Boone

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.

November Startup Social Recap

40+ entrepreneurs, students, business owners and community members gathered at Ransom in downtown Boone for our November monthly Startup Social last night! Ransom provided drink tickets for everyone in attendance as well as an awesome spread of appetizers and pizzas! Folks were able to mingle and network for the majority of the night. We were thrilled to have Andy from Cavendish Brewing Co. out of Gastonia, NC. Andy shared some information about the brewery and also shared samples with everyone. Stop by Ransom to try one of their beers on tap now!

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Sam, Startup High Country (SHC) team member welcomed everyone and thanked Ransom for their great hospitality. He also invited everyone to attend our upcoming Year End Community Celebration at the Blowing Rock Legion on December 6th from 6-8:30 PM. Everyone is invited to attend and celebrate all of the great successes Silicon Hollar and Startup High Country have accomplished this year! We are excited and honored to announce that our special guest speaker for the Year End Celebration will be Thom Ruhe!

Thom is President and CEO of NC IDEA. He is an entrepreneur, investor, mentor and works with entrepreneurs, governments, universities and NGOs around the world to embrace the entrepreneurial mindset needed to grow vibrant economies.
During his seven-year tenure at the Kauffman Foundation, he directed the Foundation’s programs addressing entrepreneurial education, mentoring, access to capital and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems. Thom also led Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a school dedicated to advancing community deployed experiential-based entrepreneurial education.
Thom has served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Entrepreneurship, addressed the United Nations Assembly on Entrepreneurship, lectured at conferences around the world and serves on multiple boards including Innovation Fund America and the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina.

Carolyn Clark, Communications Specialist & Consultant announced that Ransom will continue to host our Silicon Hollar weekly Pop-Up Coworking sessions through the month of December! We are so excited to share their awesome workspace with entrepreneurs, dreamer, thinkers and doers for another month! Our next coworking session will be on Thursday, November 29th from 8 AM - 2 PM, join us! Learn more here.

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Angela Heavner from 180 Float Spa pitched their upcoming December 12th Boone event, showcasing their Local Public Offering (LPO) and hosted by Mountain Bizworks. Get details about this event by visiting, https://www.180floatspa.com/ and signing up for Event Details! 180 Float Spa is offering you the opportunity to invest in your wellness and our community through a LPO. 180 Float Spa is only the second LPO to be approved for Investment crowdfunding in NC! Learn more about investing here.

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Kat Dolan, Performance Poet & Mental Health Advocate from local nonprofit, Out of Your Mind discussed upcoming Open-Mic events and opportunities in Boone! The next Performance Poetry Event is “Get Lit,” at Boone Saloon on November 28th from 7-10 PM and Kat is the Featured Performer! Learn more here.

We would like to thank Ransom again for hosting and providing an awesome Startup Social atmosphere this month! Our next Startup Social will be combined with the big Silicon Hollar Year End Community Celebration on Thursday, December 6th from 6-8:30 PM at the Blowing Rock Legion! Please RSVP here.

View more images from last night by clicking through below!

Code Spring Monthly Code Club Coming Soon

Code Spring Hosts Workshop for Kids

Athalia Whitworth, Code Spring

Code Spring hosted a workshop for youth, ages 8-13 and their parents on Saturday, July 14th at the Appalachian Enterprise Center in Boone, North Carolina. The workshop was the second in a summer beta program that introduced computer coding concepts to youth through an interactive games and challenges. Youth met a real-life computer programmer, learned to think like a coder through games, met new friends and ate pizza.

Front-end developer Jordan Estes shared how he got his start learning code and how he brings his professional training in theater and the arts to inform his technical problem-solving. He contrasted the spontaneous mindset of theater with the logical framework of computers. Working in teams, kids experienced this juxtaposition by using both logic and creative thinking to solve the classic river-crossing challenge.

Youth also worked in teams of 2-3 on Lightbot, a free online tool designed for the Hour of Code project. The interactive game introduced youth to instructions that a computer (the bot) can understand, using a visual platform and increasingly complex challenges.

“I started inexperienced and worked my way through. I got to know coding better than before,” said participant Maddie. Zoe, another workshop participant added, “It was fun!”
Code Spring will pilot a monthly code club for kids starting September 15 and continuing the third Saturday of the month. Dates are as follows, October 20 and November 17, February 16, March 16, May 18.

The initiative is inspired by a shared vision to impact the next generation with tools and resources in an increasingly technical world. Workshops are led by professional volunteers and sponsored by Smart Game SystemsWatauga Economic DevelopmentStartup High Country and High Country Local First.

Parents and students should register for upcoming workshops online at codespring.org.  
For more information and to become a volunteer and a sponsor, contact Athalia Whitworth, athalia@codespring.org

Where is the capital for startups?

Where is the capital for startups? A view of the funding landscape in WNC:

Chris Grasinger, Mountain Bizworks High Country Regional Manager
 

As many of us know, successfully launching a business takes an immense amount of energy on the front end. Research and development, building your team, creating a minimum viable product, crafting a marketing strategy – all of these elements take time and hard work. There are an infinite amount of road maps and influencers that are telling you how to reach launch, but sorting through different strategies and advice can push you to capacity as well. All the while you have to keep cash flowing into your household and paying for your own personal bills. You can peak 14 hour days pretty quickly if you are not effectively prioritizing your actions.

In many cases, your business will reach a stage where you have to find money to launch or grow the business to a desired point. There are many triggers that can lead to this moment - whether that is finally paying the people doing the work, buying a crucial piece of equipment, or hiring a developer to build the software you need. So where does this capital come from?

Self-funding or Bootstrapping –

Sourcing funds from savings of the founders or pulling the needed capital from your own excess cash that the business is generating.

Friends & Family –

This source of capital is just what it sounds like. Sometimes you may receive money from folks within your natural network as a donation or maybe it will come with certain terms. A word of caution is to always be very clear on the expectations of all parties with this type of funding – you don’t want to get to a point of misunderstanding that could taint a relationship with someone close to you.

Crowdfunding –

Utilization of a traditional donation based crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or using one of the new equity-based crowdfunding platforms like Wefunder.

Angel Investment –

Angel investment can come in a number of forms but is typically defined as an individual or group of individuals that make early investments into companies, to fund the startup or early growth stages. An angel investor could actually be someone in your friend or family network. A new angel investment group specifically serving our area is the High Country Impact Fund. This group was formed to invest in entrepreneurs and companies, with high growth and local economic impact potential.

Traditional Debt Capital -  

These are the traditional lenders that we all know, such as Wells Fargo, First Citizens or BB&T. Many of these banks have excellent services for startup businesses, such as checking and mobile deposit. But they oftentimes lack the ability to fund a startup, due to federal regulations and risk grade.

Alternative Debt Capital –

There are a number of different types of lending institutions that are designed to make high risk loans. A localized version of this type of lender is Mountain Bizworks - a community development financial institution, focused on funding Western North Carolina startups and existing businesses.