The Download: Lauren Romer, Director, Raleigh Founded

Lauren Romer, Raleigh Founded. Photo credit: Justin Kase Conder, @jkasephoto, www.jkase.com.

As a Raleigh native and NC State graduate, Lauren has always been passionate about the local community, and in 2018, she joined Raleigh Founded as a Community Coordinator. Lauren quickly grew into additional roles as she built out the marketing strategy for the organization and refined the organization’s storytelling, helping to lift up the stories of local entrepreneurs. Lauren also grew as the organization grew and was integral in expanding Raleigh Founded to the four locations it has today. Lauren developed operational policies and practices that would help the company scale and grow. As Director she is most excited to continue Raleigh Founded’s work in supporting the local community.

1. What is in your pockets?

I always have my Aquaphor Chapstick, wallet, phone, and laptop.

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

Raleigh Founded is a mission-driven coworking space. We were founded out of the Innovate Raleigh Conference back in 2011 and were (officially) founded in 2012, so 2022 is actually our 10-year anniversary. We were the first coworking space in the Triangle, which is really cool. We’re super excited to celebrate our 10-year anniversary.

We connect entrepreneurs to resources in the area. That’s why we were founded out of Innovate Raleigh, because that resource connection in the community wasn’t there back in 2011-12. There needed to some entity that was helping to foster that community, have a space for events. We donate tons of event space to entrepreneurs and up-and-coming initiatives, have people come together and collaborate. We also give away sponsored memberships for people who are just starting out their business. And then for anybody who’s working on DEI work (diversity, equity, and inclusion), we also give three-month sponsorships, so really partnering up in the community to best support our local ecosystem.

For me personally, I became director in June, so that was very exciting. I’ve been at Raleigh Founded for four and a half years. When I started, I wasn’t sure how my path was going to go. I really always loved the company, but then with Jess (Porta) and Jason (Widen) as amazing leaders, I really saw a path forward for myself here. [Editor’s Note: Jason Widen is a past Download subject.] They just kept continuing to give me opportunities and talk about how that could be the possibility. It’s been really cool.

As far as Raleigh Founded, what I’m really excited about, on the horizon, is our Main Street program that you’ve might have heard about. It’s with Downtown Raleigh Alliance, HUBB Kitchens, and the city, building a spot on Fayetteville Street that’s going to be a test kitchen for restauranteurs to try out their concept. There will be a ghost kitchen. There will not be an accelerator program, exactly, but there’s going to be someone from Raleigh Founded where we have resources for people. They can tap into our network. And then HUBB Kitchens has an amazing resource collection. Jason Johnson is going to be fantastic for those entrepreneurs, and I think it’ll really help to support our minority- and women-owned companies because that’s a lot of who we see becoming restauranteurs.

Raleigh Founded’s Warehouse District location.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

42 & Lawrence is my favorite. They have the best cold brew. I get two pumps of vanilla, and it’s amazing. I love the woman who owns it, and the staff is so nice.

4. What keeps you up at night?

I mostly worry about doing a good job. It’s pretty common in young women to have impostor syndrome. About a year ago I was really concerned about this. I had thoughts like, “Are people thinking that I’m too young for this, or that I’m not qualified, or that I’m not doing a good job?” This is still something that crosses my mind but thankfully our community is extremely supportive so I think about this less now.

But now, what keeps me up is if a member has a problem. Really thinking about making sure that everybody’s taken care of. We are a 24/7 coworking space; there are people in two of our spaces 24/7.

Another view of the Warehouse District location.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

The Raleigh Wine Shop just opened on Bloodworth. They do wine-tasting, the shop is really big, the staff is super nice, and I found my favorite Italian wine. But because they order different stuff all the time, they don’t have it right now, so I’m sad. But they have great suggestions on what to try. I really like that they’re trying to educate you.

And then for food, I’ve been loving Jolie. I went there for my birthday and my anniversary. It’s just a really nice date spot, especially with rooftop seating.

6. What is next for you or your organization?

To continue the initiatives that we’re already doing. Jason (Widen) and the owners are the visionaries of our organization. They’re always finding new ways that we can make an impact on communities that haven’t been supported in the past. When we started, people thought we were a tech incubator, and that was never really the case. But those were the entrepreneurs that were getting the biggest focus. And so now it’s really thinking about those people who have been typically left behind, resources haven’t been allocated to them. What kind of businesses are they creating?

That’s what I’m really excited about, is continuing to do that work and bring our resources and community to everybody who needs it.

The Raleigh Founded team. Romer is in the bottom row, second from left. Jason Widen is back right.
About Brooks Malone 89 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.