How Innovate Raleigh is Advancing Entrepreneurship and Equitable Economic Development

Bridget Harrington is the Executive Director at Innovate Raleigh, which works closely with Wake County Economic Development to keep equitable economic development top of mind, and help local businesses succeed. We caught up with Bridget to learn about the resources available to entrepreneurs in the Triangle.

  1. Let’s start with your background. Tell us about your role and what you do within the EED program.

Innovate Raleigh is an organization to promote and support entrepreneurship. I joined about 3 years ago, and it was around that time that Innovate Raleigh formed a partnership with the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and Wake County Economic Development (WCED. I usually specifically sit within the WCED team to help fulfill their mission around economic prosperity. Recently, and always, but now with more of a fine point – we are thinking about DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) issues which are very top-of-mind to a lot of the things that we work on and think about.

  1. Can you speak to the importance of EED in shaping the entrepreneurial community?

It’s incredibly important. As we think about equitable recovery from COVID-19, we have a chance to hit pause and look at what are we doing really well, which is often supporting people who traditionally get funding and who have the resources to make their business happen. What we might be doing less well and that we can improve on is looking at those who don’t traditionally get that support and saying how can we support them, and make a more equitable recovery? It’s about intention, and thinking about who those people are…what the gaps are, and the resources to fill those gaps.

  1. We’ve talked a lot about providing people with resources that they need to start a business, how is Innovate Raleigh providing those resources?

We recently started the Wraparound Program, where we basically thought ”What are the needs right now?” We don’t have a pocketful of funds, but we are connected to interesting people and organizations who are funders. Why don’t we be intentional about connecting the dots and also foster collaboration and potentially get people really invested in the community and economic growth. Every other month we invite two entrepreneurs to come and speak with highly networked folks, share where they are with their company, and discuss their needs around funding, talent, customers, beta testing – it could be anything. We call it the Wraparound Program because we really want these business leaders to wrap around local entrepreneur and help them grow.

  1. What’s on the horizon for 2021?

One of the needs we consistently hear is: communication. If entrepreneurs are not on social media or don’t have time to go surfing for funding or accelerators - then [they] just don’t know what’s out there. So we’ve pulled together an asset map at triangleinnovationhub.com , to be a one-stop-hub for entrepreneurial resources – whether it’s for main street businesses or high-tech, high-growth startups.

Another thing we’ve done that I’m proud of is that we underwrite a fellowship position for our local paper to specifically cover entrepreneurs and innovators. Our goal is to increase the capacity for storytelling for entrepreneurs…and people doing awesome stuff!

  1. To summarize, what sets Greater Raleigh apart as an ideal location for entrepreneurs to succeed?

It’s about the culture of collaboration. I’ve spent most of my career in New York or San Francisco and neither city has a truly authentic culture of collaboration. You can get anybody on the phone here, people are so generous with their time, and they are genuinely willing to jump in and help out.

To learn more about Innovate Raleigh, visit their website here or contact Bridget Harrington.



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