Entrepreneurship

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!

October Startup Social Recap

On Thursday, October 18th, 60+ student entrepreneurs, local business owners, aspiring startups, and community members gathered at the HOW Space for the monthly Silicon Hollar Startup Social. This collaborative networking event brought together three local organizations and their followers; Startup High Country, High Country Local First, and Appalachian State University’s Association of Student Entrepreneurs (ASE).

The ASE provided snacks from Carolina Pizza Co. and Appalachia Cookie Co. for all to enjoy. Tim Herdklotz from Booneshine Brewing Co. was in attendance serving local beers along with Jeremy Bollman & team members from Hatchet Coffee serving cold brew and hot coffee!

Several Student Entrepreneurs presented their startup businesses to the crowd. Erich Schlenker, from Appstate’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship announced the upcoming 15th Annual Carol Moore McLeod Entrepreneur Summit. This event is happening Friday, November 2 on the campus of Appalachian State University. No matter where you are on your entrepreneurial journey, this Summit has something for you. LEARN MORE AND REGISTER.

Other pitches were made by members of the Silicon Hollar/Startup High Country Team including Madelyn Hjertmann, Chris Grasinger and Sam Glover. The team announced and unveiled new branding, logo and t-shirt designs for the organization. They also announced that Startup High Country recently received a $100,000 grant from NC IDEA. With this grant funding Startup HC will be able to host the Velocity Labs 12-week Accelerator Course for the next 3 years!

John Austin from NC IDEA was in attendance and pitched to the crowd about the recent grant and other great entrepreneurship opportunities through his organization.

Angela Heavner from 180 Float Spa pitched her startup company to the room and announced her Local Public Offering. 180 Float Spa is offering you the opportunity to invest in your wellness and our community through a Local Public Offering (LPO). Local Public Offerings became effective in 2017 under the North Carolina PACES Act to help provide access to capital for new and early stage businesses. 180 Float Spa is only the second LPO to be approved for Investment crowdfunding in NC. Investment crowdfunding has been growing significantly around the nation, with over 100 million dollars raised. Now it's our turn North Carolina! Learn more and invest here!

Everyone enjoyed this collaborative event at the HOW Space and many solid connections were made! Special thanks to all those who attended and helped plan this event!

Stay tuned for information about our next Startup Social happening in November!

Click below to view photos from October’s Startup Social!

The Places With the Youngest Entrepreneurs

ELYSSA KIRKHAM

Entrepreneurs may spend years gaining experience and resources as they wait for the right time to finally take the leap and start a company. As it turns out, entrepreneurial hopefuls might be able to achieve their aim of founding a business years sooner — if they live in the right place.

A new study from LendingTree reveals which 10 major cities in the U.S. have the youngest business founders. Using anonymized data from business owners seeking funding through the LendingTree small business marketplace, the study compared ages of business founders on their companies’ dates of origination in the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Average founder’s ages when starting their business ranged from 37 to 42 years old, the study found. This five-year gap in average ages might seem small, but it can represent many factors that work for — or against — entrepreneurs in each city.

Here are the 10 cities where young entrepreneurs are making their mark and forming the next wave of million- and even billion-dollar businesses.

Key findings

  • Salt Lake City, Buffalo, N.Y. and New Orleans have the youngest business founders, on average. Entrepreneurs in these cities, along with Oklahoma City, were younger than 38 years old on average at the time they started their businesses.

  • Providence, R.I., San Jose, Calif. and Hartford, Conn., fell on the other end of the spectrum — business founders were 42 years old on average when starting their companies.

  • Gen Xers helmed nearly 42% of new businesses founded in the last five years, followed by millennials who founded almost 38%.

  • Louisville, Ky. had the highest proportion of millennial founders, at 44.8%.

  • Providence, R.I. and Philadelphia had the highest proportion of Gen X founders, at 48.7%.

  • Baby boomers founded more businesses in Silicon Valley (San Jose, Calif.) than anywhere else, at 24.1%. As one of the most expensive communities in the country, it may take budding entrepreneurs longer to save up starting capital.

The 10 cities with the youngest entrepreneurs

The 10 cities with the youngest entrepreneurs are likely to have some of the lowest barriers to enter entrepreneurship.

A closer look reveals that booming local economies, along with low local costs and taxes, may be fueling startup growth. These cities also have strong support systems in place to help founders and their startups succeed, from business incubators and accelerators to networking events and opportunities to apply for small business grants or attract venture capital.

In short, these are the cities where young entrepreneurs are more quickly reaching their goal to form a business of their own.

1. Salt Lake City

The youngest business founders in the country can be found in Salt Lake City, Utah. Entrepreneurs here achieve their dreams of starting a business at just 37.8 years old.

The area known as “Silicon Slopes” encompasses the Salt Lake City metropolitan area and nearby cities; it is home to billion-dollar tech companies such as Overstock.com, PluralSight and Qualtrics.

These big players have helped established a steady, growing economy in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah. The area also has an established (and growing) pool of qualified talent. Combined with the relatively low cost of living, and entrepreneurs in Utah have few obstacles — and plenty of opportunities.

2. Buffalo, New York

In Buffalo, the typical business founder is just 37.9 years old, and a decent portion of the city’s entrepreneurs belong to Generation Z (3.6%).

Buffalo’s business climate has improved in recent years, thanks in part to a billion-dollar economic development package proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012. This money has since flowed into the state’s second-largest city, and Buffalo has seen some gains from the program, even in the wake of some false starts and scandals.

On top of the “Buffalo billions” initiative, this city offers a relatively affordable cost of living and a strong support system for budding entrepreneurs. This includes business education and support through the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at The State University of New York at Buffalo, and local business incubators like Launch NY and 43North.

3. New Orleans

The dream of entrepreneurship is within reach for many New Orleans founders — the average age of founders is just under 38.

Not only is New Orleans a cultural giant, it’s also a standout when it comes to cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups.

A hallmark of New Orleans’ business landscape is the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Started by entrepreneurship-focused nonprofit Idea Village, this major event gives would-be founders a chance to learn, grow and even pitch their business ideas.

On top of strong community initiatives to support new businesses, New Orleans also provides twin benefits of affordable local costs and business tax incentives that can help lower the economic barriers to starting a business.

4. Oklahoma City

Oklahoma is the last city that can boast an average founder age under 38 years old, and it’s also the city among the top 10 with the largest share of millennial founders, at 43.7%.

These young entrepreneurs can thank the solid network of support found in Oklahoma City and throughout the state, too — for instance, a business incentive act offers a tax break to Oklahoma businesses participating in certified business incubators.

Lastly, a low cost of living will help ensure founders can put their capital toward starting and growing their Oklahoma City startups — and not just keeping the lights on.

5. Charlotte, North Carolina

The average age of founders in this rapidly growing city is 38.21. In 2017, most of the $1 billion in venture capital raised by North Carolina entrepreneurs went to Charlotte-based companies. The flow of money into new Charlotte businesses is just one sign of the city’s healthy startup ecosystem.

Another is Charlotte’s large cohort of Generation Z entrepreneurs: a full 5.0% of Charlotte’s business founders fell into this college-aged (or younger) group. This could be thanks to the support and influence of UNC Charlotte’s Ventureprise entrepreneurship program, which provides business resources, trainings and certifications to students and Charlotte community members alike.

6. Minneapolis

Entrepreneurs are able to get a headstart on their startup goals in Minneapolis, where the average age of a business founder is 38.7 years old. The costs of starting a business here are kept low, thanks to the competitive living costs in the area and attractive tax incentives such as “angel tax credits,” which provide up to $1 million in for new, tech-centered businesses.

Minneapolis-based events, like Twin Cities Startup Week, can also give local entrepreneurs and businesses the perfect venue to network, promote and pitch themselves, and even raise capital. Another local initiative is the MN Cup, a statewide startup competition sponsored by the University of Minnesota — since its establishment, it’s seeded $2.4 million to local businesses.

Female entrepreneurs should also check out Women Venture, a local small-business nonprofit that helps women start and grow businesses in Minneapolis.

7. St. Louis

For young entrepreneurs, St. Louis provides a fertile environment in which business ideas and entrepreneurial ambition can grow — that’s thanks to a strong local startup scene and robust support network for new companies.

Local business investment foundations such as the Missouri Technology Corporation, Arch Grants and St. Louis Accelerator provide vital investment and grant dollars to attract and grow leading young businesses.

These are just a few of the incubators, accelerators and initiatives that provide enough support to young entrepreneurs to allow a typical founder to start a business as young as 38.8 years old.

8. Portland, Ore.

When inspiration strikes, young entrepreneurs in Portland, Ore. aren’t afraid to strike out on their own. But they don’t have to go it alone, thanks to incubators and accelerators such as Prosper PortlandPortland Incubator Experiment (PIE) and Portland Seed Fund.

The average founder in Portland is just under 39 years old. Home to campuses for leading brands such as Nike, Columbia Sportswear and Intel, Portland and the state of Oregon offer business-friendly corporate tax structures. New entrepreneurs should investigate tax incentives that can help lower their new business’ property and income taxes.

9. Milwaukee

The secret for Milwaukee’s young entrepreneurs, just under 39 years on average, could be the city’s low costs for businesses. Milwaukee’s lower cost of living combines with attractive tax incentives, exemptions and credits to make it more affordable for founders to start and ramp up a new business.

Entrepreneurial hopefuls can find plenty of backing in the Milwaukee area. Startup Milwaukee, for example, provides education and networking through Milwaukee Startup Week and similar initiatives. BizStarts offers further resources for local entrepreneurs, while other incubators like Milwaukee 7 can provide capital and funding for young companies.

10. Austin, Texas

Last on the list is Austin, the only city on this list in which the average new business founder is over age 39. From hosting innovation-centric conference South by Southwest (SXSW) to a booming local economy, this fast-growing city is a hub of entrepreneurship in Texas.

Several startup accelerators and incubators in Austin can help local founders grow a business at an stage. A bevy of newer venture capital firms in the area, like ATX Seed Ventures and LiveOak Venture Partners, could be spell good news for young businesses hoping to attract funding.

For young entrepreneurs, the right location can help a new business thrive

If you’re hoping to become a full-time entrepreneur, you’re not alone. Nearly a third of Americans have thought about starting their own businesses in the past year, according to a recent LendingTree survey.

Before launching a business, however, it’s worthwhile to consider your location and how friendly it would be to a new and growing company. The better the location you choose, the faster you can work toward founding and building your business.

Based on the top 10 cities above, here are some trends to watch for when researching where to start your startup:

  • Growing local economy: A startup will need a healthy economy and other businesses to survive. Check key economic indicators in cities you’re interest in — low unemployment and high consumer confidence in your area are positive indicators of a healthy economy with room for new companies to take root.

  • Business-friendly tax policies: Among the top 10 cities, a common thread is business-friendly tax policies. Many of these cities charged lower taxes to local businesses, and some even provided tax incentives to attract new and expanding companies.

  • Low cost of living: With lower expenses, you’ll need less capital to get your business up and running. These low costs can also keep your bottom line growing faster and keep your new business lean and competitive.

  • Strong startup network: Most of the cities with the youngest entrepreneurs were also home to robust support systems and networks for new entrepreneurs and startups. Research your area of interest to see if it’s home to business incubators or accelerators, entrepreneurial networks or events or even a coworking space. Your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Administration office can be a great starting point to find business resources and organizations.

  • Availability of business funding: Lastly, research opportunities you might have to access or raise funds for your business. See if your city of interest is home to venture capital firms or programs that offer small business grants or other funding. Check out potential sources you could turn to for small business loans, too.

 

Being picky about finding the best place to start your business can really pay off later. This study shows that a good balance of low costs and a strong startup ecosystem can help young entrepreneurs found a business years earlier. Even better, these factors can set a new business up for continued success in the quarters and years to come.

Methodology:
Anonymized data of borrowers seeking business loans on the LendingTree platform was limited analyzed to determine the average age of business founder in the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). The data was limited to businesses founded within the last five years, and founders’ ages are from the date they founded their businesses. Generations are defined by the Pew Research Center as follows: members of the Silent Generation were born between 1928 and 1945; the Baby Boom generation between 1946 and 1964; Generation X between 1965 and 1980; the millennial generation between 1981 and 1996; and Generation Z after 1996.