Calling WNC Outdoor Brands, Introducing Waypoint Accelerator

Mountain BizWorks launches new entrepreneurial accelerator for the next generation of great outdoor brands

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Asheville, NC (June 20, 2019) - Sparked by the active, outdoor lifestyle in Western North Carolina (WNC) and our region’s adventurous entrepreneurial spirit, Mountain BizWorks, the Outdoor Gear Builders, and several other strategic partners introduce the Waypoint Accelerator.

Waypoint will be the first outdoor business accelerator program in the Eastern U.S. and the third program of its kind nationally. The program was unveiled to an international outdoor industry audience on Wednesday at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in Denver, Colorado.

“The response has been terrific,” stated Sophia Paulos, economic development director for Graham County and a Mountain BizWorks board member who participated in the announcement. “Outdoor leaders from across the country shared their excitement for this new resource and all the things that makes Western North Carolina a great place to start and grow an outdoor business.”

Business accelerators are programs that provide focused support and resources to help entrepreneurs start new businesses with strong growth potential. The Waypoint Accelerator will uniquely focus on outdoor startups including gear makers, experience providers, and more. The program aims to serve a cohort of 8 companies each year.

Participants will complete a 10 session intensive curriculum and will have access to specialized mentorship from the region’s existing industry network - including tapping into the 40 member strong Outdoor Gear Builders. Waypoint also features strong access-to-capital connections but unlike some accelerators, participants won’t have to give up any equity or take investment to participate. Further, thanks to seed funding for the program from the Appalachian Regional Commission and others, there’s no cost for the first year’s program.

“The timing couldn’t be better for the Waypoint Accelerator in Western North Carolina,” adds Matt Godfrey, the Waypoint lead facilitator and an Outdoor Gear Builders board member. “Not only have we experienced a tremendous amount of growth in our outdoor sector, but the level of collaboration and support between companies is something I’ve never experienced. We look forward to welcoming more innovative brands into our family of outdoor gear builders and experiential companies.”

The program is welcoming applications for the first cohort through August 11th with a focus on those based in Western North Carolina, and those looking to locate in the area. The inaugural cohort will be unveiled and will have an opportunity to present at theOutdoor Economy Conference in October, and the program will conclude at the annual Get in Gear Fest in March 2020. Full program details and the application form are available online at waypointaccelerator.com.

Are you located in the WNC region and ready to take your outdoor startup or concept to the next level? Join the program leaders and other outdoor entrepreneurs at one of the upcoming Waypoint Accelerator informational sessions which will be held July 24th in Asheville, July 30th via a webinar, and August 1st in Boone. Registration information is on the program website.

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ABOUT MOUNTAIN BIZWORKS

Mountain BizWorks is a U.S. Treasury certified non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides tailored small business lending and peer learning programs to help grow great businesses and expand economic opportunity in Western North Carolina. In 2018, Mountain BizWorks joined forces with others across the region to establish the Growing Outdoors Partnership focused on elevating WNC’s outdoor industry sector. For more: mountainbizworks.org.

ABOUT OUTDOOR GEAR BUILDERS “TEST IT. BUILD IT.  LIVE IT”

The Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC are Western North Carolina-based companies collaborating to share talents, encourage new ideas and inspire each other. Our member brands are dedicated to creating exceptional outdoor gear with a focus on responsible manufacturing, cutting edge innovation, and economic growth in our region. Our motto is: “Extraordinary Gear Made Here.” For more: outdoorgearbuilders.com

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5 Lessons in Entrepreneurship From Small-Town Startup Experience

By Martin Zwilling, Founder and CEO, Startup Professionals

Opportunities abound for entrepreneurs in small towns as well as big-city entrepreneur hubs.

From the advice I hear these days, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be in Silicon Valley, Boston, New York, or one of the few other financial hubs around the world.

What does that mean for the rest of us, who reside or grew up in the thousands of small towns that cover most of the landscape? Is entrepreneurship ever viable or recommended in a small town?

I was pleased to see these questions addressed in a new book, Small Town Big Money, by Colby Williams, focused on entrepreneurship and opportunity in today's small towns. Colby is a living example of a successful small-town entrepreneur, starting with his Parengo Coffee Shop in Sikeston, Missouri.

He offers some practical entrepreneurship lessons I most often hear in reference to Silicon Valley:

1. You need a good business plan to start.

As an adviser to aspiring entrepreneurs, I'm surprised at how many people believe that business plans are only required to appease big investors.

In reality, a written business plan has real value for every entrepreneur, since most people can't create and retain a complete plan in their head.

For credibility, especially in a small town, you need to quantify your plan consistently to local leaders and organizations, as well as bankers and customers. Sizing the market, projecting revenue, and calculating breakeven points are critical, even for a coffee shop.

2. Don't get too comfortable -- take comfort in fear.

Don't expect any entrepreneurship venture to be comfortable. There are too many unknowns, whether you're building a coffee shop or producing electric cars.

If you are looking for comfort, stick to that 9-to-5 job. Being an entrepreneur anywhere without fear likely means your business is at risk.

For example, in a small town with no other hardware store, you may be lulled into complacency as customers flock into your hardware store at any price, but soon a competitor will pounce. Work to build memorable customer experiences today, or the store may be empty tomorrow.

3. It takes collaboration to build a business.

No matter how hard you are willing to work inside the business, you still need external relationships with suppliers, people in your business network, and your community.

In small towns, this may mean sponsoring local events, supporting complementary businesses, and community involvement.

GoDaddyView

Perfecting Your Multi-Channel Sales Strategy

Now you can use the power of established online marketplaces to grow your brand and sales, while streamlining and simplifying your business processes.

In any business, collaboration is really your ability to move people from customers to fans to friends. This is often more important than your product or service, and it requires letting the "real you" show, really listening and responding. All businesses require collaboration.

4. Brands are all about a story and selling an experience.

More than a product or service, you are founding a brand when you start a venture, large or small.

You are selling an experience. In today's world of social media and the internet, people want to know who you are and what makes you outstanding in your field, and to relate to your vision.

We all know the fate of too many a small-town restaurant, started by someone who loves to cook and expects the food to do the talking. Every ad, every review, or lack of one, tells a story about how much you care and what customer experience one might expect.

5. Don't forget to stay a step ahead of the market.

Businesses that never change are now forgotten. I still remember when every small town I knew had a Sears store and a JCPenney.

Even if your town never seems to change, there are always changes in trends, people, and technology. Entrepreneurs not innovating are actually losing ground.

High-tech ventures in Silicon Valley know they have to constantly innovate, but small-town coffee shops can easily forget. Yet the best are always offering new flavors, new specials, new decors, and ways to reach new customers. People flock to the new.

I came away from this book with two takeaways for every entrepreneur: 1) The opportunities are more abundant in a million small towns than in a few sacred hubs like Silicon Valley; and 2) the ingredients for success in a small town are the same as anywhere else, but with a healthy dose of localized flavor.

So for those of you want to be entrepreneurs but don't relish the thought of leaving the community that you know and love, now is the time to get started. Small things can easily grow to be the empire and legacy you always dreamed about.

PUBLISHED ON: JAN 7, 2019

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

Talent Jam - Work it Watauga Recap

Talent Jam - Work it Watauga made its’ first debut on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at Ransom in downtown Boone. With approximately 175 attendees and 27 official pitchers the event was a huge success! The event was informative, engaging, fast paced and really fun for attendees.

Talent Jam - Work It Watauga was presented by Silicon Hollar, in partnership with Appalachian State University - Career Development CenterBoone Chamber of CommerceBlowing Rock Chamber of CommerceThe Watauga County Economic Development Commission and NC IDEA Foundation.
Special thanks to our wonderful beer sponsors, Booneshine Brewing Co. & Lost Province Brewing Co. as well as our awesome host, Ransom!

Talent Jam - Work it Watauga authentically connects our local talent and the organizations that need them in ways that traditional networking events or job fairs simply don’t. This was a high-energy, hyperlocal event that featured dueling, open-mic pitches where companies looking for talent, and people that have talent, each deliver alternating 60-second pitches. The event was followed by a casual but impactful networking reception where many connections were made!

A local Photovoice project brought to you by AppHealthCare highlighting the importance of inclusion, specifically employing individuals abilities was also on display at Talent Jam - Work it Watauga.

Stay tuned for more information about the next Talent Jam - Work it Watauga coming this fall!

If you have questions, you can contact Geralyn Mitchell at Appalachian State University Career Development Center at mitchellgb@appstate.edu.

See photos below from Talent Jam - Work it Watauga

Talent Jam - Work it Watauga THIS THURSDAY!

Talent Jam is coming to Watauga County!

A high-energy, hyperlocal event that features dueling, open-mic 60-sec pitches for companies looking for talent and people that have talent.

About this Event

An event that authentically connects our local talent and the organizations that need them in ways that traditional networking events or job fairs simply don’t. This is a high-energy, hyperlocal event that features dueling, open-mic pitches where companies looking for talent, and people that have talent, each deliver alternating 60-second pitches. The event is followed by a casual but impactful networking reception.

View these two sample pitches: Have Talent | Need Talent

Talent Jam - Work It Watauga is presented by Silicon Hollar and is in partnership with Appalachian State University - Career Development CenterBoone Chamber of CommerceBlowing Rock Chamber of CommerceThe Watauga County Economic Development Commission and NC IDEA Foundation.

The location for Talent Jam – Work It Watauga will be at Ransom Pub on April 4th from 5 pm – 7 pm.

Registration is required and pitch opportunities are very limited. Registration for pitches is open online here or first come first serve at the door! General admission is free but you still need to register!

If you have questions, you can contact Geralyn Mitchell at Appalachian State University Career Development Center at mitchellgb@appstate.edu.

Velocity Labs Cohort 2-Spring 2019

Velocity Labs is a 3-month startup accelerator divided into two distinct 6-week tracts for founders and teams of pre-revenue and early adopter stage high-growth companies.  Velocity works closely with a select group of entrepreneurs in the earliest stages with the proven Customer Development framework to discover a valid solution for a problem worth solving for a sizable population that’s big enough to build a scalable, profitable and impactful company.  Customer Development recognizes a startup is a temporary organization built to search for the answers to what makes a repeatable & scalable business model.  Entrepreneurs will test a series of unproven hypothesis (guesses) about their business model:  who the customers are, what the product features should be, and how this scales into a hugely successful company.  The peer-to-peer course will engage insightful discussion among the diverse group of startup entrepreneurs while creating accountability, personal leadership, increased productivity and an accelerated learning platform to give companies the necessary velocity to reach the critical growth and scale stages.

Customer Development

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There are three critical stages for velocity track companies. The Customer Development framework supports the first two foundational stages:

1) problem/solution fit

2) product/market fit

3) scale/growth

The first six-week tract (Spring 2019) is all about Customer Discovery and is for the earliest stage companies, typically pre-revenue, working on product ideation, business model concepts, market analysis and the critical problem/solution fit stage.  Companies will understand deeply what the big problem is they are working to solve and specifically for which customer segment(s). Founders will use the Value Proposition Canvas to help test their own assumptions about the problem and the solution directly with a number of potential customers, explore direct competitors and how their value proposition is unique, and analyze the true size and value of the potential market.  Companies will be able to confidently measure whether they have true problem/solution fit before moving on to Customer Validation in the second six-week tract to prove out product/market fit. The course culminates in a community pitch event to allow founders the opportunity pitch their validated business model concepts and gain support from the High Country startup community.

The second six-week tract (Summer 2019) is for the early stage companies that have validated that they have problem/solution fit and are engaging with a small early adopter customer base.  Using the Customer Validation framework and Business Model Canvas, companies will build and test a minimal viable product (MVP) with a growing number of early adopters as they ramp up into and validate true product/market fit.  Companies will gain a deep understanding of early adopter engagement, sales funnel and channel development, early revenue generation, market positioning and growth metrics that matter. The course culminates in a community pitch event to allow founders the opportunity pitch their early stage company to the community, investors and mentors to gain support from the High Country startup community.

Spring Course: Customer Discovery and finding Problem/Solution Fit

Rolling Applications with Final Deadline March 15th, 2019.

Class Times:   Mondays 6-9pm in downtown Boone (Coursework)

                    Every other Wednesdays 6-9pm in downtown Boone (Leadership)

Class Dates:    April 1 – May 6 2019 (Mondays)

                    April 3, April 17 and May 1, 2019 (Wednesdays)

Summer Course: Customer Validation and finding Product/Market Fit

Rolling Applications with Final Deadline May 17th, 2019

Class Times:   Mondays 6-9pm in downtown Boone (Coursework)

                    Every other Wednesdays 6-9pm in downtown Boone (Leadership)

Class Dates: June 10 – July 15, 2019 (Mondays)

                    June 12th,  June 26th, and July 10th 2019 (Wednesdays)

APPLY HERE