The conference room of the Hampton Inn in Carrboro, N.C. bustled with the buzz of friendly conversation and freshly brewed coffee as advisors and apprentices gathered for the inaugural Adams Apprenticeship Fall Conference on the morning of Friday Sept. 23. The conference and dinner were made possible by a generous gift from John and Vicki Adams after they attended the February gala and saw the power of the connections being made.
The Adams Apprenticeship program, aims to accelerate the entrepreneurial careers of UNC’s highest potential student entrepreneurs by facilitating exceptional learning and networking opportunities as well as providing mentorship and access to a quickly growing network of accomplished alumni entrepreneurs.
UNC alumni and Adams Apprenticeship advisors Aaron Houghton and Erik Severinghaus, known for founding the popular e-marketing service iContact, encouraged the audience to “think broadly and think boldly” in the pursuit of entrepreneurial endeavors during an inspirational presentation.
Sporting Carolina Entrepreneurship Club t-shirts from their days as undergrads, the confident duo incited laughter with tales of many adventures on their journey to success. From using hot glue guns to hold together their first office chairs to surviving harrowing plane rides in foreign countries, Houghton and Severinghaus recounted the challenges, uncertainties, and rewards of their own experiences as entrepreneurs.
They consistently emphasized the importance of building reliable relationships and always pushing oneself to be better while also challenging the advisors in attendance to “have the courage to be candid.”
In addition to a “speed dating” networking session for current advisors and apprentices, the event provided an opportunity to interview applicants for the 2017 cohort. This year 70 applications were submitted in the first round of the selection process, which closed Sept. 15. Forty seven made it to the interview stage and forty of those interviews took place during the intensive interview round at the conference. Eighteen of the 2017 Adams Apprentices will be selected for the program from the first round along with eight more from the second round of applications due Nov. 7.
Once chosen, the Adams Apprentices gain access to resources designed to kick-start their careers as entrepreneurs. The program includes other eagerly anticipated events such as entrepreneur treks to New York City and San Francisco, enrollment in Ted Zoller’s highly regarded “Entrepreneurship Lab” class, and an annual gala. Additionally, the apprentices receive guidance and mentorship from many notable advisors.
Advisor Tyler Shields commented on the quality of the people he has been able to connect with as a result of his participation in the program. He joked that his involvement is “almost selfish” because of the extraordinary experience he has had learning new things himself from the students he mentors.
Additionally, advisor Jan Davis described how rewarding it has been to give back to the UNC community saying, “The chance to impact the lives of young entrepreneurs so early in their careers and help send them on an upward trajectory at such a unique time in their lives is a tremendous experience.”
Several of the apprentices expressed similar appreciation and enthusiasm about the Adams Apprenticeship program. Apprentice Brent Comstock said, “The Adams Apprenticeship has been an incredible opportunity to network and gain access to people you wouldn’t normally have access to,” and fellow apprentice Matthew Richmond stated, “We are privileged to be in the room.”
Later in the evening John Skipper, President of ESPN and Chairman of Disney Media Networks stopped by the networking reception to visit and share a few thoughts with the Adams Apprentices and Advisors gathered at the Hampton Inn’s rooftop pool deck. The day concluded with a barbeque dinner at the hotel and remarks from Joe Colopy, co-founder of Bronto Software and a UNC alum. Colopy detailed the growth of Bronto from a small team of two people to a hugely successful business that spans three continents. He described the key moments in the journey and also encouraged entrepreneurs to focus on creating the right culture in their companies.
Overall the event was a huge success, and even after the last lingerers left the building, a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement for the future remained.
Written by Lindsay Thompson, LaUNCh Marketing Intern