Jim Roberts is like the “Johnny Appleseed” of entrepreneurship in North Carolina. He has started or worked for five startup-development organizations in Asheville, Durham, Charlotte and Wilmington. He also founded Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs and is the director of community development for Bunker Labs in North Carolina. The nonprofit accelerator program assists veterans interested in being entrepreneurs. Jim is a University of Florida graduate and a rabid Chicago Cubs fan.
What do you like best about your job?
My job is a new challenge every day helping a wide range of entrepreneurs, including military veterans who want to be better entrepreneurs and helping them create jobs. My value is my network and knowledge of regional resources to help businesses. I came to North Carolina twenty years ago without any contacts, but after two decades of networking across the state, I know the crucial people who get stuff done for entrepreneurs and how to avoid the pretenders.
What inspires you?
Job creators also are known as entrepreneurs. I really consider entrepreneur development a crucial part of economic development. I have lived in Charlotte, Asheville, the Triangle and Wilmington and the people who inspire me most are the people who wake up every morning to create value in the world by building businesses and creating jobs. With a 70% chance of failure, they still attack this challenge head-on every day despite the barriers and potholes.
Who is a role model?
Mike McGuire of Grant Thornton is one of the most important people in my life outside of family. He was one of my first professional mentors and has been very supportive of my career when others disappeared. He has a level of personal detail to make every person in his company also feel that he is their personal mentor, not just the boss.
What was your biggest challenge this week?
My biggest challenge is always to raise the profile of military veterans who are entrepreneurs as part of Bunker Labs in North Carolina. I recently wrote an editorial about the amazing number of high-profile businesspeople and entrepreneurs in North Carolina who are also proud military veterans, such as Art Pappas of Pappas Ventures, David Jones of Bull City Venture Partners, and the two co-founders of Bandwidth that just had an IPO on Wall Street. Military veterans make up almost 10% of the population of North Carolina.
Favorite N.C. vacation spot
I have the most peace of mind at the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar at Carolina Beach. But I hope we will keep this a secret between you, me and your thousands of readers. The blackened mahi tacos, shrimp (hush) puppies and a cold adult beverage on a summer day is heaven. And while I am there on the beach, I am out of range of [BNC Publisher] Ben Kinney’s wayward golf shots — and that is true peace of mind.