ThinkHouse Fellows celebrate progress of their startups

Submitted by Anna Rzewnicki on Tuesday Jun 28, 2016.

The third and largest class of ThinkHouse Fellows met at HQ Raleigh on June 8 to celebrate their graduation from the 10-month experiential living program developed by four area entrepreneurs to provide resources and support for young entrepreneurs as they build scalable companies. 

As ThinkHouse Fellows, the young entrepreneurs received guidance from sponsoring partners, leadership and development training and access to entrepreneurial workspace at HQ Raleigh, just blocks away from the ThinkHouse co-living space in the Boylan Heights neighborhood. ThinkHouse co-founders are established entrepreneurs Jason Widen, Brooks Bell, Christopher Gergen and Jesse Lipson. The four also are co-founders of HQ Raleigh, a collaborative work space for startups and home to the NC State Entrepreneurship Clinic, led by Lewis Sheats, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at the NC State Poole College of Management. 

The ThinkHouse Fellows have the option of living in one of the seven rooms at the ThinkHouse or participating in the program while living elsewhere. All fellows get to participate in events such as home-cooked Sunday dinners prepared by the fellows and ThinkThursdays – a time for discussions about what is going on in their businesses and advice on how to move forward.

The 2015-2016 cohort of three women and six men presented updates on their startups to a small audience of entrepreneurship faculty, friends and family members at the celebration that marked the conclusion of their ThinkHouse experience. Following are comments submitted to Poole College communications by several of the 2015-16 ThinkHouse fellows about their experiences. View summaries of the nine fellows’ startups at the ThinkHouse website

Two startups focus on healthy eating

Consumers searching for ways to preserve their fresh food will have a new option with Fresh Box LLC, a system that keeps food fresh longer. Founder and CEO Allison Fairbank, who is passionate about addressing the world’s energy, environmental and economic challenges, has been developing her startup “to provide an at-home system that everyone can use in their kitchens and start enjoying food that is fresh longer, saving money and reducing waste,” she said in an email interview with Poole College communications.

Fairbanks expects to officially launch her product in a few months, and credits the ThinkHouse program for helping her with her entrepreneurial journey.

“Participating in ThinkHouse keeps you motivated, working hard on your venture, and going in the right direction,” she said.

ThinkHouse Fellow Rebecca Holmes has a similar vision when it comes to providing healthy food. The CEO and founder of Ello Raw said she thinks healthy real foods should be available to all people. Ello Raw produces dessert bites that are 100 percent raw. These products are currently available online, but Holmes says that they will be on Whole Foods shelves soon and hopes to grow nationally.

An environment that drives motivation

Holmes also credits the ThinkHouse program for keeping her motivated.

“Living with other entrepreneurs is surrounding yourself with people who are motivated, go-getters, and see a greater vision than the 9-5. That is priceless when you are off in the real world trying to start a company,” Holmes said.

Holmes, who lived in dorms with one roommate and some hall mates while an undergraduate student at Duke University, describes the ThinkHouse as a “truly remarkable experience.”

At one point, she was the only female in the house with six males. She learned a lot from them such as faking confidence until you have some and built long-lasting friendships.

One of her house mates, Jared Childs, founder and CEO of Pitch and Primer, also speaks highly of his experience of living in the house.

Pitch and Primer is a mobile storefront that combines high fashion men’s retail with local craft beer, utilizing a multi-tier approach to enhance the shopping experience. The store and bar are housed in a retrofitted 1973 Airstream Sovereign that makes stops in various locations in downtown Raleigh.

Childs says he applied to the ThinkHouse program because his time (as a student) at NC State was over and he wanted to continue being surrounded by successful entrepreneurs that could help him grow the company. “Having that solid support network of entrepreneurs right in the house really helped me overcome the rough patches and think through obstacles and challenges,” Childs said.

The idea for Pitch and Primer was sparked when a friend mentioned combining a retail store with a craft beer bar. Months of analyzing the market and industry paid off when the company was officially founded at the end of 2015. Now, Childs plans include opening the startup’s first storefront in the fall of 2016 and getting the brand “out there” and proving that the multi-tiered approach to men’s retail works.

Childs said he appreciates his time at the ThinkHouse, adding, “Having 10 months to get heads down and focus on Pitch and Primer was huge for the growth and success of the company.”

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