Diane Durance

August 23, 2016

Diane Durance first visited Wilmington five years ago with her daughter. After a campus tour, trips to the aquarium, beaches and dinner downtown, they were both ready to call Wilmington home.

This past June, Durance officially made Wilmington her home when she became the director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Campus already feels comfortable to her.

“Everyone has been very welcoming - the challenges and opportunities are both exciting and familiar to me,” she says.

Calling herself “an accidental entrepreneur,” Durance originally planned for a career in government service. A college friend suggested they start a business designing networks for long distance companies.

“Once I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, there was no going back,” she said. “My first business led me to start another business in the telecom industry that created syndicated marketing publications. After starting a third business in construction, I was asked to head up the Ann Arbor IT Zone. It was a chance to work with university spinouts and innovative tech companies. I couldn't resist the opportunity to help other entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.”

Durance also served as president of MiQuest, a Michigan 501(c)(3) supporting early- and second-stage ventures across the state. Now that she’s at the CIE, she’s eager to design and implement a staged program to guide entrepreneurs as they move their ventures from concept to launch. She says they also plan to expand their network of mentors and coaches, adding even more resources and opportunities to the mix.

She is also interested in the farm-to-table movement, as well as aquaculture and sustainable fisheries.

“In 2014, I was a finalist in Fish 2.0, a global business plan competition for sustainable fisheries. I had a plan for commercial-scale recirculating aquaculture systems on family farms,” she said. “That plan wasn't viable, but I’m eager to find ways to support a growing and sustainable aquaculture industry in North Carolina.”

--Caroline Cropp