Program Report: Sean Wilson – Fullsteam Brewery and the Three C’s

One of the many things that I have come to love about Durham since moving here three years ago is its craft beer tradition! So, I found myself really looking forward to this presentation. Introduced by Rory Gillis, Sean Lilly Wilson, Chief Executive Optimist of Fullsteam did not disappoint.

There are several key dates in his life and business. Sean moved to Durham in 1992 and will celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary this October 23rd. On August 13, 2005 the State of North Carolina “popped the cap” on the alcohol content of beer; raising the legal limit from 6 to 15% after a surprisingly long three year battle that he waged with the state. June 6, 2006 Sean’s wife donated a kidney after Sean became very ill. He is doing fine now. Finally, in 2010 they launched Fullsteam after finding a downtown location that could fit a forklift and hopefully would attract patrons even on a Tuesday night!

The four C’s that govern the business are Craft, Community, Commerce and Competition. Fullsteam’s Craft is North Carolina focused as it strives to build the Southern Farm Economy by using locally grown and foraged ingredients. As their local purchases approach a half a million dollars, they continue to look for more unique ingredients; including some that people may not have heard of. (I only knew of paw-paws in a children’s song.) The first beer that they brewed was a Southern Basil Farmhouse brew. It was an R&D project that turned into a big summer hit.

Community is the choice of Durham as a place of business. Sean Lilly Wilson, loves Durham because of its warm, diverse, welcoming nature. He feels that their location is the front door to Durham. My introduction to Fullsteam came two years ago when a group of us attended “Beer and Hymns” on a Sunday night.

Commerce comes with Fullsteam’s support of the farm and agricultural economy. They support farmers who raise grains for their brews and they support others who process grains to make key ingredients like malt. In addition Fullsteam pays foragers who supply them with things like fresh persimmons. In each case they strive to pay a fair market price. One family who supplies foraged persimmons to them say that it is their “Christmas Money.”

Competition is an increasing factor each year in business. When they started up in 2010 they were unique in what they were doing. Now there are others who are entering the market and they are not so odd any more. They selected an area that would encourage traffic to their location but was still an unusual location for a beverage and food business. That is rapidly changing. So, Sean and his people are conscious of the fact that they can’t stand still. They are doing R&D on new offerings and are looking at ways to stay unique in a  “beautiful – stupid” way. To illustrate his concept of balancing beautiful and stupid, Sean encouraged us all to put August 26th on our calendars for the .262 Marathon – a run that goes just one one-hundredth of a marathon. We might even see a red gorilla!

Submitted by Doug Butler

Program Report: Geraud Staton and Matthew Kane – Launch Durham and Launch Raleigh

Launch Durham and Launch Raleigh are all about helping people turn their brilliant, impassioned products or services into profitable, gratifying businesses.  As an example, Past District Governor Matthew Kane related the story of Chad’s Food Truck.  Chad made the best chicken sandwiches that won him loyal patrons and friends.  But Chad wasn’t making much money—until he turned to Launch Raleigh that was founded by the North Raleigh Rotary club two years ago.

A conversation Kane had with the leader of a non- profit about Southeastern Raleigh, a largely African American community with under-developed resources and little entrepreneurial activity, was the catalyst for this program.  Research led Kane to Launch Detroit, a program developed by Rotarians in District 6400 who wanted to find ways to help business women and men grow their businesses.

Like the Detroit model, Launch Raleigh consists of four components: business training, mentoring, networking and micro-loans of $500-2,500.  Classes last for eight weeks.  Meals are served before each class.  Three hours a week is spent in the classroom, and participants are expected to put in at least five hours on homework.  So far, Launch Raleigh has graduated three classes totaling fifty-seven students.  Typically, the number of applicants has been twice or three times the number of students accepted—average class size has been twenty individuals.  The number of applications for this fall’s class has exploded as word has gotten out through info-sessions and social media.

In addition to North Raleigh Rotary, Launch Raleigh has other partners.  Wake Tech provides instructors.  Shaw University provides class space.  Carolina Small Business Development Fund assists with arranging micro-loans.  Volunteer mentors and networking are tailored to fit the needs of students.  Every two weeks, four students and two mentors meet in a coffee shop or other comfortable space to discuss successful entrepreneurship and the challenges and opportunities facing them.

Kane’s son has created a website ( that tells the story of Rotarians’ efforts since 2013 to create sustainable businesses in stressed economic areas and provides a template for cities other than Detroit or Raleigh or Durham to grow and nurture entrepreneurship.

Club member Geraud Staton joined Kane to tout the importance of growing entrepreneurship especially in communities where local businesses are largely absent or not thriving.  An early club entrepreneurial fellow (the brainchild of club member Christoper Gergen),  Geraud is executive director of the Helius Foundation that is developing Launch Durham.  Check the foundation’s website ( to learn more about Launch Durham and how we can help.

Submitted by Allen Cronenberg

New Member: Peter Morcombe

Please introduce yourself and welcome new member Peter Morcombe. Peter was sponsored by fellow Brit, John Staddon.

My career has been primarily in telecommunications with a strong technical background in electro-optics in general and fiber optic cable systems in particular.

PLUSCOMM INC.                                                                                        1987 -present

Delivering fiber optics courses in universities and technical colleges for technicians seeking FOA (Fiber Optic Association) certifications.  Consulting projects for various companies including GE.

UNITED INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY                                               2005 -2009

Delivering FiOS courses in Verizon training centers in Brandon, FL and Lewisville, TX. Courses included state of the art FTTP “Fiber To The Premises” technology.

DUKE UNIVERSITY                                                                                    1990 -2002

Chief R&D engineer at the Duke FEL (Free Electron Laser) Laboratory.   Led the team that built the HIGS (world’s brightest gamma ray source).  Served on the Duke University Radiation Safety Committee for many years

ITT CORPORATION                                                                                   1978 – 1987

Set up factories to produce optical fiber, cables and related electronics in Europe, Asia and Latin America.  Worked on digital telephone exchanges, high capacity optical transmission systems (terrestrial and submarine) and telephone instruments.

SELF EMPLOYED / FREELANCE CONSULTANT                               1970 – 1978

Set up the development team for ICL’s ME29 computer.  Set up a factory producing high power pulsed lasers and high speed cameras.  Set up a food factory.

ITT CORPORATION                                                                                   1966 – 1970

Expanded engineering departments to employ 520 people working in three countries.

GEC (TELECOMMUNICATIONS) LTD.                                                   1958 – 1966

Set up a group designing telephone instruments for the British market.


Master of Arts degree (Honors) from Cambridge University, in Electrical Engineering, and Physics.  Awarded a major scholarship in Physics by Pembroke College and an industrial scholarship by GEC Ltd.  Member of  the IEE, IEEE & LEOS.


I participated in the creation of nine charter schools and served as a board member for six of the them.    My current interests include K-12 education, electric power generation, “Climate Change” and health care.

The Durham Rotary History Book Is Here


A Century of “Service Above Self -100 Years of the Rotary Club of Durham

I guess when you start reading a “history” and can fill in some details from your own memory, you’re getting long in the tooth and may be history yourself soon.

Such was the feeling I had reading through my copy of the new history of our Club that I picked up at last Monday’s meeting.

The primary author of the book was our own Allen Cronenberg whose acknowledgement page cited the help of many Rotarians, some who contributed information and others who helped with the editing and layout. Primary among them was Past President Don Stanger, who conceived the idea and kept it moving from concept to the handsome and elegantly written volume that we now have.

In congratulating Don and Allen, I asked if they would like to share a little bit of the process they went through to get there. Both did, and I’m happy to be able to share their reflections here.

According to Don, “about 5 years ago, as we were beginning to plan for the Centennial celebration, I asked Allen if he would consider authoring a third book about the history of our club.” Allen was not just a random selection. As Don continued, “after all, he is an Emeritus Professor of History at Auburn University.”

There was scuttlebutt during the process that some things weren’t going smoothly, and Don admitted, “My lack of book editing experience and difficulty in working with our printer added to the time and work it took to bring it to fruition.”

[Read more…]

New Member: Ted Benson


Please introduce yourself and welcome Ted Benson to the Club.

Ted Benson*is a biotechnology and management consultant with 20 years of industrial experience turning scientific ideas into biopharma growth and  revenue. He successfully led a worldwide People Ops team for strategic cultural transformation at a global Fortune 500 company. Ted has closed over $3 million in contracts by driving business development, and built and managed innovation groups across international companies.

He has co-authored over a dozen peer-reviewed scientific papers, and is a co-inventor on four patents. An innovator and team leader at three biotech start-ups and three large pharma companies, Ted is a proven problem-solver who coaches people to deliver business-critical solutions. He founded his management consulting firm, Corralling Chaos, LLC, to help companies improve profitability by optimizing their total cost of workforce.

Clients are equipped with practical skills and processes to engage people, unleash their abilities, and continuously learn, in order to measurably improve culture and productivity. Such learning agility cultures attract and retain great people, promote healthy communities and sustain success into the future.  His wife Elizabeth works at Self-Help Credit Union, and his two sons Josh and Zach attend Jordan High and DSA. He serves as Lay Leader and sings in the choir at Trinity United Methodist Church, and he seeks to help Durham be the best and most inclusive place it can be, for ALL its people.

And that’s why he’s joining Rotary.”

New Member: Tammy Closs


Please introduce yourself and welcome Tammy Closs to the Club.

Tammy is a senior technology professional with more than 20 years of diverse experience leading world class technology organizations with a focus on enterprise solutions. She currently serves as Verizon’s Client Partner for North and South Carolina Government and Education customers leading Business Development and Solutions Development processes.

Tammy enjoys creating stained glass and kiln glass art which has been a growing passion for 20 years.  She also enjoys actively supporting various charitable causes and recently returned from a Disaster Recovery Ministry in St. Thomas.

Tammy is married to Patrick Perry who is a nurse at the VA hospital.  Together they enjoy adventures of white water rafting, caving, hiking and other outdoor activities. She has 2 sons, Eric recently returned from 3 years in South Korea teaching English as a second language. And Andrew lives in Charlotte where he is a marketing representative for Greenman Brewery based in Ashville.