Microenterprise Program

East Carolina University (ECU) has a rich legacy of supporting rural communities in eastern North Carolina. ECU is taking its public service mission to the next level with its new Microenterprise Program – a university-wide endeavor creating cohesive teams of passionate and highly motivated students to help optimize and create new businesses to drive job growth and economic vitality for the entire region. The Microenterprise Program is supported by the ECU Microenterprise Fund (MEF).

ECU’s Microenterprise Program matches up student team skillsets and interests with regional economic needs to better focus talent and employment objectives, boosting the eastern North Carolina economy. The Microenterprise Program assembles teams of students around real world, existing problems plaguing industry in the region, and creates a multitude of new enterprises to generate new jobs and attract new talent and peripheral businesses to the 29-county region surrounding ECU. An advanced software platform matches student interests and talents with regional needs in real time to better address the fluidity of regional needs and economic trends. The Microenterprise Program fosters business self-sustainability, community resiliency and growth, and attraction of new young residents and peripheral businesses. Increased foot traffic due to these efforts boosts consumer spending for the entire region.

Transforming Eastern NC One Business at a Time



Provides business and entrepreneurship training to undergraduate students

Coalesces like-minded, passionate and highly motivated team members

Identifies & applies student interest, skill sets and entrepreneurial passions

Matches community needs with student talent, academic practicums and capstones, and a strong data analytics capability

Identifies and matches up project mentors with student teams

Creates impactful personalized projects and/or microenterprise plans

Establishes a strong collaboration with ECU’s regional communities

Achieves business improvements and/or successful new ventures

Provides ongoing business statistics and metrics to benchmark program success

Example of Success

Taylor Hicks

Simple & Sentimental

At ECU, students take entrepreneurial opportunities seriously. In 2018 College of Business student Taylor Hicks won the university’s inaugural Pirate Entrepreneurship Challenge with her business Simple & Sentimental LLC. This and subsequent victories infused Taylor’s hand-lettered gift-box business with over $18,000, allowing the undergraduate to expand her company and open a new office in Greenville. Today, Simple & Sentimental has 6-figure revenue less than two years in, with a rock-solid team of Taylor and four other employees. Taylor’s work ethic captures the entrepreneurial spirit and desire to help grow new microenterprises in eastern North Carolina, while providing new employment opportunities to other ECU students and graduates as her business grows.

Learn More


Mark Wdowik
Executive Director of Innovation and New Ventures