Foundation Case Study

NC IDEA Innovation Express Train

Overview

NC IDEATM is a private foundation that supports the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the economic potential of entrepreneurs in North Carolina. It partners with organizations throughout the state to empower North Carolinians to achieve their entrepreneurial potential. Its programs include:

  • NC IDEA LABS, helping founders refine their business model and learn about their customers
  • NC IDEA MICRO, offering small, project-based grants to young companies
  • NC IDEA SEED, providing grant funding to advance startups
  • NC IDEA SOAR, addressing the needs of female founders
  • NC IDEA ENGAGE, supporting activities and initiatives of entrepreneurship advocates
  • NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM, strengthening the infrastructure through funding statewide partners

The Challenge

North Carolina is a diverse state both geographically and in terms of economic opportunity. It stretches from mountains to plains to the ocean and from the technologically advanced Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham to the banking hub of Charlotte to neighborhoods like Robeson County, one of the most economically disadvantaged regions in the state. In areas like Robeson County, NC IDEA feels it can significantly impact promoting entrepreneurial thinking. 

North Carolina’s 10.5 million residents have a median income of $30,322. The state was previously a textile and furniture manufacturing hub, but its economy is becoming more knowledge-based. Its top five exports are chemical manufacture, machinery and electrical equipment, transportation equipment, computers and electronics, and appliances—all of which require highly skilled workers. 

The Solution

Through its NC IDEA MINDSET program, the private foundation aims to educate 100,000 North Carolinians through the Ice House Entrepreneurial Mindset Programs by 2025. 

“If everybody starts thinking like an entrepreneur, we’re going to have a more dynamic, equitable society because we’re all going to be taking our ideas around those intractable issues we all face and putting them into action,” said Daisy Magnus-Aryitey. She was a program director for NC IDEA and is an Ice House Facilitator. 

The Ice House trainings offer an educational setting that’s different from what many participants have experienced in the past. Entrepreneurship isn’t put on a pedestal; instead, it is treated as something very attainable no matter someone’s resources or educational background. All of the individuals—including the facilitator—learn together and bring their collective thoughts and experiences. 

“Maybe people didn’t have a positive school experience,” Magnus-Aryitey said, “but suddenly they are excited to share and are seeing themselves in a new light, with the emerging capabilities that are so necessary to move forward with a new mindset.”

The Results

So far, more than 280 certified facilitators from every region of the state have completed the Ice House training. They then return to train others in their communities—some as consultants, but many others less formally, sharing the program with their friends and neighbors. 

“The Ice House Programs reawaken people to what they instinctively knew and who they were when they were children,” said Magnus-Aryitey. That’s what the world needs more of—and it’s always a joy to be in the class and hear people’s excitement.”

NC IDEA  also showcases successful entrepreneurs and the problems they solved, a fundamental tenet in the Ice House model. Whether it’s creating a lending platform that helps borrowers save money, producing allergen-free foods that reduce farm waste, or figuring out sustainable solutions for water purification and desalinization, the state’s residents demonstrate their grasp of the entrepreneurial mindset.