CIE Mentor Programs

A mentor helping a student

About the Mentor Team Program


Mentor entrepreneurs with high growth innovative ventures on how to start, market, manage and grow.

CIE mentors believe that the active support of entrepreneurial activities improves the quality of the experience for those who want to start and grow a company and strengthens our region’s position as an innovation hub.


In February 2018, the CIE took the first steps toward developing and launching a mentor program that would engage community advisors and advance innovative ventures. Taking inspiration from the MIT Venture Mentoring Service and the New Enterprise Forum Coaching models, the CIE developed a program that surrounds entrepreneurs with a team of advisors and supports them through significant milestones.

In September 2018, the CIE was awarded an ECOSYSTEM Partner Grant from the NC IDEA Foundation to grow the mentor program and related activities. The program was officially launched on November 28, 2018, with 65 mentors, four active mentor teams, three committees, and more than 500 hours logged by volunteers. The launch event featured welcoming remarks by Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli and recognition of NC IDEA president and CEO Thom Ruhe and Senior Director John Austin.

By June 2019, the program had more than 100 mentors, 10 active teams, and two teams with successfully completed engagements.

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The CIE Mentor Program assists both campus- and community-based ventures by surrounding them with a team of experienced professionals to guide them to their next business milestone. UNCW students, alumni, faculty and staff, and community startups are welcome to apply for a mentor team. The CIE mentor program assists entrepreneurs through the early stages of their ventures, starting from concept development and continuing through team formation, incorporation, and initial operations.

CIE entrepreneurs receive practical hands-on mentoring from teams tailored to meet their unique challenges. CIE mentoring services are educational only and all business decisions remain under the control of the entrepreneur. Participants are assured of impartial and unbiased advice by a strict code of ethics and interactions are confidential.

Mentors are the backbone of the program and the CIE is eager to interview anyone interested in volunteering. There is a monthly mentor meeting where new mentors and entrepreneurs are introduced to the group and teams are formed. The CIE hosts special skill-building workshops to help new mentors and others that are interested in becoming involved learn the skills necessary for effective mentoring.

The CIE mentor programs are conducted by volunteers on a best-effort basis who are fully independent of and are not directed by the CIE, its employees, or the university. CIE mentors provide only educational support and participating entrepreneurs are in control of and responsible for any actions or decisions made as a result of mentor interactions.

Learn more about the CIE Mentor Program by reading this Greater Wilmington Business Journal  Insights article, CIE Launches a Proven Program to Propel Startup Success.

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Mentor Teams 2020

Brillian Sole, Jeff Guard

Isosceles Pharmaceuticals, Brett Lanier

Kinfo, Janine Iamunno

Language Corpus, Reid Wilson

Little House Surf, Neal and Stephanie Sumner

NeatCap, Ed Thear

OpiAID, David Reeser

Social Haven, William Mansfield

Surgilum, Debbie Brown

QuoteQuest, Bruce Rice

Former Teams

CISME, Alina Szmant, PhD, Diver-portable instrument for non-destructive measurement of coral health in their native environment

ecoTekindustries, Kyle Trivisonno, Bio-based alternatives to carbon fiber and fiberglass for custom products or devices

iCruits, Manish Bhan, Autonomous Assessment Machines, smartphone-ready simulation machines that hire like humans

Koerner Health Services, Christian Koerner, Communications system and devices to facilitate home health care

Live Menus, Trinity Swepson, Enhanced restaurant options app

MVMT Wear, Cameron Sechrist, Athletic wear for improved muscle performance

Renaissance Fiber, Michael Long, PhD, Producing high-quality fiber from industrial hemp using clean, inexpensive, and scalable proprietary methods

Skilly-do, Claire Holroyd, Expert education toolkit for caregivers and preschoolers to play, learn and get ready for school together

Stor-Cool, Preston Davis, Innovative outdoor living and work product combining storage with refrigeration

SWELL Systems, Derek Schmidt, Automating businesses with one integrated system

Uni-Spire, Debbie Powell, PhD, Universal Writing Continuum to improve K-12 writing skills

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The CIE mentor program activities are managed by three committees. The Pipeline Committee identifies and recruits new entrepreneurs and reviews applications for mentor teams. The Mentor Orientation Committee develops and provides the training and information materials for new mentor orientation, and is also responsible for developing guidelines and operating procedures. The Accelerator Fund Committee reviews applications for milestone funding.

Accelerator Fund Committee: Diane Durance, Chair; Kevin Doyle, Keith Markfield, Bruce Mancinelli, Virginia Sourlis

Mentor Onboarding Committee: Deb Mosca, Chair; Barry Buzogany, Diane Durance, Bill Knowles, Ruth Smith, Ted McIntire, Susan Harman

Pipeline Committee: Paige O'Neill, Susan Bales, Lisa Brandkamp, Charles Daniels, Heather McWhorter

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The CIE Mentor Program is funded in part by membership dues. Entrepreneurs and mentors are requested to join the CIE and participate as members.