After carefully culling a pool of 95 applications,Accelerating Appalachia, Western North Carolina-based social impact business accelerator, has chosen eight regional nature-based luminaries to participate in its 2015 cohort — Ecological Services Markets, Green River Picklers, Grow Journey, Harvest Moon Grille, Joseph Adams, ORB Technologies, River Island Apothecary and Smiling Hara Tempeh.
Led by sustainability champion Sara Day Evans, the annual program is a real-world master’s course in upping business momentum strategically.
“We help our nature-based businesses build out all aspects of business development, scale sustainably, connect to supply chains and prepare for investment and pitches,” she says. “Plus, we connect them to a peer, mentor and investor network that is regional, national and global.”
The program’s syllabus isn’t its only all-encompassing aspect. From budding to booming, the 2015 class combines companies of all sizes, development stages and backgrounds. “They are start-ups to more mature businesses in growth, in food, farming, social enterprise, games, agriculture technology, botanicals, affordable green housing and heirloom seeds,” says Evans, “and 80 percent are women-led or co-led.”
And the leading ladies have high hopes for the program’s educational potential.
“I have been flying by the seat of my pants the whole time that I’ve been a businesswoman,” says Katie Vie, founder of River Island Apothecary. “I’ve been relying on my natural talents and a wing and a prayer, [but] I want to leave this program savvy. In addition to saying ‘I’m an oil blender,’ I want to be able to say ‘I’m an entrepreneur’ and have that really mean something. I want to learn the craft of being an entrepreneur and then apply that to my actual craft.”