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!

July Startup Social Recap

Last Thursday, July 19th, 50+ local entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, technology professionals, and community members gathered at Hatchet Coffee's new roasting facility on Den Mac Dr. in Boone for the monthly Silicon Hollar Startup Social. 

Three local breweries were in attendance and provided beer for the event including, Appalachian Mountain Brewery, Booneshine Brewing Co., and Lost Province Brewing Co. Hatchet Coffee also provided a nice selection of hot coffee and nitro cold brews. 

Attendees were able to socialize and network among each other and then everyone came together to learn more about Startup High Country and our wonderful event sponsor, Mountain Bizworks. Several Mountain Bizworks representatives were in attendance including Matt Raker, Director of Community Investments & Impact. Matt shared information about business courses and investment opportunities through Mountain Bizworks. Their upcoming Foundations Course will be held in Boone August 6th – Sept 17th on Mondays from 1-4pm, with Madelyn Hjertmann facilitating. To learn more and register please visit,

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When the floor was open to discussion, several pitches were made by those in attendance including, PubCycle of Boone, High Country Radio, 180 Float Spa, Wilderness Yoga, ChurchLEARN, Appalachian Enterprise Center, boonies, Appstate Student Careers, and several others!

Jeffrey Scott, team member of Startup High Country, discussed Silicon Hollar's upcoming Velocity Labs, a 3 month startup accelerator for founders & partners of pre-revenue and/or early stage high growth companies focused on accelerated growth of $5-7M in three years. The course will begin on September 4, 2018 and run through November 16, 2018. For more information and to apply please visit,

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As always, a big thank you to our sponsors, our host, and all of those that attended and contributed to the July Startup Social. We invite you to join us for our August Social at Booneshine Brewing Co.'s new facility on Industrial Dr. in Boone! Stay tuned for the date to be announced soon!

Check out these awesome images below courtesy of Gladco Media!



Silicon Hollar Entrepreneur Profile - Zak Ammar, Vixster, CEO and Founder

Written by: Dave Walker, Program Manager for Ascent Business Network

Do you live in an area that doesn't have trash and/or recycling pickup? Do you have trash piling up in your garage and wish it would suddenly disappear? Do you want the time that you spend at the county convenience center sorting your recyclables, back in your day? If you have trash collection services already - how about getting that monthly bill reduced? This could be a your reality and the service (currently in open beta) is already available. This month, we'll take a look at what Zak Ammar, from Vixster, has up his sleeve and how he plans to change the way we dispose of trash and recycling in the High Country.

What does Vixster do?

Vixster is a trash and recycling service company operating in “The Sharing Economy” that facilitates a peer-to-peer removal service for commercial and residential customers.

Why did you decide to locate Vixster in the High Country?

I moved to the High Country from Texas to pursue a MBA with a focus in Supply Chain Management at Appalachian State University. I was born in New Orleans, raised in Texas. The mountains here are great! There’s so much to do. I enjoy fishing, cooking, and raising chickens. Compared to Texas, having four seasons is fantastic. In Houston, it’s hot, hot, hot, and even more hot. The High Country has become my new home, and I am excited to continue growing roots up here.   


How does Vixster solve a community need?

There are over 20,000 residents in Watauga County, who do not have waste & recycling removal services. At least sixty other rural counties in North Carolina have this exact problem. People drive past the landfill and convenience centers every day, but the waste centers’ hours are inconvenient with our busy schedules. Once you get to the waste centers, recyclables must be separated by the residents themselves, and this has contributed to an even greater problem – 60% of Watauga County’s landfill waste is recyclable material. Vixster delivers an efficient and manageable waste disposal system for businesses and citizens.

Why is business planning important and who helped you along the way?

Business planning is important because it allows you the opportunity to map out your vision and goals so that you can effectively execute them. Erich Schlenker, the Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Appalachian State has been pivotal in my growth process, specifically as a mentor, advisor, and coach. The Center for Entrepreneurship offers several great services for students looking to launch a business. They have a mentorship program, an accelerator program, space to collaborate, advisors, coaches, affiliations with SBTDC, and legal/accounting/etc contacts/resources. All of these have been invaluable to me through my businesses launch.

What’s next for Vixster?

My vision is to change the way people to trash and recycling in the high country - to create jobs, solve the need for trash and recycling in rural areas, and to reduce the overall amount of recyclables in our landfills. I am actively partnering with web developers, and designing a marketing campaign. Check out Vixster at We’re looking forward to a complete reconstruction of our webapp platform, with a January 1st launch date. Vixster is the beginning of a new era for how our community manages trash and recycling in the High Country.

Credit: Interview conducted by Dave Walker, Program Manager for Ascent Business Network, a program of High Country Local First.

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