Jim’s upbringing and life experiences have shaped his perspectives. Both of his parents dedicated their lives to education, teaching children in the public school system. To earn money to go to UNC, Jim worked hard as a busboy at the local Senior Center, had a paper route and mowed neighbors’ yards.
As an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, he learned how to create and grow companies. Jim began his entrepreneurial journey at UNC by starting a marketing company (GCE) working with businesses to help improve their sales. In the mid-1980s he marketed low-earth space trips for a Washington-based company, hoping to sell enough trips to go himself, a venture cut short by Challenger. Afterwards, he started and operated his own travel company, specializing in group tours to the Caribbean. He helped build one of the largest student tour companies in North America after selling his business in 2005. After receiving his undergraduate degree from UNC, he earned an MBA from the University of Tennessee, graduating as Valedictorian with highest honors, while also earning a Masters in Management from George Washington University.
Jim led the initiative to create a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in downtown Chapel Hill, NC. Collaborating with a leadership team of officials from the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County, Downtown partnership, and the University, they opened Launch Chapel Hill, recently named one of the top 5 University accelerators in the U.S. This project strengthened Town-County-University relations while giving entrepreneurs much needed space and resources. Afterwards, he founded and then opened 1789 (across the street from campus) in 2013 to nurture early stage entrepreneurs and ventures coming out of Carolina. Over the past 20 years Jim has mentored and guided dozens of UNC founders and has invested in numerous ventures.
Over the past 30 years, Jim has wandered through the remotest villages on the planet across all 193 of the UN recognized countries, interacting with the world’s disadvantaged first hand. Sleeping in grass huts in Nicaragua, building rooms in rural Costa Rica, exploring distant villages in Africa, Asia and the Middle East … these experiences shaped his perspectives. Inspiring him to act locally, he has worked adjacent to and advocated for those in need in his own community.
His book, A Bigger World, chronicles the important life lessons learned while on his incredible journey around the world. The book is expected to be published during the summer/fall of 2021.
After a brush with Stage 2 melanoma, Jim became committed to leading a healthy lifestyle. Both Jim and his wife Susan have become exercise enthusiasts and Jim has run 20+ marathons as well as multiple 50 & 100-mile running events known as Ultramarathons.
Education is Jim’s passion. He has been on the faculty at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School since 2010, teaching undergraduate students at UNC how to create world changing for-profit and non-profit ventures. Jim’s favorite day of the year is UNC’s Pitch Party, which he completely re-invented, where 200+ students now gather annually to pitch their new venture concepts. Jim has served on the Public School Foundation since 2008, supporting teachers, students and schools with both talent and treasure.
In his spare time when he’s not running, Jim can usually be found watching UNC sporting events with his family, and on most Sunday mornings you’ll find him at New Hope Church in Durham, North Carolina.