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Putting People First

Daniel Dayton
A hands-on sustainable farming experience with Daniel Dayton, of Old Milburnie Farm in Raleigh, is one of several offerings on, a social venture created by a team of NC State professors. Photo courtesy of People-First Tourism. Learn more »

Editor’s Note: Earlier versions of this article appeared in our print magazine, Accolades, and online. 

Anthropology professor Tim Wallace is helping the public more easily connect with micro-entrepreneurs, the smallest of small business owners who often serve not only as experts at their crafts but also as top-notch tour guides in their communities.

Wallace is one of four NC State researchers who created People-First Tourism Inc., an online marketplace where the public has direct pathways to vetted local farmers, craftspeople, historians and anglers.

Through its website,, users can learn about and book experiences ranging from cooking lessons with Costa Rican indigenous people to soap-making sessions in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.

“It provides an opportunity for people found at the margins of the tourism industry to obtain some extra household cash for work they enjoy,” Wallace said. “It allows them to share with visitors, in their own words, something about their life experiences as individuals and members of a vibrant community.”

The four co-founders of the tech-based social venture, incorporated in 2015, agreed that any income earned from royalties will go into a People-First Innovation Fund. The fund will support engaged learning, research and innovation that enable micro-entrepreneurial success among underresourced populations. NC State’s Institute for Nonprofits, which served as a key resource for the startup, will manage the newly created fund.