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Council for Entrepreneurial Development’s interim CEO says it’s ‘full speed ahead’ into a virtual world


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Kelly Rowell, interim CEO at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, says much of the organization’s entrepreneurial support programs “translated well to a virtual environment and we’re going full speed ahead.”

in an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire, the leader of one of the largest entrepreneur-focused organizations in the country, Rowell talks about the leadership changes at the CED, plans for the future, and the new reality of a COVID-19 pandemic world where meetups and networking – two of the CED’s strengths dating back to its founding in 1984, have gone virtual.

Rowell was the CED’s VP of customer experience for three years before assuming the role as Interim president and CEO. She has a diverse background in the nonprofit space leading teams, maximizing organizational capacity, and fostering efficient and effective workflow.

Rowell has a B.A. in marketing, small business management and entrepreneurship is a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and certified fundraising executive. She assumed the Interim CEO position at CED April 1 when Ravilla Gupta stepped down to take a position Rowell said she saw as too good to pass up. Gupta is chair of the CED board and continues to act as an advisor.

Kelly Rowell. CED photo

Rowell says the transition to the Interim CEO position, which she expects to hold until the end of the year, went smoothly. In her previous position, she said, “I spent a lot of time getting to know the people we support and who support us. I had a high level of involvement with the board. And I can call on those relationships.”

The CED has a lean team of six persons who can work virtually or in the office practicing social distancing and wearing masks, Rowell said.

While the COVID pandemic has been a massive drain on non-profit across the board, Rowell said the CED has had loyal, longtime support from the business community here and the board stepped up to help meet challenges. “We’re very lucky to have such an amazing response from our loyal supporters.”

Evolution is the key

Rowell believes evolution is key to personal and professional success. Now, she said, “Business is evolving in general. I don’t believe the business interactions just evolving won’t go back to how we were before. It’s the new normal.” After the pandemic passes, she said, “It will be interesting to see what it looks like.”

She added, “Innovators out there are designing new solutions for virtual networking and making businesses more cost-effective.”

The CED, she notes, was one of the first businesses to pivot to virtual conference, with 80 companies doing pre-recorded programming. “We got feedback that will help with future virtual events. This is where things are headed.’

She points to telemedicine, for instance. “Telemedicine tried to get traction for years, now it’s the norm. It’s an exciting time from my point of view. In the life sciences, companies are innovating diagnostics that can be used in the home and in-office solutions are coming to market quicker because of the strain on the healthcare system. The life sciences market is poised to have quite a few milestones this year. Investors are excited about the activity level”

Tech companies are extremely resilient, she said, and not just the large companies. “The smaller the company, the more nimble they can be. They can shift their business model. We see a lot of them partnering together, too. They can also develop a return to work plan with proper precautions.”

She said the CED ecosystem focuses on collaboration to propel companies to success faster. It has curriculum programming in the works and expects to announce the programs in a few weeks.

“We want to make sure our companies and resources work together for a better outcome for all.”


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