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Meet the Program Elevating Asheville’s Entrepreneurs

An area program helps entrepreneurs find success.

By Julie Young on September 20, 2021

Colorful business based illustration

For those with an idea and a strong work ethic, Asheville is the city you are looking for to launch your business. Not only is the area home to a roster of thriving startups you can look to for advice, but the resources for entrepreneurs are top-notch.

One program available is Venture Asheville. This initiative works to grow the area’s startup community by connecting entrepreneurs to talent, mentors and investors through programming and events. It is a product of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville- Buncombe County.

“We are creating the small businesses today that will be big businesses tomorrow,” says Venture Asheville Director Jeffrey Kaplan. “We help build high-growth, scalable startups and get them funded through mentorships, financing and our events.”

Elevating Entrepreneurs

A key part of the Venture Asheville initiative is its Elevate program, which enables entrepreneurs to navigate the everyday challenges of building a company while developing their skills as managers, leaders and CEOs. Modeled after MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service, Elevate offers team mentoring sessions with highly skilled executives as well as one-on-one specialized support with experts in HR, branding, patents and finance. Kaplan says when entrepreneurs come out of the mentorship program, they know how to pitch their businesses to venture capitalists and build the relationships they need to grow their revenue.

Elevate is not an incubator or an accelerator, but a long-term relationship that helps your business grow,” he says. “So far, we have had about 100 companies go through the Elevate program, and those companies have created approximately 275 jobs with an average salary of $61,000. They have also raised $25.5 million and earned $82 million in revenue.”

Nearly 100 companies have gone through the Elevate Program

Advising Asheville

After a 25-year career in food service sales, Dawn Walker moved from Minneapolis to Asheville five years ago and was recruited by Venture Asheville to mentor entrepreneurs in the Elevate program. Mentors and entrepreneurs are matched based on their respective skill sets so entrepreneurs can be strengthened by an outside source.

Walker says every founder, or entrepreneur, is different, and to ensure they all grow successfully, they are assigned three or four mentors. Founders meet with their mentors for 90 minutes every month.

The mentors at Elevate have a good amount of experience in various industries, and they provide a great sounding board, while asking smart questions and challenging you to think of different ways to grow.”

Jason Moore/Elite HRV

“The level of experience that is in Asheville and those who want to give back is astounding, and the program is so beneficial to both sides,” she says. “Not only do we help entrepreneurs prepare for incremental growth and exit strategy, but also whatever a founder needs to run their trajectory.”

Successful Startup

Jason Moore and his wife, Alyssa, are just one success story of Venture Asheville. They moved to the area because they loved the mountains and small-town vibe, but they were surprised to discover the resources available to entrepreneurs. Three years ago, they joined Venture Asheville’s Elevate program, and today, their company, Elite HRV, is the global leader in heart rate variability.

“Elevate has added a lot of value to our company,” Moore says. “When you are working on your business, it is important to take a step back and get other perspectives. The mentors at Elevate have a good amount of experience in various industries, and they provide a great sounding board, while asking smart questions and challenging you to think of different ways to grow.”

Since connecting with Venture Asheville, the Moores have raised over $5 million and served 600,000 customers worldwide. They meet with potential investors both locally and online and have attracted employees in eight states.

“As commerce moves online, it accelerates. You can live anywhere and serve people anywhere,” Moore says. “We are seeing a mass exodus of people who want to leave some of the more expensive places for Asheville where there is a great culture, good food and plenty of great places to live.”

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