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Accelerating Appalachia – Growing Nature Based Businesses for Good!

We’ve made great headway over the last several months:  it is with great appreciation that we welcome our $85,000 grant from Advantage West and the Appalachian Regional Commission for the next 2.5 years. The grant will enable us to raise additional working capital and create a non-profit investment fund for the peer-selected accelerator graduates. We are also making good headway in the formation of a knowledgeable and diverse advisory team, collaborating and consulting with investors and supporting organizations, have hired a data/program manager/sustainability specialist, 14 interns signed up to interview for our intern position, and are filing our non-profit articles of incorporation.


Funding: awarded and finally got the contract completed to HELP fund our accelerator ( we are also raising philanthropic support and private investment for our non-profit fund for the accelerator businesses) with a grant from the Obama administration for jobs accelerators, via the Appalachian Regional Commission, via Advantage West, our regional economic development organization – whew! Only 13 regions in the US were awarded the jobs acceleration funding, and we were the ONLY one in the US that focuses on the nature-based economy, supporting businesses grounded in nature and culture: food, farming, forestry, fiber, fuels, medicinal herbs, healing, natural building are examples, and with special consideration for marginalized populations and cultures.

Important milestones from our Timeline:

  • By April 30, 2013, complete survey of businesses, establish our non-profit, confirm support from at least 4 advisers/investors for funding. Collaborate with partnering organizations such as The Berry Center for Farming and Agriculture, engage at least four mentors for our accelerator session, (will repeat each quarter until we’ve enlisted a fabulous cohort of 15 mentors). Present to Village Capital and investors to engage partnership and investment.
  • by July 1, 2013: final 14 businesses are selected for the accelerator, secured our funding, and and confirmed our agreements on location/space for the accelerator, established our mentors and curriculum, completed logistics of food, transportation, fun. Whew!
  • September  – November: Accelerating Appalachia session underway! Final pitch session with 50+ mentors, thought leaders, investors. 2 businesses are peer-selected for $50,000 each and if we have done it right, at least half of the accelerator graduates will go on to receive up to $500,000 in follow-on investment over the next 18 months!


This process has me calling all resources as community pollinator, connector, maven, event planner, scientist, strategist, entrepreneur, researcher, ex-government worker, musician, giver, lover, budget manager, fund-raiser, graphic designer, map maker, brander, PR, mentor, therapist, community planner, hydrogeologist, researcher, etc, etc.  My copious lists of innovative nature-based businesses, mentors, thought leaders, advisers, supporters, leading research and trends in acceleration/social enterprises, impact investing,thought leaders, spaces, partners, core team, logistics, transportation, food resources, fun for entrepreneurs are becoming reality now that dazzling data manager/sustainable economy upstarter extraordinaire and Warren Wilson grad, Noah Wilson, has joined the team! We had a great day yesterday at Warren Wilson College’s “Sign Up to Serve Day”! 14 students signed up to be interviewed to intern with us!! It’s gonna be tough to narrow the pool down to just a few. So happy to have Noah on board! :)


Noah and I are in the midst of conducting our survey of businesses, with connections to over 700 businesses in our region and beyond. While we are “Accelerating Appalachia”, we are looking for disruptive, innovative nature based seed-stage businesses that are positively about people, planet and profit. Please DO send us your suggestions!


To Village Capital (James and Ross) for the huge amount of guidance they are providing us through this process and to Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Pam Lewis, Matt Raker, Noah Wilson, Dayna Reggero, Daniel Goldman, Darrell Glasco, Bruce Roberts, Greg Cumberford, and many, many more for their awesome support and guidance thus far.

Cheers to Being the Change in 2013!