Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Asheville, NC

Asheville

Asheville is a dynamic artistic, historic, and scenic hub nestled in the blue ridge mountains of North Carolina. Entrepreneurs across the east coast flock to this area as it’s consistently ranked as one of the best cities to start a business.

Asheville, NC, sometimes known as the Land of the Sky, is the most populous city in the Western portion of North Carolina. Just the state’s 12th-biggest city, Asheville is still an entrepreneurial hotspot. Livability named the city on its top 50 list of the best cities for entrepreneurs in both 2016 and 2017. More recently, it ranked 63rd on WalletHub’s 2018 list of the best small cities for starting a business. WalletHub also ranked the state of North Carolina as a whole 12th overall on a list of the best states to start a business in 2018. Additionally, FitSmallBusiness ranked the state as the 22nd-best for starting a business, with top-10 rankings in both the “Startup Activity” and “Access to Capital” categories.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Asheville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Asheville Business for Success is a group that hosts regular events based primarily around advertising and marketing businesses and startups.

Being in Business is a group of entrepreneurs holding regular meetings to support one another, share tips and tricks, and grow Asheville’s entrepreneurial scene.

Sponsored by the marketing agency Incredible Towns, LLC, Incredible Business Networking is a group of networking events held regularly in and around Asheville.

Asheville is home to one branch of Tech Talent South, an organization that hosts meetings and workshops aimed at promoting technology and entrepreneurship in cities around the South.

Holding monthly events for over four years, WNC Women Entrepreneurs is a group that aims to empower and support women in entrepreneurship.

 

Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

1 Million Cups Asheville holds weekly events on Wednesday mornings in which local entrepreneurs can meet one another and pitch ideas.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce holds a variety of events, including networking meetings, a business expo, Asheville Small Business Week and more.

The Collider, an Asheville-based group that supports climate-focused entrepreneurs, holds events and conferences with expert speakers and networking opportunities.

Hatch AVL is an organization that runs a variety of entrepreneurial events, aimed at both the public and members of the organization, including AVL Entrepreneurship Week.

Medipreneurs is an annual conference held in Asheville that helps educate pharmacists to enter the world of business and entrepreneurship to serve patients better and make money.

Based in Charlotte, NC, PitchBreakfast hosts quarterly events where entrepreneurs can practice and improve their business pitches.

 

Startup Competitions:

Organized by Hatch AVL, Hatch This is a weekend-long hackathon in which teams work with mentors and craft a startup, competing for funding and free workspace.

Just West of the city, the Haywood Chamber of Commerce organizes the Business Start Up Competition and rewards the winner with up to $10,000 to promote the local economy.

The university offers an annual Ideas to Action class on social entrepreneurship that culminates in a pitch competition between the student teams.

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Co-working Spaces:

Formerly a more traditional co-working space, Base Camp AVL now offers only private offices for area small businesses.

Designed specifically to promote local businesses, Focal Point offers working space with membership perks and hosts Biz and Bites educational workshops that are free to members.

Hatchworks Coworking offers a variety of membership plans for classic co-working as well as private office space, with perks including free parking and a café.

More than just a co-working space, Haw Creek Commons includes commercial kitchen space, art studios, a community garden and will soon add woodworking and ceramic shops.

Founded in 2011, Mojo Coworking has a wide variety of flexible membership plans available to best meet the needs of its members.

 

Makerspaces:

Those interested in seeing what tools and equipment the Asheville Makers makerspace can offer can attend their open house nights every Tuesday.

Ramsey Library at the University of North Carolina includes the CrAFT (Creativity, Art, Fabrication, and Technology) Studio that offers 3D printing among other resources.

The University of North Carolina Asheville’s STEAM Studio is a workspace where students can work alongside experienced faculty and staff to create things.

 

Incubators:

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College has a business incubator service that works with aspiring entrepreneurs.

The Collider is a program that works with and supports climate entrepreneurs. They have a plethora of resources including a full-fledged incubator program planned for Fall 2019.

This Elevate program supports the entrepreneurship scene through mentorship programs and office hours with experts in the field.

 

Accelerators:

Accelerating Appalachia is the world’s first accelerator program centered entirely on nature-based startups. They focus on working with companies from around the Appalachian region.

Blue Ridge Food Ventures is an 11,000-square foot facility that includes commercial kitchen space and a product’s manufacturing area to support food and beverage entrepreneurs.

Mountain BizWorks is an organization that supports business and entrepreneurship in Western North Carolina through programs like ScaleUP WNC.

 

Colleges/Universities:

A-B Tech’s Small Business Center organizes a number of services to support businesses. Additionally, they offer an associate’s degree and a certificate in entrepreneurship.

The University of North Carolina Asheville offers a B.A. concentration and minor in arts management and entrepreneurship.

The business curriculum at Warren Wilson College in Asheville includes classes and education on entrepreneurship.

 

Angel Groups/VCs:

Founded in 2014, this angel network aims to invest in companies across a variety of industries in Asheville and the Southeast as a whole.

Based just down the road in Brevard, Carofin is an investment bank that provides a variety of investments crafted to best meet the needs of its clients.

Located in Winston-Salem, Dioko Ventures invests primarily in businesses located in Western North Carolina.

 

Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

This Area Chamber of Commerce offers e-mail updates on the biggest news and events in the region’s business and economic scene.

A website dedicated to supporting and promoting local small business, offers a newsletter covers news and events.

Business North Carolina offers the Daily Digest, a daily e-mail with the biggest business news from around the state.

An organization that supports entrepreneurship including a Job Board signup and sends e-mails with the biggest news and headlines.

 

Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Asheville not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Raleigh, NC, Winston-Salem, NC, Greenville, SC


Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at Funding$age where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.