In fall 2013, The Harbor Entrepreneur Center co-founders John Osborne and Patrick Bryant did what entrepreneurial folk do best: identified a need and created a solution. “There were pockets of people in the region who had the desire to create large-scale businesses, but there wasn’t really a hub for all of that activity to come together,” says Osborne.
Since the nonprofit launched in January 2014, more than 30 groups of aspiring entrepreneurs have graduated from its Business Accelerator program: a 14-week crash course in business creation led by experienced movers and shakers like Eric Bowman of SPARC and Steve Parker of Levelwing. Companies founded by Accelerator grads have amassed more than $2 million in investments thus far and include buzzed-about ventures like Open Angler and Bidr.
The Harbor also offers month-to-month turnkey work spaces downtown and in Mount Pleasant, Summerville, and North Charleston. “They’re designed to be temporary spaces where someone can grow a business until they need their own site,” says Osborne.
The Harbor nurtures more mature businesses, too. Its six-month Propel program aims to turn company founders into successful CEOs, and the Forum initiative—which consists of monthly small-group sessions and an annual retreat—offers peer-to-peer feedback for owners of businesses worth $250,000 or more. “Just imagining what these smart, capable people are going to do, I’m so excited about the next five years of entrepreneurship in our region,” reflects Osborne.
Join in these Harbor Entrepreneur Center happenings (there’s a calendar at www.harborec.com)
➼ 1 Million Cups: The Harbor holds these free coffee talks at its King Street work space from 9 to 10 a.m. each Wednesday. Entrepreneurs present their startups to an audience, gaining exposure as well as feedback.
➼ Entrepreneur Studio: Held several times a year, this $5-per-ticket event invites influential entrepreneurs, such as Anita Zucker and AOL-founder Steve Case, to the stage for an Inside the Actors Studio-style interview about their paths to success.
➼ Founders Ball: This annual fête brings together “the Who’s Who of entrepreneurs in the Charleston area,” says Osborne. Look for details to be announced on the May 2016 party.