About Us

To support the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem on campus and in the Charlotte region, in 2022 UNC Charlotte aligned its educational and outreach efforts with the creation of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI). The Center integrates the previous work of Ventureprise, the city’s longest-serving entrepreneur support organization, with the Small Business and Technology Development Center and the University’s undergraduate and graduate certificates in entrepreneurship. Its programs primarily target innovation-driven entrepreneurs, university researchers and university students interested in entrepreneurship. 

PORTAL building at UNC Charlotte

“We know that entrepreneurship is critical to the economic growth of a community, and our University is a driving entrepreneurial force in Charlotte. Integrating our work strengthens our ability to build the pipeline of entrepreneurs in the metro area, increase the resources available to start-up companies in our community and leverage the expertise of entrepreneurial faculty from across the University to benefit our region.” 

Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber

In 2015, UNC Charlotte was selected as a National Science Foundation I-Corps Site, and in 2024 joined the Mid Atlantic Region Hub. I-Corps, an evidence-based entrepreneurship and customer discovery focused program, is open to qualified UNC Charlotte researchers. Cohorts are offered several times annually. I-Corps is designed to both accelerate commercialization progress and to increase the commercialization understanding of faculty and students. UNC Charlotte was the first I-Corps site to be established in the Carolinas.

Students (undergraduate and graduate) and emerging entrepreneurs from the Carolinas and adjacent states compete annually in the Charlotte Venture Challenge business competition organized by UNC Charlotte and Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. CEI also manages the student business incubator, 49er Foundry.

CEI received the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Lab-to-Market Inclusive Innovation Visionary Award in 2021. The SBA-supported Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC) operates as part of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and serves 1000+ small businesses in the Charlotte region. 

Program Leadership

Gene Johnson
Interim Executive Director
Justin W. Webb
Director of Entrepreneurship Academic Programs and Research/Belk Distinguished Professor of Business Innovation
Laura Smailes
Assistant Director
Carrie Bovill
Entrepreneurial Program Specialist


Although housed in the Belk College of Business, CEI works with faculty of every college at UNC Charlotte.

Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC)

Founded in 1984, the North Carolina Small Business Technology Development Center is a business advisory resource for growing and developing small to mid-sized businesses. These highly skilled professionals provide services statewide from offices hosted by campuses of The University of North Carolina System. The SBTDC operates in formal partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, making it a unique and valued asset in the economic development infrastructure of North Carolina. The Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC) at UNC Charlotte serves the counties of Anson, Cabarrus, southern Iredell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Rowan, Stanly and Union.

Mike Barugel
General Business Counselor
General Business Counselor, Small Business & Technology Development Center
Michael Moore
Regional Director
Regional Director, Small Business & Technology Development Center
George Neuenschwander
International Business Development Counselor
International Business Development Counselor, Small Business & Technology Development Center


Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Portal Building, Suite 252
Shipping: 9319 Robert D. Snyder Rd.
Mailing: 9201 University City Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28223