helping to lift up the stories of local entrepreneurs. Lauren also grew as the organization grew and was intrical in expanding Raleigh Founded to the four locations it has today. Lauren developed operational policies and practices that would help the company scale and grow.
Lauren expanded her passion for the Raleigh community in 2020 when she saw the impact of Covid. She quickly jumped in to help raise recovery funds through the city’s “All in for Raleigh” campaign, was a participant in DRA’s downtown activation discussions, and carried out social media and marketing support for the 2020 Innovate Raleigh Summit.
Not only is Lauren passionate about the Raleigh Community, but Lauren is also an entrepreneur and works tirelessly to support other female entrepreneurs. Lauren founded Romer & Co, an interior design and residential real estate firm in 2021 and has grown the business since. She plans to bring her personal experience and passion to the role and is excited for the future.
“Entrepreneurship is a pathway for so many to change the trajectory of their life and create generational wealth for their families,” says Romer, “ I have loved watching Raleigh Founded evolve as an organization to continue to find ways to support all present and future entrepreneurs. As Director I am most excited to continue that growth to support communities historically left behind and find opportunities for them to flourish here in our local ecosystem.”
“I am thrilled for Lauren to move into this role,” says current Director, Jess Porta, “I’ve loved working alongside Lauren the past several years and have been honored to be a small part of her journey. She has always been a rockstar, but over the past few years, she has become this incredible leader. She leads with empathy, yet she is direct and honest. She is one of the hardest working people I know and she loves this community. She is always thinking of ways that our members could connect and grow. The Raleigh Founded community is so lucky to have her.”
Jess Porta is the current Executive Director of Raleigh Founded and has been with the organization for over seven years. In her time as Director, she has seen the organization grow from 150 members to over 450 and from one location to 5. Jess saw the organization through a global pandemic, a total rebrand, and a name change. Jess has helped to create programs and partnerships that evolved into: the Business Law Clinic at Raleigh Founded (which offers free legal support to companies in need), use of the prototyping lab space at Raleigh Founded @ Centennial, the sponsored membership program (which offers 3 months of free membership to business leaders working on racial equity or recovering from covid) and much more.
“Over the past seven years, the highlights and joys of my life have been helping members of this community connect with the tools and resources they need to be successful. But in the past two years, I have really been gravitating towards the incredible programmatic work we have been doing behind the scenes. Raleigh Founded is, and always will be, more than just office space, but we were doing so much work with social and economic development programs, that we found it fitting to create a separate arm of the organization so we could really dedicate our time and resources to lifting up this community and under-connected communities across the southeast. With a background in human rights, I’ve always been passionate about helping people and this new direction enables me to lean into that in a much more meaningful way.”
Jess will be the Chief Strategist for Founded Communities, the social and economic development arm of the organization that has been responsible for a number of projects to include: the Rural Affiliate Program (a program that connects rural communities to the resources of RF), Sparq (a health tech-focused space in Winston Salem), the International Landing Spot program, the Main Street Program (a food and beverage incubator for women and people of color, coming late 2022), and the development of a Social Innovation Hub in Greenville, SC.
Jess is the standard-bearer of our organization’s mission-driven work and we are incredibly fortunate to have a talent of her caliber leading Founded Community into the future of place-making and impact for our organization.
Jess will still be involved in developing partnerships and programs that feed into the work that Raleigh Founded is doing, so you will continue to see Jess around!