Dreaming of becoming your own boss? These five tips can help make your business “super.”
ASHEVILLE – In a city ripe with burgeoning entrepreneurs, there’s not so much a secret to success as there are blueprints of best practices.
This week is Asheville Entrepreneurship Week, an effort led by the Hatch AVL Foundation, an area nonprofit that connects high-growth potential startups with local resources. The week kicked off Tuesday with a local candidate forum, a pitch party scheduled for Tuesday before wrapping Sunday with TEDxAsheville at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall.
Jeff Kaplan, communications and events lead for Hatch, said there is “a breadth of opportunities for individuals at every corner of the ecosystem” in Asheville.
He said the week is designed for entrepreneurs at every stage of the game, whether it’s someone with an idea for a business or experienced entrepreneurs interesting in growing their businesses to new markets.
“I want people to be blown away by how much entrepreneurship activity that actually is going on and to be inspired to get involved,” Kaplan said. “The more people we bring into the tent, the more diverse background we bring in, the better off we will be.”
Hatch, for its effort, provides space at 45 S. French Broad Ave. for seven businesses — companies like Shiny Creek, a developer of apps and software, and UGoTour, an app developer focused on tourism in Western North Carolina.
So, what makes a successful Asheville entrepreneur? Kimberly Hunter, entrepreneurship program manager at Mountain BizWorks, which helps entrepreneurs throughout the region, said it requires both financial and emotional stamina.
“One thing I want to get across is feasibility, feasibility, feasibility,” she said. “In a competitive landscape, great ideas are promising and understanding if your great idea is feasible, and how it can scale is critical.”
For much of the past three decades, Mountain BizWorks has provided business coaching and acted as a lending and investment partner to local businesses. It has made loans ranging from $1,000 to $150,000 to small businesses that Hunter said typically are “unbankable.”
The results, Hunter said, have strengthened local communities and built Mountain BizWorks’ reputation as a reliable source of information and investment in businesses.
A number of alumni of Mountain BizWorks continue to operate companies in the area. Among them:
Jean-Pierre Koudifo, Global Language System
Koudifo started Global Language System in 2014. His company provides professional language translation and interpretation services of more than 200 languages to clients in Buncombe County and beyond.
The company primarily works with patients needing interpreters to receive medical care.
He said it also has contracts with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Buncombe County Health and Human Services. It has one full-time employee and more than 50 subcontractors trying to take a share in what’s easily a billion-dollar industry.
For other entrepreneurs, Koudifo recommends taking advantage of existing business networking events in the Asheville area, as he did.
“Go the networking events and be persistent,” he said. “You will get there. It isn’t easy but be persistent. Asheville is very friendly and it’s a small community.”
Mike Woliansky, No Evil Foods
Veggie meat from No Evil Foods. (Photo: Courtesy of No Evil Foods)
No Evil Foods was the idea of Mike Woliansky and Sadrah Schadel.
They moved to the Asheville area about six years ago as vegetarians and since have become vegan. Woliansky said the two had the idea of selling plant-based foods they already made in their kitchen, which they eventually did at the Asheville City Market. He said the community quickly became receptive to their products.
It took them about eight months of work to end up being featured at Whole Foods.
No Evil Foods now can be found in more than a dozen states including North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama, its website shows.
Woliansky said the company found success through working with Mountain BizWorks and Blue Ridge Food Ventures, a shared-use kitchen and natural products manufacturing facility in Candler.
Additonally, he said the business continues to network with others to share ideas and communicate with other members of the community.
“Having your own business is difficult,” he said. “It’s challenging and probably going to be more work than you think. There’s a saying where a lot of people quit a 40-hour-a-week job to start working 80-hour weeks, but you then have control and a passion for whatever you’re creating.”
Nick Moen, The Bright Angle
Moen, the founder of The Bright Angle, a handmade design studio, embraces the craft culture of Asheville.
His company has five part-time employees and a resident designer. It creates coffee mugs, pots, lamps and memento boxes, among a host of other products. Moen also collaborates with local glassblowers, photographers and ceramic artists in the effort of creative and functional products.
He said persistence is important for businesses. It will prove a virtue for Moen, as the company’s next frontier is partnering with local coffee and tea shops or even a brewery to feature some of the work being done by The Bright Angle.
Of the 40 or so he’s contacted, none have been interested.
However, it has not yet deterred him from trying to build meaningful relationships.
“My motto is that there’s always another problem to solve,” he said. “But there’s always a number of solutions so just don’t give up. Even when it gets tough and tight, you’ve got to keep going and hope your passion and your dream is reflected through the business.”
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