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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Entrepreneurship and the law subject of UNCP’s 5th E-Summit

Entrepreneurs need good legal advice, especially during the start-up phase. That was the message at UNC Pembroke’s 5th Annual Entrepreneurship Summit on April 4.

Tim McNeill makes a point as fellow presenter Beau Epperly looks on.

Tim McNeill makes a point as fellow presenter Beau Epperly looks on.

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The summit, which was attended by approximately 100 entrepreneurs, educators, consultants and students, was sponsored by the School of Business and UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship.

The summit’s theme, Entrepreneurship and the Law, was fitting for James Thomas, namesake of the center. Thomas is a lawyer turned entrepreneur, having starting a very successful real estate company that is headquartered in Los Angeles.

“I’ve started three businesses and practicing law for 20 years was a big advantage,” Thomas said. “Starting a business is hard work and challenging, but it’s the most satisfying thing you can do.

“The law and regulations are becoming more complicated by the day,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but you have to know how these laws apply to you.”

Both presenters are also lawyers and entrepreneurs. Beau Epperly founded a California company that provides services to the wine industry.

Tim McNeill, who grew up near Lumberton and is a 1988 UNCP graduate, is currently enrolled in Duke University Law School’s Law and Entrepreneurship program.

“Business is where my heart is,” Epperly said. “I am in the early stages of starting another company that provides software recovery following disasters.”

“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was selling Christmas cards from my bicycle in the Saddletree community,” McNeill said.

Business Dean Ramin Maysami, left, with Jim Thomas, founder of UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship. The center sponsored the recent summit.

Business Dean Ramin Maysami, left, with Jim Thomas, founder of UNCP’s Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship. The center sponsored the recent summit.

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The pair walked the audience through the start-up of an imaginary company.

“The first and most important question you have to ask is what is the value proposition of your business idea,” McNeill said. “You’ve got to pitch the deal, so I’ll be interested to hear the student elevator pitches later.”

Corporate structure, financing and protection of trade secrets are foundations of any new business, McNeill said.

“You’ve got to have the basic legal documents that every company should have,” he continued. “Our clients end up in litigations if they don’t have them.

Good legal advice is more than the paperwork of creating business entities, and includes sound business advice, McNeill said.

“Make sure you have competent legal advice at every step,” he advised.

Epperly discussed limited liability corporations (LLCs) and other ownership structures as well as the tax implications.

Afterwards, several of the participants were pleased with what they had heard.

“This was a very good discussion that is useful information for planning a new business,” said Beth Wilkerson, a consultant with UNCP’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC).

Kyle Chavis, a senior vice president for Lumbee Guaranty Bank, said it was a “refresher course.”

“These are the things we need to look for in the underwriting process,” Chavis said.

Thomas called it a good day of important information for entrepreneurs.
“This is good stuff,” he said. “They did a great job, especially if you are starting a business.”

Dr. Mike Menefee, UNCP’s Thomas Distinguished Professor for Entrepreneurship, was pleased with the turnout. Seven students gave 90-second elevators pitches and prizes were awarded.

“We had got entrepreneurs and want-to-be entrepreneurs in attendance as well as students, consultants and educators,” Dr. Menefee said. “It was an interesting group.”

For more information about the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship or about UNCP entrepreneurship programs, contact the center at 910.775.4208, email thomasfamilycenter@uncp.edu or go online to www.uncp.edu/tfce/.

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