Wilmington's Genesis Block looking to 'accelerate' local minority-owned businesses

Jan 6, 2021

Wilmington-based Genesis Block is looking to take ten local minority-owned businesses to the next level. It’s part of the coworking space and accelerator’s ambitious plan for the next three years.

Founded by wife-and-husband team Tracey and Girard Newkirk, Genesis Block isn’t an incubator --- where new business ideas coalesce into being. It’s an accelerator, which gets businesses over the difficult hurdle between proof of concept and a successful company. 

Girard describes it: “It’s kind of like an entrepreneurship entrepreneurship program, designed to give you the proper essential skills training to help your business grow. And then once you've completed that program, there's funding on the other side of that to help you grow your venture and strengthen your venture.”

Girard says that, although nothing is guaranteed, graduates of the accelerator are statistically more likely to secure funding.

The Newkirks are taking applications until Friday, for businesses ranging from restaurants to software, and located across 14 counties in southeastern North Carolina.

Applications will go to a five-person selection committee. To be selected, companies must have the necessary credentials and legal structure, and it must be revenue generating. That doesn’t mean the company has to already be wildly profitable, but it does mean it must have made at least one proof-of-concept sale.

“The focus is on: you've already established yourself somewhat in the marketplace, now it's time to scale your business so that you can double your revenue, you can bring more jobs to the community. And you can strengthen your venture.”

The 10 business owners will take part in a 16 week course; they’ll also receive a year-long membership at Genesis Block, meaning access to a co-working space, mentoring, and networking opportunities. The program is free, with the $5,000 fee covered by an NC Idea grant aimed at supporting Black entrepreneurship.

This is just the first phase of a more ambitious, three-year plan, to put 120 companies --- at least 60% of them Black-owned --- through the accelerator.

“So that's 40 companies per year. We figured these companies are going to create about another 400 jobs for our community and add about 13 to $15 million in investment in revenue to the economy in southeastern North Carolina.”

The long term goal, Girard says, is to help build prosperity and reduce violence in Black and minority communities. 

For WHQR, I’m Ben Schachtman.

Find more about Genesis Block here, and application info for the accelerator program here.