Monica Chen


Monica Chen has been writing about tech and startups since 2007 for The Herald Sun (Durham), Triangle Business Journal, and the The News & Observer. She loves interviewing passionate, inspiring people who are creating wonderful things in the world, and is delighted to find so many of them in the startup scene. What she is passionate about: nature, community, family, and the power of stories to tie everything together.


12.20.12 MONICA CHEN

Is Sweeps Out To Prove Millennials Aren't Just a Bunch of Spoiled Brats?

Chapel Hill Startup Allows Young People to Volunteer on the Company's Dime

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Amazingly, although there are many stories of Millennials who are anything but spoiled or bratty, who are starting their own businesses, working on nonprofits, thinking big and putting their money and courage where their mouth is – it seems the popular opinion on Millennials, or young people between 12 and 32 years old, is that we're a bunch of iPhone-toting self-centered, self-involved brats.

OK, I see how older people would think that, what with the Justin Biebers and Lindsay Lohans hogging the media spotlight. But there are also Millennials who are quietly doing good, like the young man I remember seeing at the grocery store last winter, helping a woman with a baby load her groceries into her car. And there are Millennials hired by Chapel Hill-based Sweeps, a web startup that connects college students with odd jobs. The students move heavy furniture, tutor and also unselfishly share their technological competency by helping older people debug their computers and learn to use their iPhones.

Not only that, but Morris Gelblum, the 24-year-old founder of Sweeps, has also expanded the company's mission by making volunteering a part of its business. With “Sweeps Gives,” the company has set aside time and resources for Sweepers to serve the community on the company's dime. --Read On

10.16.12 MONICA CHEN

First Look at HUB Raleigh, Becoming an Anchor for Raleigh Entrepreneurs

Details on the inaugural class, their flexible co-working plan and core values

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Hub RaleighAs HUB Raleigh nears its grand opening on Nov. 1, I stopped by last week to check out how the new incubator was coming along.

I took a half-hour tour with Jason Widen, one of the partners in the venture who is managing the space, stopped in on (interrupted the work of) three teams and chatted about the goals and philosophy of the hub with Jason.

I didn't know what to expect when HUB Raleigh was announced, other than knowing that there was significant capital involved and people with good track records as entrepreneurs were partnering on the venture. But I've realized in the past two months since the announcement that the Raleigh startup scene is evolving in a different way from the Durham scene. And what I saw on the tour was that the HUB is aware of that and working with that. --Read On


Kindred, New Incubator For Artisans, Opening in Downtown Raleigh

Artisans in NC Reaching 'Tipping Point,' Says Co-Founder Michelle Smith

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Artisan startups are kind of the untold story on the Triangle's startup scene.

There are tech startups, who've gotten plenty of attention, financially and otherwise. There are biotech startups. There are cleantech/green startups.

And then there are companies like Bound Custom Journals, CityFabric, The Makery and Seam Happy –that make items (and platforms for those items) that are both functional and beautiful, but find their business models a bit more of a hard sell to investors who are more familiar with startups built on MySQL than startups built on paper and fabric.

To help artisans get on the road to long-term viability, there is a new incubator called Kindred opening in downtown Raleigh. At 131 S. Wilmington St., which will take on a boutique-y look, artisans will receive one-on-one mentoring, monthly business workshops and have space to display and sell their wares.

The partners behind the nonprofit incubator are EntreDot, a business mentoring association, and Michelle Smith, founder of indieNC, a blog on NC designers and artists, and the Rock & Shop, an 8-year-old biannual music and shopping event. Michelle is a product designer herself, and recently created the window display for the new West Elm store in Durham.

Kindred's grand opening, with champagne and a costume party, is planned for Oct. 27. In the meantime, founders are still looking for help in the upfit of the building. They have also launched a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for modular shelving units and lighting. (Check it all out here.)

The growth of artisans in North Carolina is reaching critical mass, according to Michelle.

“It's kind of at the tipping point now. Because of the success of companies like Etsy, you have events like the Rock & Shop and you have designers who've been creating products for a long time,” she said. “We're trying to bring the focus onto these types of companies.”

More of Michelle's thoughts and info on Kindred after the jump: --Read On