ECU RISE29 interns support local businesses

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, July 11, 2019

By Sabrina Berndt


A new program at East Carolina University seeks to support local businesses in 29 counties, including Beaufort County, and inspire new business owners.

ECU’s RISE29 program matches students with local businesses to gain the experience they need to create their own startups in eastern North Carolina. Funded by a $1 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, the internship is designed to support students who want to start a microenterprise, or small business.

“Primarily, what the grant is trying to do is keep our students in eastern North Carolina,” said Matthew Smith, a communications specialist at ECU. “We’re trying to help them stay in the region they’ve known their whole lives.”

The Golden LEAF Foundation, born from the Master Settlement Agreement between the government and cigarette manufacturers in 1999, is a North Carolina nonprofit with the mission to rebuild the state’s economy, according to the Foundation’s website. The Foundation receives 50% of the settlement payments and uses that money to supply grants for programs that encourage local economy growth, such as RISE29.

RISE29 interns are matched with local businesses based on interests, skills and community need, and duties can vary from design to business administration. Of the 13 interns in the program, three are located in Beaufort County.

Thomas Hayes, an engineering major, works with idX, a company that manufactures retail environments, and uses his engineering skills for project management and drafting.

Adrianne Yacavone, a communication major, is working with Pamlico Rowing Taproom to develop a business plan for the new venture located at the Haven’s Mill waterfront property.

Caroline Midyette, a business administration major, is assisting the Washington Harbor District Alliance with marketing, fundraising and organizational administration, including finding vendors for the new indoor market and other upcoming projects.

Although Midyette is not looking to open her own business in the future, she plans to use her experience for her future in financial advising.

“It’s given me an opportunity to see what it takes to open a market, all the hard things, all the problems and the rewards that come out of opening a new business and growing,” Midyette said. “I’m happy that I’m able to stay in this area and see what it’s going to become in the fall and in later years.”

According to Smith, the program will only be growing within the next three years, including more interns and opportunities for students to create their own microenterprises. Students who do create a business through the program will receive support and mentorship — even after they graduate.

“This summer, we focused on the internships,” Smith said. “In the fall, they’ll try to work more of the new business creation aspect of it. The students will actually go out and create a business plan, open up their own businesses, and we’ll support them. We want to make sure that their businesses continue to thrive.”