Patterns of persistence

Camille McGirt (MPH ’17) lending a helping hand at her Healthy Girls Save the World Summer Camp

Participants in the Adams Apprenticeship program at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies display a number of attributes that make them stand out as student entrepreneurs.  One characteristic they have in common is persistence.

The Adams Apprenticeship provides undergraduate juniors and first-year MBA and graduate students with unique opportunities designed to have a transformative impact on their careers as entrepreneurs. The experiences of Michael Biron (MBA ’17), Camille McGirt (MPH ’17), Pierce Gaynor (MBA ’17) and Alain Glanzman (MBA ’17)  are no exception.

These Adams Apprenticeship graduates have developed startups that span across a range of industries and market spaces, and their tenacity and perseverance played key roles in contributing to their success.

Biron, co-founder of Altis Biosystems, brought a business background and all-in attitude to his company, which has developed technology to accelerate safe, affordable drug discovery.

Since his experience connecting with top-level advisors and learning how to navigate difficult business situations through the Adams Apprenticeship, Biron has guided his startup through a process of final product validation and begun developing customer relationships.

“Working with CROs and pharmaceutical companies takes a lot of patience and persistence,” says Biron. “The B2B business model has a long sales cycle, and since Altis Biosystems was developed through UNC, there is an additional layer of complexity to every step of the process. In this type of business very few things happen quickly, but our hard work has been well worth it.”

In the nonprofit arena, McGirt is making an impact through her social enterprise Healthy Girls Save the World by providing transformational experiences and education that teach girls about healthy lifestyles.

After interning at the White House in 2010 and being inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, McGirt became determined to be a part of the solution to overcoming challenges relating to adolescent health.

The Adams Apprenticeship played an instrumental role by connecting McGirt and her venture with crucial resources and relationships, helping her find funding, assisting with the creation of a sustainable growth strategy and guiding her through challenges along the way. The experience was a significant factor that allowed her to create a thriving organization, which acquired office space in Carrboro, North Carolina, in 2017 and is continuing to grow.

“The Adams Apprenticeship is an invaluable network comprised of people who truly care about developing UNC’s next generation of entrepreneurial leaders, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity,” says McGirt.

Alain Glanzman (MBA ’17) and Co-founder, Marc Miller, present Walletfi at Launch Chapel Hill

Gaynor, who participated in both the Adams Apprenticeship and Launch Chapel Hill as an MBA student,  is making waves in the world of literature. His venture, Fixional Inc., aims to create and curate the world’s largest library of fiction online while providing personalized user recommendations and establishing incentives for authors to contribute their writing.

“I’ve been working on this idea in various forms for the past seven years,” says Gaynor, an avid reader and writer of fiction. “I think we’re drowning in content to the point where ideas seem interchangeable and commoditized, and I wanted to put together a haven for works worth reading, remembering and learning.”

Gaynor showed persistence when he changed his platform from an ad-supported site to a subscription-based business model and overcame obstacles associated with running an early stage company.

Glanzman, co-founder of WalletFi, created an app designed to let consumers easily manage recurring payments from one card to another. Since graduating from the Adams Apprenticeship and participating in Launch, he expanded his business model to also offer it to banks.

Glanzman developed the idea for Walletfi with co-founder Marc Miller after moving several times and experiencing the process of changing the address on all his accounts as a major pain point.

What began as a dynamic duo that literally knocked on doors to gauge customer interest has transformed into a growing, thriving company that participated in a globally recognized accelerator in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whether working in the health care, nonprofit, creative or financial sector, all of these entrepreneurs have persisted through formidable challenges. The Adams Apprenticeship taught them the tools to manage both the victories and complications of developing their ideas and transforming them into the successful ventures they are today.

By Lindsay Thompson (BA ’18)