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

January Startup Social Recap

Last Thursday, we kicked off 2019 at Hatchet Coffee’s new space for the January Silicon Hollar Startup Social! 50+ local entrepreneurs, community members, and business owners gathered at Hatchet to enjoy specialty coffee, local brews and networking. Special thanks to our monthly drink sponsors, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Booneshine Brewing Co. and Hatchet!

Startup Social attendees enjoyed open networking and many took part in getting a free professional headshot. We would like to thank J. Chew Photography for the awesome set up and providing free head shots for local entrepreneurs at this event!

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Everyone gathered around and James Bance, Co-Founder of Startup High Country opened us up with quick Silicon Hollar updates and by thanking our host and drink sponsors.

Jeremy Bollman, co-founder of Hatchet Coffee took the floor to discuss their new space and the exciting new opportunities instore for the community at their coffee shop. Starting this week, Hatchet will host Pop-up Coworking on Tuesday evenings from 6-8 PM to accommodate local entrepreneurs.

Brandon Hall, co-founder of ChurchLearn discussed their startup business and that they officially launched their friends and family raise opportunity! They have had great traction as a company and with the Friends and Family round. Email brandon@churchlearn.com for more info!

Joe Furman from Watauga EDC mentioned the NC Rural Center Thread Capital Lending opportunity for small businesses. Thread Capital provides small businesses access to the capital, coaching and connections they need. Apply now!

James Wilkes, CEO of Hive Tracks is launching a crowdfunded documentary, Chasing Sourwood. Stay tuned for more info on this awesome business venture! Sullivan Wilkes, James’ son and business partner mentioned his Backyard Beehive endeavor where he provides hive keeping, consulting and sells bees/honey.

Jeffrey Scott, Co-Founder of Startup High Country discussed last year’s Velocity Labs course and that because of grant funding there will be another course coming this spring! Learn more and apply here. Jeffrey is also facilitating an upcoming Mountain Bizworks Invested Course: An Investment Crowdfunding Learning Journey beginning later this week! Learn more and apply here.

Chris Grasinger, another Co-Founder of Startup High Country mentioned Mountain Bizworks Boone Foundations Course coming up in February that will be facilitated by Athalia Whitworth. Learn more and apply here.

Miah Zimmerman, Owner of Canvas Beauty Bar recently launched her new social networking website for the beauty industry, canvassocial.com. Be sure to check it out!

Taylor Drouet with The Dynamic Body is introducing a new class series called Balanced Bodies Bootcamp(B3). The intention of the class is for you to feel more confident and alive in your body. This dynamic high energy series focuses on building core strength, stability, and mobility while training healthy joints and healthy bodies. Taylor also does Massage Therapy and teaches private lessons for Functional Movement. All of these modalities focus on unwinding into freedom, access, and ease so that you can love living in your body. Please call or email Taylor if you have any questions or you want schedule an appointment. 541-510-8487, healingthedynamicbody@gmail.com.

Christina Bailey invited everyone to attend Boone’s Winter Farmers Market every 1st and 3rd Saturday through April. She also mentioned Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture’s upcoming Farm to Table Dinner Series at local restaurants! Christina invites everyone to shop local through the High Country Food Hub as well!

David Jackson, President/CEO of Boone Area Chamber of Commerce added that the High Country Food Hub (recent Velocity Labs graduate) was also just named BAC Startup Business of the Year!

Davis Parker is launching a new mobile app called Draba in March at Black Cat in downtown Boone! Draba is a curated digital marketplace that connects buyers to unique creative goods and services, provided by local sellers.

George Smith, President/CEO of Copper Barrel Distillery would like to personally extend a warm invitation for Silicon Hollar members and friends to participate in Copper Barrel’s Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, April 20, 2019! There are a few vendor spots left, so those who would like to showcase their products at the event should fill out and submit a Vendor Application. This event is a fundraiser for the Fallen Outdoors. Please see a summary of the planned activities below. This year’s event is shaping up to be our biggest and most successful yet! Tickets will be available to purchase on Eventbrite within the next week or so. Please do not hesitate to contact George directly (at 704-269-8697) if you have any questions or need additional information.

Erich Schlenker, Managing Director of the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship mentioned their upcoming Ideation Workshop on February 21st. More details to come.

Dallas from Great State Brewery and Wired Man Coffee Shop, both located in Wilkesboro invited everyone to make a trip down the mountain to enjoy a coffee or a beer in a great atmosphere!

Thanks again to all those that attended this month’s event! Thank you for always supporting our entrepreneurial efforts here in the High Country. Stay tuned for information regarding our February Startup Social!

Coworking in Boone

Are you a local business owner or entrepreneur? Where do you typically spend your working hours? Your home, favorite coffee shop, another office space?

You’ve likely already heard about, or have been too, one of the Silicon Hollar weekly Pop-Up Co-working sessions at Ransom (and now at Hatchet Coffee on Tuesdays in January). At the pop-ups, people can stop by, get some work done, have some coffee and visit with other local entrepreneurs and professionals. We have seen a great network of High Country entrepreneurs in attendance each week and look forward to expanding to our secondary location for this month, Hatchet Coffee.

The next phase of growth for Silicon Hollar is to help establish a permanent location for co-working in Boone.

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We are currently working with various local entities to create a new space in Boone for startups, small businesses and solopreneurs, where they can have a dedicated desk, or office, and work in a collaborative environment.

Route Coworking, a project of Watauga EDC, Silicon Hollar and High Country Local First, will be a space to start, house and grow local companies in the High Country. Route aims to provide low cost, professional workspaces, in a setting designed to foster creativity, collaboration and access support services for your business. We are a dedicated community of entrepreneurs that see untapped value in connecting with other young businesses in the High Country. We’d love for you to join us!

Please take a few minutes to complete this Boone Co-working Survey so that we can get feedback from local entrepreneurs interested in this project!

Please complete the survey before January 9, 2018.

Year End Community Celebration (Dec. Social) Recap

Last Thursday, December 6th, 65+ local entrepreneurs, community members, and business owners gathered at the American Legion in Blowing Rock for the Silicon Hollar Year End Community Celebration! The night started with open networking, drinks, pizza (Carolina Pizza Co.) and cookies (Appalachia Cookie Co.). Because of our awesome drink sponsors we had beer, cider, wine and mead flowing all night long! Thanks again to our monthly drink sponsors, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Blowing Rock Brewing Co., Booneshine Brewing Co., & Lost Province Brewing Co.

Sam Glover, Co-Founder of Startup High Country opened us up with a quick overview of special guest speakers and by thanking our drink, food and raffle sponsors.

Christy Hemenway from Run Amok Mead took the floor to discuss her new business adventure coming soon to a mountain near you and a Mead Label Art Contest that is underway now! Learn more here. Everyone enjoyed sampling the Mead at this event as well!

Doc Hendley, Founder of Wine to Water (WTW) was next up to the floor to discuss the work his local nonprofit does worldwide to help provide clean drinking water for all. Doc explained several different ways to get involved and support the cause. An easy way to support the efforts of Wine to Water is to grab some food or drinks at Ransom in downtown Boone and support WTW through their cost-sharing efforts! Everyone enjoyed Wine to Water wine at the celebration as well!

Jeffrey Scott, Founder and Facilitator of Velocity Labs then took the floor to discuss his recent 12 week startup course and Cohort 1. With the recent NC IDEA grant funding Startup High Country received, there will be a Spring Velocity Labs course in 2019! Stay tuned for details!

Four startup businesses from Velocity Labs Cohort 1 pitched their business idea or venture to the room. Jeremy Bollman Co-Founder of Hatchet Coffee pitched first. Jeremy discussed problem solution fit along with customer discovery, validation and creation. Hatchet Coffee hopes to grow and expand into other markets in the future. Jeremy also said he learned more about company building and leadership development from the Velocity Labs 12-week course.

Next up was Courtney Baines, Executive Director of local nonprofit Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture (BRWIA). During the course, Courtney focused on the High Country Food Hub, a project of BRWIA. She was able to track significant customer growth in a year and has worked on new marketing initiatives to promote shopping and supporting local food and artisan products in the High Country.

Holly Denise, Founder of SilverBarre pitched next. She was able to find a good customer market for her education product here in the High Country. Holly pivoted and changed ideas several times throughout the 12-week course but is now ready to implement her first SilverBarre class.

The last pitch was from Brandon Hall, Co-Founder of ChurchLearn. His team discovered that churches need a volunteer workforce and software to train the volunteers. They have a huge target market and are already reaching out to churches all over the US.

Our last speaker of the night was special guest Thom Ruhe, President/CEO of NC IDEA. NC IDEA is a private foundation that has their own money and flexibility to take risks in the market. NC IDEA provides grants and programs to help and promote entrepreneurship and customer validation. He and his team are always trying to figure out ways to get people capable of entrepreneurial and critical thinking. Thom discussed how local entrepreneurs and companies are now competing with kids in other countries, therefore we have to show resilience. Ruhe said, “Not being able to think entrepreneurially is the new illiteracy.” We must try to redefine the ecosystem innovation.

Our team is grateful for the outstanding support and attendance at this event! Thanks for always supporting our entrepreneurial efforts here in the High Country. Stay tuned for information regarding our January Startup Social.

Cheers to 2019!

Check out these images below from David Rogers of Blowing Rock News.

Content Strategy for Startups

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk about sales and marketing strategies with several of the companies in Velocity Labs, our startup accelerator. It was a spirited conversation about everything from sales funnels to paid social to content strategy - I love how sales gets everyone fired up! We didn’t get to dig into the content piece as much as I would have liked to, so I asked a local content and storytelling expert, Sanny Visser, to provide some thoughts here. She was kind enough to share 3 principles of good content.

-James Bance

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By: Sanny Visser - Content Strategy, Social Media & Stories

Transform your relationship with your customer: 3 secrets of good content

A 2016 Smart Insights study revealed that every 60 seconds, over 3 million posts are created, on Facebook alone. There’s no question that the content you publish as a brand is more important than ever. But what are the secrets of good content? How do you make sure that your content adds value, and creates a meaningful relationship with your customer? Let’s reveal three secrets.

Something I will always remember…

I clearly remember the very first paper letter I received in the mail (hey, we are talking mid-90s here) from my brand new pen pal. We met on vacation and decided to write letters once we got home. Anxious for that first letter to arrive, I ran to the mailbox every time the mailman stopped.

When it finally came, I would open the envelope, take out the letter, read it, and put it back. It would lie casually on my nightstand for weeks, as if receiving letters was just day-to-day business for me. I have kept that letter till this day, just as my parents still have a box of their own love letters up in the attic.

Why is it that a written letter can be so valuable? Because somebody apparently cares enough to sit down, take a piece of paper and a pen, and start writing a message to you. A stamp is put on, a mailman comes to pick it up, it travels through a sorting center, another mailman takes it out for delivery and there it is, in your mailbox. A lot of effort goes into one letter. Immediately, the relationship between writer and receiver becomes more valuable.

Create a valuable relationship

Why am I telling this story? Because in today’s digital world, there’s a way to create this same feeling of value with your customers. How? By offering them quality content, created with care and attention.  

As a company, you’ve probably heard you need to create content. However, you may not be sure why: how is a blog post – that doesn’t even talk directly about your product - going to give you more sales? It sounds like a bad investment all-round. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Publishing good content will change your relationship with your customer forever. Customers will be more committed, loyal, and involved with your brand.

3 secrets of good content

Now, there is no cookie-cutter strategy for content. Every brand is different, so every content strategy is different. There are, however, a few secrets of good content out there.

  • Add emotion (but not necessarily drama)

People choose with their hearts, so make sure you address their feelings. Instead of saying ‘Do you have too much on your to-do list?’ say ‘Do you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list?’ People will quickly feel this sense of being heard and whisper to themselves “Gosh yes, I do feel overwhelmed, thank you for hearing me.”

  • Educate your audience

Don’t just repeat what others are saying, but apply thought-leadership. Predict trends, bring new insights, and guide the way. You’ll quickly become an authority in your field. Dig deep and don’t be too broad. To give you an example, compare these two headlines: 5 grill tips everyone should know vs. Foodies: these charcoal tricks will change how you grill this summer. The first one is too broad, the second one triggers food-lovers because it’s about something they might not know yet.

  • It’s not about you or your product.

Wait, what? Again: companies that provide good content understand what their customer wants to know. They listen to their needs and don’t just yell to them about their amazing product. So, before you put anything out there, think about what questions your audience might have. How can you truly serve them?

Do you want to work on your content strategy? Feel free to contact me over email or over the phone. You can find my contact information here.

Sanny Visser helps small businesses share their story and expand their reach through content strategy, social media marketing and storytelling. Sanny’s business is based here in Boone, NC but her Dutch roots run deep. She works with clients near and far, producing content in English and Dutch.

Contact Sanny at: 828 719 7464 or on her website here.