With Western North Carolina’s history and heritage of entrepreneurial independence, a number of training, funding, mentoring, and technical assistance resources are available across the region to aspiring small-business owners. Among those are the Advantage Opportunity Fund, Blue Ridge Food Ventures and Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council – all initiatives of AdvantageWest, the nonprofit regional economic development organization, and all serving primarily early-stage businesses.
Now, thanks to a five-year, $1.2 million contract award from the U.S. Small Business Administration, a new level of support will be available to help scalable small firms grow and create jobs. Led by AdvantageWest, ScaleUp WNC will provide intensive growth strategy development and implementation assistance to 150 Western North Carolina growth-oriented entrepreneurs. This stage of companies, after startup but before maturity, tends to be underserved in the region and across the country.
ScaleUp WNC offers a unique opportunity to help expand growth-oriented businesses and strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem across the region. Twice a year, with training and technical assistance from project partners Ascent Business Network in Boone, A-B Tech Entrepreneurial Development Foundation in Asheville, and the Sequoyah Fund in Cherokee, the highly competitive program will provide an intensive six-week education curriculum developed especially for established businesses. Each cohort, consisting of 15 business executives, will also receive one-on-one management support, assistance in connecting with growth capital, and the opportunity to strengthen connections and networks.
Using prior metrics as well as those from similar programs in other regions, this project aims to result in 600 new jobs created and $18 million in new capital raised by small businesses in Western North Carolina within three years of project completion. AdvantageWest was selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration as one of only eight organizations in the country to develop the project as part of SBA’s ScaleUp America initiative.
“The SBA is pleased to be able to provide this funding to our good partners at AdvantageWest,” said Deputy District Director Mike Arriola, of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s North Carolina office, based in Charlotte. “Having served in the past as the SBA officer for Western North Carolina, I have known AdvantageWest for 10 years and am fully confident in their ability to help our deserving entrepreneurs in this region ‘scale up’ to their next level of business success. We look forward, as our entrepreneurs here do, to an outstanding initiative here in the west.”
Applications are now being accepted through Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 for the first cohort, which will start in late February. In December, AdvantageWest will host networking and informational events for potential candidates in four locations across the region, with each event featuring a presentation from a distinguished Western North Carolina entrepreneur.
The Southwest Region event will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 2 from 2-4pm at the Drake Education Center at 210 Phillips Street in Franklin. The event will feature Oscar Wong, founder and president of Highland Brewing in Asheville.