The Download: Kelly Rowell, President & CEO, CED

Kelly Rowell joined CED in 2017 and has a diverse background in the social, civic, and nonprofit space leading teams and improving organizational capacity. As an accomplished executive, she offers 20 years of experience using aspects of both systems and design thinking to develop innovative solutions for mature organizations. Her past successes are most noted by her abilities to align strategy with value to drive towards maximum impact. She has a B.A. in Marketing, Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship, is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and a Certified Fund-Raising Executive.

She feels drawn to the entrepreneurial community by her personal alignment with its defining characteristics. In that, she is a continual learner who believes evolution is key to personal and professional success.

  1. What is in your pockets?

My Galaxy Note: the smart device that connects me to work, family, and my extended network of resources that support me.

My Garmin watch: helps me manage my health in real time to ensure I am practicing habits that ensure a positive mental state.

An optimistic mindset: living by the philosophy of continuous improvement, I am always open to new ideas and evolving current ideas to maximize impact.

  1. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

CED, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, was established by four community leaders across the Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh region, who decided we had all of the great ingredients here to create and build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs with big ideas so that they can start, scale and stay here in our region.

Covid was both a blessing and a challenge in many ways. It made a lot of businesses that we work with rethink how they’re doing business and how they’re attacking problems and how they’re satisfying their customers, and CED was in that same boat. We learned a lot about ourselves. We learned about where we really have a strong impact and what our legacy provides us with, and how we use that legacy to move us into the next 40 years.

We are a mature nonprofit that has been making an impact in our region for four decades, and that legacy and those people that are part of that legacy are still around and they want to help. I think being in a global pandemic, they also were reaching deep about: how can they give back, and what are they passionate about? We got a lot of knocks on our doors about that, and that has just offered us an amazing tool and opportunity to think about how we continue to contribute to a much larger ecosystem now for the next 40 years. The most exciting activity that has happened in the last 18 months in our organization is harnessing those thoughts and motivation and putting it into an action plan to move us into the future.

  1. What is your favorite coffee spot?

Mission Market in downtown Apex. It’s a female-led, mission-driven coffee shop that donates a portion of their proceeds to local charity, empowering women. And they have great avocado toast and free WiFi.

  1. What keeps you up at night?

I come from a background of process improvement, and nothing’s ever perfect. What I want for this region is to truly be more collaborative. CED has always been Switzerland and we’ve never claimed an urban center as our own. We’ve always supported and tried to pull together all three. I’m seeing a new wave of folks in this space that truly want to be more collaborative.

What keeps me up at night is that I want to just see that come to fruition. I worry I’m not doing enough to make that happen. CED is one of 85 support organizations helping entrepreneurs in different facets. We’re not doing enough together. We shouldn’t be charging this alone and doing all of our own thing with our eyes and ears covered.

I think what keeps me up at night is that I want to see that happen faster. I want to see what that collective impact could mean for this region and what type of outcomes we would see if we truly focused on minimizing the noise and maximizing the outcome together.

  1. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

A little spot in downtown Apex called Provincial. It’s a farm-to-table type restaurant. The chef there is amazing. It’s never the same menu, all locally sourced foods. It’s just absolutely delicious, but you have to make a reservation, otherwise you won’t get in.

  1. What is next for you or your organization?

We have 40 years of success stories. People like Matt King of Precision BioSciences, and Gart Davis and Stephen Fraser of Spoonflower, who all graduated from the CED Fast Trac program. How do we pull the lever on those resources to have a greater impact? It’s not just about what the internal team at CED can do. It’s truly about the network that CED has been a part of for so long, that ecosystem. We have a lot of touch points with folks that now have the knowledge, scale, experience, and expertise to expand that council of support for high-growth companies here in the region. That’s what’s next, and what that looks like is what we’re designing right now. It’s exciting.

I’m a builder. We’re in this opportunity zone with collective impact of local leading founders, and how do we empower them to do something really great for our region? The story of how Silicon Valley was created and the Traitorous Eight, where over 300 companies can be tracked back to because of how they supported, empowered and drove the ecosystem to more startups. I mean, that’s where we’re at, right? We’re not in the early phases of our ecosystem anymore.

About Brooks Malone 105 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.