WNC Business Q2 | 2023

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Q2 | 2023 Regional Round-Up | Business Calendar | Pro-Tips | Work-Life Balance | Get to Know Local Businesses Industry Spotlights: Tourism Craft Beverages & Breweries Outdoor Recreation & Summer Camps feature WNC’s Small Business Landscape
Pictured: Karis Roberts, Executive Director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance
> edwardjones.com | Member SIPC As the calendar turns the page, we wish you the very best in the year ahead. Cheers to a New Year! MKT-9811C-A Katherine C Morosani, ChFC®, CEPA® Financial Advisor 1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546 > edwardjones.com | Member SIPC As the calendar turns the page, we wish you the very best in the year ahead. Cheers to a New Year! MKT-9811C-A Katherine C Morosani, ChFC®, CEPA® Financial Advisor 1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546
Morosani, ChFC®, CEPA® Financial Advisor 10 Crispin Court Suite 101 A sheville, NC 28803-8206
828-793-4310 Katherine.Morosani@EdwardJones.com EdwardJones.com/Katherine-Morosani

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From the Publisher

Western North Carolina is a region that offers a plethora of creativity and uniqueness in so many ways. This area is full of entrepreneurs and creators, mountains and waterfalls, independent restaurants and outdoor activities, and opportunities for success in business.

As we remove our winter coats and prepare for the flurry of activity the warmer seasons bring, we are taking a deep dive into the industries that bring the ‘outside world’ to Western North Carolina to enjoy our unique region with us, namely Tourism, Craft Beverages & Breweries, and Outdoor Recreation & Summer Camps.

Each of these industries represents several layers of the appeal to the region, not only for visitors, but also for the influx of new residents coming to WNC. As people come here and experience the creative hotels and restaurants, brewers and makers, and trails and tours, they can see that each aspect plays a role in the area’s allure. At an Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce event this winter, about 50 people were in attendance when someone asked who in the room was originally from the area. No one raised their hand. Many of the people who have felt called to the region are business owners. Whether solopreneurs, small businesses owners, or digital nomads, the region is also unique in the vast variety of business-supporting resources available. Our Small Business feature article will share some tips and advice from a few of the area’s leading support organizations, information about starting and operating a business in North Carolina, and what new programs are helping those small businesses to grow and succeed.

This issue could have been three times the length, and still not covered all the exciting things that are happening in each of these industries. If you have business news or something you feel makes the region unique, we encourage you to visit WNCBusiness.com and share it with us.

May you all spend the season enjoying all of what makes WNC such an amazing place to live and work.

We would like to thank the fine businesses and organizations who have purchased advertising in our magazine, thereby helping us to bring you an attractive and informative publication. If


business or provide a service that would benefit from exposure in WNC Business Magazine, call to reserve a space in the next edition. 828-513-3888 Info@WNCBusiness.com

4 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
President & Publisher
Brett Hulsey Editor Randee Brown
LS Creative Cover
Katie Cornwell | Katie Eastridge Jenn Muckelvaney Marketing & Operations Alissa Fuller Design/Production
Photo Josh Davis
WNCBusiness.com @WNCBusiness Published by 323 N. Main Street, Suite 1 Hendersonville, NC 28792 HulseyMedia.com Contents of this magazine may not be reproduced in any manner without written consent from publisher. Any opinions expressed in the published works of contributors are those of those authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Hulsey Media.
2023 Volume 02 | Issue 02 | Q2 2023
A New Business Resource from the Local Industry Leader. WNC Business is brought to you by Hulsey Media, Western North Carolina’s leading source of local knowledge. Learn more at HulseyMedia.com. AGINGRESOURCESWNC.COM FOR 2022-23 WNCHomeowners.com Sales Landscaping Hardware Environmental page information Solutions

For 125 years, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has been committed to building a stronger community. Our initiatives and projects have stimulated economic development and supported the growth of thousands of local and regional businesses.

For 125 years, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has been committed to building a stronger community. Our initiatives and projects have stimulated economic development and supported the growth of thousands of local and regional businesses.

Today, we are the local champion for a balanced, thriving economy and connect businesses, large and small, to the resources they need to be successful.

For 125 years, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has been committed to building a stronger community. Our initiatives and projects have stimulated economic development and supported the growth of thousands of local and regional businesses.

We believe that together, we are more.

Today, we are the local champion for a balanced, thriving economy and connect businesses, large and small, to the resources they need to be successful.

Today, we are the local champion for a balanced, thriving economy and connect businesses, large and small, to the resources they need to be successful.

We believe that together, we are more.

Discover all the ways the Asheville Chamber can grow your business and your community at: www.ashevillechamber.org

Discover all the ways the Asheville Chamber can grow your business and your community at: www.ashevillechamber.org

We believe that together, we are more.

Discover all the ways the Asheville Chamber can grow your business and your community at: www.ashevillechamber.org

• Chamber Challenge 5k, May 5th (Fun for all fitness levels)

• Annual Meeting, June 14th (Thebusiness event of the year)

• 125th Anniversary Celebration, Sept, 28th (Vote now for nonprofit grant recipients + Get tickets)

• Chamber Challenge 5k, May 5th (Fun for all fitness levels)

• Chamber Challenge 5k, May 5th (Fun for all fitness levels)

• Annual Meeting, June 14th (Thebusiness event of the year)

• Annual Meeting, June 14th (Thebusiness event of the year)

• 125th Anniversary Celebration, Sept, 28th (Vote now for nonprofit grant recipients + Get tickets)

• 125th Anniversary Celebration, Sept, 28th (Vote now for nonprofit grant recipients + Get tickets)

6 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023 Industry Spotlight: Tourism 14 feature WNC’s Small Business Landscape 28 Industry Spotlight: Craft Beverages & Breweries 44 Industry Spotlight: Outdoor Recreation & Summer Camps 60
WNCBusiness.com | 7 STAR DINER Fine Dining in a Small Town Attracts Visitors From Across the State 40 Contents essentials 6 Cheers! 10 Regional Round-Up 86 Calendar of Events 90 W NC Business People to Know 94 Marketplace 96 Work-Life Balance wnc business partners 76 Streamlined Wi-Fi Runs Small Businesses 78 7 Tips for Networking 80 Business Interruption Insurance 82 Employment Insights pro-tips 84 Effective Marketing Through Building Relationships 85 Understanding Performance F eedback get to know KIDCYCLE CLUB Building Bike-Riding Confidence for Kids and Their Families 72 OUTSIDER BREWING COMPANY Breaking Down Barriers Between Drinkers and Their Beer 56 it’s my job Scott Yerkey Secondary Guide with LaZoom Tours 42 Cory Greene Camp Director at Talisman Summer Camps 74 Hannah Motter Quality Control Technician at Highland Brewing Company 58


Business Shout-outs from Around Western North Carolina Awards & Recognitions

James Radford, MD, an oncologist and cancer research pioneer who retired in 2021 from Pardee UNC Health Care after more than 20 years, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. This is the highest award for state service granted by the Office of the Governor.

McDowell Technical Community College proudly announced that Centro Unido Latino Americano, in partnership with the college and Isothermal Community College, has been awarded the 2023 NC Community College System Distinguished Partners in Excellence Award.

S. Yaseen Zia, MD , a radiation oncologist with Pardee UNC Health Care, has been appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve as a member of the North Carolina Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control.

National Association of Home Builders recognizes Semper Fi Custom Remodeling with two awards for best home kitchen remodel.

The Haywood Regional Medical Center announced Emergency Department Manager Jackie Sanford, RN their most recent DAISY Foundation Award winner.

Henderson County Education Foundation inducts Patricia Allen , Brenda Walker Gorsuch , Ingrid McNair, and Dr. Kathy Revis into the 2023 Education Hall of Fame.

Promotions & On The Move

Dogwood Health Trust announced the addition of two members to its Board of Directors. The Board has confirmed Carol Burton, Ed.D. (Jackson County) and Jamie McMahan (Yancey County) as new members.

Pardee UNC Health Care has named Joel Callahan, M.D., FAAN , a board-certified neurologist, as chief of staff. In this role, Dr. Callahan will provide leadership, guidance and a voice for medical staff, as well as create a dynamic physician environment committed to high-quality, patient-focused care and safety.

AdventHealth welcomes Laura Maure, CPC, CMA to her new role as Physician Services Director for AdventHealth Hendersonville. Maure has been part of the AdventHealth team since 2019, most recently serving as Practice Manager at AdventHealth Medical Group Obstetrics & Gynecology at Medical Office Building.

Hatch Innovation Hub welcomes new leaders. Maui Vang , co-founder of Tilly and founder of Uphora Dance Fitness, will be stepping into the organization’s Vice Chair position. Also, four new members, Betty Shotton , founder of LiftOff Leadership, Dr. Susan Clark Muntean , Associate Professor of Management at UNCA, Kim Celentano, co-founder and CEO of VirtualJobShadow.com, and Chris DeVault, founder of Alpha Vanguard, will be joining the Hatch board.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed a new Director of Business Recruitment, Keevon Baten . Keevon was an intern with the Chamber fifteen years ago. Since then, Keevon graduated from Appalachian State University, working in finance and lending for the Peace Corps, Merrill Lynch, and most recently Mountain BizWorks.

Dogwood Health Trust announced that Mark D. Constantine, PhD , a well-respected leader and influencer within health philanthropy, will join the organization as Senior Vice President of Community Investment in mid April 2023. Constantine joins Dogwood after having served as President and CEO of Richmond Memorial Health Foundation for seven years.

AdventHealth Hendersonville welcomes Constance (Connie) Stec, H(ASCP) to her new role as Director of its Laboratory. Stec most recently served as Laboratory Operations Supervisor at AdventHealth Hendersonville. Stec is an experienced laboratory scientist, with 11 years in health care management focused on operations and process improvements.

Regional affordable housing nonprofit Mountain Housing Opportunities welcomes Victor “Vic” Anderson to the organization as its new Chief Financial Officer. Anderson will lead MHO’s financial strategy and guide day-to-day fiscal operations, including oversight of MHO’s Loan Fund.

8 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
to You By:
Asheville’s Original Craft Brewery

Joel Adams and Associates, an Asheville-based registered investment advisor, announced that Certified Public Accountant Chad Storck joined the firm as a co-owner at the start of 2023.

Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, Inc. announced that global brand and business executive Susan Aplin has joined the company as its Co-CEO and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. Aplin will co-lead the company with Founder and Co-CEO Ginger Frank.

Haywood County Schools named Casey Conard , Jennifer Reeves , and Jacob Shelton as new administrators at a Special Called Board Meeting in February.

Coming Soon

AFC Urgent Care will celebrate its Arden location’s grand opening in April.

First Contact Addiction Ministries will celebrate the opening of a residential recovery center in Henderson County in April.

Mini Batch Bakery will celebrate their grand opening with a ribbon cutting in April. Looking Glass Realty will celebrate their new Hendersonville location with a ribbon cutting in April.

Movement Bank , located at 2397 Hendersonville Road,will celebrate the opening of their new full service retail location that handles both consumer and commercial clients in April.

Mountaineer Motor Tours will celebrate its grand opening at Greenwood Village in May.

Chai Pani Restaurant Group announced Indian street food concept Botiwalla to open in West Asheville in June.

Expansions & Grand Openings

Taco Billy opens its second location in downtown Black Mountain. This restaurant features unique tacos for breakfast and lunch.

Fermenti opens a brick-and-mortar location in Woodfin. In their new location, they will offer special products, classes, collaborations, and a fermentation club.

Prism Studio Space is now open in the Hatch Innovation Hub building in downtown Asheville. The studio is available to rent on its own or with photography, art direction, and styling services offered by the in-house creative team.

Hendersonville Toy Company celebrated their Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting in February. Located inside Gateaux Cakes & Pastries at 315 S Church St., Hendersonville Toy Company is more than your average toy store offering a variety of toys, adult & youth games, and a great selection of books.

Formation PR + Brand has expanded its leadership team with the addition of two new senior strategists. The addition of Annie Carlson and Julia Hockenberry equips the agency to better meet the burgeoning needs of clients within the agency’s focus areas of higher education, nonprofit and philanthropy, healthcare, and regional and economic development.

Bunnell-Lammons Engineering has relocated its Asheville, NC office to 30 Park Ridge Drive in Fletcher. The new location will provide additional office space for an expanding staff and for the Asheville office’s construction materials laboratory.

Homestead Recovery Center in Boone celebrated its grand opening in March. Their vision is to create a unified voice and access point for peer led recovery in Watauga County.

Crossroads Ice Cream & Coffee in Mill Spring celebrated their grand opening in March. They are a family-owned business serving a variety of coffee drinks and more than 30 flavors of Hershey’s ice cream.

Beech Mountain’s Town Hall and Visitor Center will undergo an expansion project from May 2023 to April 2024. VPC Contractors from Banner Elk will be adding 1,775 square feet to the Town Hall and 958 square feet to the Visitor Center.

Partnerships, Mergers & Acquisitions

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is partnering with Senior Care Services to promote wellness communication and improved patient outcomes. Those identified patients will receive letters introducing this new service, along with a call to participate in the Senior Care Program.

Prime Capital Investment Advisors has partnered with Earth Equity Advisors to expand PCIA’s national footprint and provide the firm with valued momentum in the sustainable, responsible, and impact investing space while adding $151 million in assets under management.

Bojangles and Appalachian Mountain Brewery have partnered to brew Bojangles Hard Sweet Tea. The two Carolina-born brands joined forces to carefully combine Bojangles’ knowledge of expertly steeped sweet tea and AMB’s award-winning brewing innovation.

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WNCBusiness.com | 9 cheers!


Anniversaries & Milestones

Marshall’s only fine dining restaurant, the Star Diner, celebrates its sixth anniversary on Feb 2, 2023. Led by former Tupelo Honey chef Brian Sonoskus and his wife Kate, the restaurant features classic fare, seafood, and French-inspired dishes in a unique, historical setting.

Roxanna Pepper celebrates her 20th anniversary with Hendersonville nonprofit Children & Family Resource Center. Former directors and board members came together to celebrate.

Celebrating their 60th Anniversary, Mountain Credit Union was originally formed on April 5, 1963 to serve federal employees in Asheville. Fran Miller, along with six other individuals began the process of chartering AFE Federal Credit Union, later to become Mountain Federal Credit Union and then Mountain Credit Union.

The Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity celebrated its 40th anniversary. Since incorporating on February 11, 1983, thousands of local adults and children have benefitted from AAHH’s affordable homeownership and home repair program.

HenDough Chicken & Donuts celebrated its seventh anniversary in March. The owners of the counter-serve restaurant say that Hendersonville is one of the best communities to be a part of.

Blue Ghost Brewing Company in Fletcher celebrated its seventh anniversary in March. Part of their mission is to educate, protect, and promote the biodiversity of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, their name nodding to the unique Blue Ghost Firefly.

Simply Sweet Baby Boutique in Murphy celebrated its sixth anniversary. The shop features baby and children’s clothing and accessories.

Do You Have a Shout-Out? Go to WNCBusiness.com/SubmitNews to submit it.
Want More Customers? Get on the Map! Connect with visitors who are actively looking for fun places to eat, drink, shop, and experience in Asheville and Hendersonville. The Discovery Maps of Asheville and Hendersonville publish annually and are distributed at hundreds of high-traffic locations. Feature your business on the map! Contact for Marketing Opportunities: 828-513-3888 | info@hulseymedia.com

Henderson County Chamber’s 100th Annual Dinner and Awards

Fair Nabers Waggoner, City President at United Community Bank, presented the Environmental Sustainability Award to Mast General Store, and said the company is taking a wide variety of steps to improve the community environment.

Michele Garashi-Ellick, President at the Four Seasons Rotary Club, presented the Education Champion award to Nessa’s Young’uns Natural Play Center owner Vanessa Gilliam M.Ed. LECE, and said the early childhood education facility has a meaningful and significant impact on education.

Maria Pilos, Director of Marketing at DMJPS, presented the Industrialist of the Year award to Blake Kehoe, Director of Engineering at Lassande Pappas, and said the recipient has been dedicated to working at the same facility for 43 years, remaining Plant Manager for four businesses within the same facility.

The Henderson County Chamber of Commerce hosted its 100th Annual Dinner and Awards on Thursday, Jan 26, celebrating a milestone year as well as acknowledging outstanding individuals, businesses, and organizations for their contributions to the community in and around Hendersonville. Awards and their recipients include:

• Ambassador of the Year - Cindy Novak , Commercial Accounts Manager at Horizon Heating and Air Conditioning,

• Small Business Leader - Geoff Bagwell , Director of Operations at Imoco Inc.,

• Camp Industry Leaderships AwardHaynes Family, Owners of Camp Ton-A-Wandah ,

• Environmental Sustainability AwardMast General Store ,

• Education Champion- Nessa’s Young’uns ,

• Industrialist of the Year -Blake Kehoe , Director of Engineering at Lassande Pappas,

• Nonprofit of the Year - Children & Family Resource Center,

• First Citizens Bank Customer Service Award - Dan Poeta , Owner of Horizon Heating & Air Conditioning,

• Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award - Dr. David Ellis , Chief Medical Officer at Pardee UNC Health Care,

• G . Ray Cantrell Award - Jeff Miller, Owner of Miller’s L&C Inc.

Bobby Bennett, Hospice Home Stores

Retail Director and General Manager at Four Seasons Foundation said the 2023 Ambassador of the Year Award winner Cindy Novak, Commercial Accounts Manager at Horizon Heating and Air Conditioning, is irreplaceable and instrumental in the success of the Ambassadors and the Chamber.

Anderson Ellis, an attorney at Van Winkle Law Firm, said the recipient of the Small Business Leader award, Geoff Bagwell, Director of Operations at Imoco Inc., has a unique perspective of the local small business community.

Milton Butterworth, Community Health Manager at Pardee UNC Health Care, said the recipient of the Camp Industry Leaderships Award, the Haynes family, has a primary mission of building character and positive development of youth.

Trina Stokes, Foundation Director at AdventHealth Hendersonville, presented the Nonprofit of the Year award to Children & Family Resource Center, and said this nonprofit realizes the importance of partnering with other groups and nonprofits in order to meet the needs of children in the community.

Amber Webb, Manager of Retail Banking at First Citizens Bank, presented the First Citizens Bank Customer Service Award to Dan Poeta, Owner of Horizon Heating & Air Conditioning, and said Poeta and his staff understand that success comes from working smarter and harder.

Lisa Parrish, Duke Energy Government and Community Relations Manager, presented the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award to Dr. David Ellis, Chief Medical Officer at Pardee UNC Health Care, and said Ellis provides significant contributions to people and improves their quality of life.

Randy Hunter, Owner of the Hunter Corporation, presented the G. Ray Cantrell Award, the Chamber’s most prestigious award, to Jeff Miller, Owner of Miller’s L&C Inc., Hunter said Miller has had a tremendous positive impact on the community.

WNCBusiness.com | 11

Regional Roundup

Business News from Around Western North Carolina

Buncombe County

New Project Focuses on Affordable Housing, Education, Wellness

ASHEVILLE - First Baptist Church of Asheville and the YMCA of Western North Carolina are uniting on a bold and unprecedented project to develop their neighboring properties as a walkable urban village that helps meet community needs for affordable workforce housing, early childhood development and

education, health and well-being, and more. Between them, the church and the YMCA own approximately 10 acres in downtown Asheville at the eastern gateway of the central business district. With the working name “Project Aspire,” these mission-based organizations hope to transform their shared landscape for the next 100 years of community service. The design will prioritize sustainable building systems, public green spaces, and pedestrian connectivity, ensuring

that the development is environmentally responsible and accessible to all.

Source: YMCA of Western North Carolina

Caldwell County

Lenoir Company Recognized by Governor’s Office

LENOIR - Seven North Carolina companies were recognized in February for growing their sales success in international markets

12 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023

at the 2022 Governor’s Export Awards. The Governor’s Office partnered with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina to develop this awards program, now in its fourth year. FAIRFIELD® Chair was founded in Lenoir in 1921 and has been manufacturing and selling high-quality and high-end furniture to customers throughout North Carolina and around the United States ever since. Today they have customers around the world who value American style and craftsmanship. Rashelle Jones, director of marketing for FAIRFIELD®, said the EDPNC is a valuable resource for the company, and with the support of the EDPNC, FAIRFIELD® is able to continue focusing on their goals of increasing the export of handcrafting quality furniture and providing careers for the talented artisans of Lenoir.

Source: NC Department of Commerce

Cherokee County

Grants Support Multiple Cherokee County Improvement Projects

BRYSON CITY - The Southwestern Commission authored a grant from the Rural Economic Development Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce that was awarded to a

Cherokee County community. A $600,000 grant will support the Town of Bryson City’s plans to complete the design and construction of a streetscape project on Main Street from the intersections of Veterans Boulevard to Everett Street. In addition to this grant award, the Town of Murphy received $665,000 to support plans to renovate the Town Square as an early step to improve public spaces downtown, and Cherokee County was awarded $550,000 that will support the acquisition of 27.58-acre wooded property to be marketed for economic development purposes.

Source: Southwest Commission

Clay County

Public Health and EMS Services to Increase Capacity, Training

CLAY COUNTY - The Southwestern Commission authored a grant from the Rural Economic Development Division of the North Carolina Department of Commerce that was awarded to Clay County. Clay County was awarded $850,000 to purchase 13.3 acres that will help stabilize public health services and increase the capacity of EMS. The only Community Paramedic Program Training

New Agreement Supports Offshore Wind Energy for NC

North Carolina Secretary of Commerce

Machelle Baker Sanders and Director General Kristoffer Böttzauw of the Danish Energy Agency signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies. The agreement, known as the Cooperation on Offshore Wind Energy and Related Sectors agreement, will greatly enhance North Carolina’s ability to responsibly develop offshore wind energy. Böttzauw said they are looking forward to sharing their experiences with NC on building the workforce, supply chain, and infrastructure needed to support offshore

wind. The offshore wind industry – and its supply chain – represent a potential $140 billion in economic investment along the east coast of the United States. North Carolina is favorably positioned to attract a large share of this investment, supporting tens of thousands of familysustaining jobs for North Carolinians, and clean, renewable energy to power hundreds of thousands of North Carolina homes and businesses, according to a report released by the N.C. Department of Commerce in 2021.

Source: Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina

Facility in the Southwest region will also be created in this location.

Source: Southwest Commission

Cleveland County Building Reuse Program Supports New Jobs

SHELBY - The NC Rural Infrastructure Authority authorized a $500,000 grant under the state’s Building Reuse Program that will support the reuse of a 253,500-square-foot building located in Shelby. The building will be occupied by Robert Bosch Tool, a manufacturer of power tools, power tool accessories, and measuring tools. The company will create 78 jobs and invest $744,534 in the project.

Source: NC Department of Commerce

Haywood County County/City Leadership responds to Closing of Canton Paper Mill

CANTON - Haywood County Board of Commissioners, along with other elected officials and representatives from Haywood County and municipal governments, attended an informational session regarding the Pactiv-Evergreen

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WNCBusiness.com regional roundup

State Program Helps Communities Leverage Outdoor Recreation Assets

The North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division has selected 34 local governments from across the state to participate in the Creating Outdoor Recreation Economies program. The CORE program offers strategic planning and technical assistance to help rural communities leverage North Carolina’s abundant outdoor recreation assets to bolster local economic vitality. Strategy development will focus on leveraging outdoor recreation assets to increase tourism, encourage small business development, enhance quality of life for residents, plan for asset and infrastructure development, and/or position communities to grow and attract outdoor gear manufacturing industries. Participating WNC communities include: Ashe County, Town of Black Mountain ( Buncombe), Town of Valdese (Burke), Jackson County, and Yancey County.

Source: NC Department of Commerce

regional roundup

closing. Representatives from Haywood Community College, Southwestern Commission, and Land of Sky workforce development will be on hand to provide information about available resources and steps to be taken to implement the North Carolina Department of Commerce Rapid Response/Support for Workers Program. David Francis, Community & Economic Development Director stated “the unfortunate closure of Evergreen has left all us a little shaken and 1,100 employees devastated, but there is a team of dedicated folks at every level of government, community colleges, and chambers of commerce to help the employees of Evergreen to get back on their feet. In the coming days and weeks, this group will be able to assist, educate and to help find employment for the employees of Evergreen.”

Source: Haywood County Administration

Henderson County Manufacturing Company Brings Jobs, Investment to Fletcher

FLETCHER - Global RFID inlays and tags manufacturer, Tageos, will create 64 new jobs in Henderson County, Governor Roy Cooper announced. The company will invest $19.25 million to establish its North American headquarters in the Town of Fletcher. Headquartered in Montpellier, France, Tageos is an innovative designer and manufacturer of high-tech RFID, or radio-frequency identification, inlays and tags. The tech company has an extensive product portfolio that enables its customers to identify, authenticate, track and trace, and complement their offerings in a wide range of applications. With a strong commitment to sustainable practices and operations, Tageos’ expansion to the United States will include a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center that will produce up to five billion units annually for various applications.

Source: Governor Roy Cooper at NC.gov

Jackson County

Local Business Receives Grant for Improvements

DILLSBORO - The NC Rural Infrastructure Authority authorized an $80,000 grant under the state’s Economic Infrastructure program that will support the completion of water system improvements to provide enhanced fire protection water flow and pressure to serve The Jarrett House/ Mount Beulah Hotel, an adjoining restaurant, and the Town of Dillsboro. The company plans to create eight jobs with an investment of $966,370.

Source: NC Department of Commerce

Polk County

Food Truck Takes Over Kitchen at Local Vineyard

MILL SPRING - Relish Food Truck has taken over the kitchen at Parker Binns Vineyard. After years of serving their customers out of a food truck at Lake Lure, the owners, Eric and Schorr Taylor, have outgrown the small space. With a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Eric Taylor creates a food menu including unique twists on traditional menu items like curried shrimp ceviche tacos. Now at Parker Binns Winery, they offer a menu combining simple ingredients for a unique culinary experience as well as a snack menu including classics like a charcuterie board and a white-wine gouda cheese tub to pair with the wines offered at the vineyard.

Rutherford County

New Initiative Offers Opportunities for Residents, Visitors

RUTHERFORDTON - Since breaking ground on the Forest City Data Center in 2010, Meta has invested in projects and partnerships that support the long-term vitality of our community. Alongside our friends at the Town of Forest City and Rutherford BARN, Forest

14 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023

City Data Center marks the launch of a new initiative: Park Square Depot. Park Square Depot was developed as a multipurpose space, offering a year-round variety of recreational and educational opportunities to residents and visitors alike. It will also serve as the new home for the Rutherford County Farmers Market and feature increased space for local small businesses and a commercial-grade community kitchen for demonstrations and trainings.

Source: Forest City Data Center

Rutherford County Isothermal Community College Breaks Ground on New Facility

SPINDALE - Officials broke ground on a new 13,068-square-foot covered instructional riding arena which will be part of the Isothermal Agribusiness Center on Oakland Road. It will support the college’s Animal-Assisted Interactions program, which teaches students how to use horses and other animals to provide therapy for people including veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and those with developmental disabilities.

Source: Isothermal Community College

Watauga County Partnership Improves Electronic Services for Retail Industry

BOONE - United Natural Foods, Inc. and ECRS, a Certified Evergreen™ transaction and retail solutions provider, announced an agreement allowing ECRS to assist new and existing CATAPULT® retail users in taking advantage of the UNFI Professional Services suite from digital coupons and third-party delivery services to more affordable electronic payments. The agreement provides for a direct and formal working relationship and empowers UNFI field associates through ECRS retail automation technology training.

Source: ECRS

Investment Platform Connects Local Communities to Investors

Invest Appalachia, a regional social investment platform, has secured $19 million of new investment in the first close of the Invest Appalachia Fund. The IA Fund will provide capital to community economic development projects including small businesses, real estate, housing, nonprofit enterprises, and community infrastructure. This launch follows six years of collaborative stakeholder design and creates new community controlled resources and permanent infrastructure for Central Appalachia. In an underinvested region with a history of economic exploitation, IA is connecting local communities to national investors through a cutting-edge impact investment model.

Source: Invest Appalachia

Accessible Appalachia Wins Grant to Promote Economic Diversity

Galvanized by the belief that the beauty and richness of Appalachian wilderness should be accessible to all, a network of regional leaders has launched a new social media campaign aimed at building awareness of highly accessible outdoor destinations for people with disabilities. The initiative was born as a result of the team’s participation last year in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s Leadership Institute. The cohort of 10 regional leaders and activists was challenged to create an actionable plan to promote regional economic diversity and help their communities thrive. The grassroots group competed for and won a small grant from the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy, a partner in the ARC Leadership Institute, to fuel the Accessible Appalachia project.

Source: Accessible Appalachia

Foothills Regional Commission Requests Feedback Before Updating 5-Year Economic Development Plan

Foothills Regional Commission is the lead organization designated by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to facilitate economic development planning and assistance in Cleveland , McDowell , Polk , and Rutherford Counties and their municipalities. The key planning tool used in this effort is the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, and 2023 marks the time to update this five-year economic development plan for the region. The Foothills Regional Commission is requesting participation in the development of the 2023 CEDS report. The Commission encourages feedback and insight about the region by participating in this 10-minute survey. The CEDS survey will remain open until April 30th, 2023.

Source: Polk County Local Government


WNC’s Small Business Landscape

Western North Carolina is a favorable region in which to do business. From the state’s low startup costs and low tax rates to the region’s numerous support networks and organizations to the abundance of creatives and entrepreneurs in the area, many could think of no better place to own and operate a small business than WNC.


How to Start a Small Business in NC

Nick Hawks, founder of 1-2 Teach You and teacher with the North Carolina Community College Small Business Centers, is a long time small business owner who shared some information and insight into the significance of small businesses in the state as well as the necessary steps to take in order to create your own small business.

North Carolina is one of the best, easiest, and most popular states to start a business in, according to Hawks, because it has the fourth lowest business startup cost and the third lowest tax rate in the country. Hawks shared results from a study stating the top motivations for starting one’s own business. Forty-nine percent of people said they wanted to be independent, and 43% said they wanted to have freedom and flexibility. Other reasons included: people wanted extra income, to share their creative passion, work from home, or found an opportunity to fill a niche in a specific market.

Small businesses make up 99.6% of all businesses in the state. This represents a total of 964,280 businesses and 1.7 million employees or (45.1% of all NC employees). As of 2021, the top five industries represented by these small businesses are:

• O ther Services (excluding Public Administration) - 125,511

• Professional, Scientific, and Technical services - 120,826

• C onstruction - 116,863

• Administrative, Support, and Waste Management - 101,586

• R eal Estate and Rental Leasing94,968

Small business ownership varies by demographic group as well. Of all small businesses in NC, ownership demographics are represented by:

• Women - 44.2%

• African American - 13.6%

• Veterans - 8.4%

• Hispanics - 6.2%

• Asian - 3.8%

*Above data from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.

According to the Small Business Administration, the definition of a small business varies according to industry. Some ‘small businesses’, like those described by the North American Industry Classification System as Automobile and Light Duty Motor Vehicle Manufacturing, can maintain that classification with up to 1,500 employees. Other industries, such as Fruit and Vegetable Merchant Wholesalers, can maintain that classification with up to 100 employees.

Within the 22 westernmost counties of North Carolina, for 2020, there were 172,783 businesses with nine or fewer employees. The majority of these businesses are categorized as follows:

• S-corporations - 86,224

• C-corporations - 36,208

• Individual Proprietorships - 19,280

• Partnerships - 16,560

• Nonprofit - 13,662

• Government - 346

• O ther non-corporate legal forms of organization - 503

*Above data from the U.S. Census Bureau

Survival rates of small businesses tend to be around 80% for the first year, and the number of surviving businesses declines after more years in business. After five years, 55% of small businesses are still in operation, and after 15 years, only 25% of businesses are still in operation, according to Hawks.

“The majority of small businesses fail because there is no market for what they are offering,” Hawks said. “They could also be outcompeted, face pricing or cost issues, have no business model, or use poor marketing strategies.”

Hawks said that it is important to research market needs before spending time and money with business startup costs. He said that it’s imperative to know the businesses values, mission, and target market. In addition, startups will need a business plan, name, structure, and an understanding of the products the business will handle, if applicable.

“There are always classes on how to make a business plan,” Hawks said. “Plan ahead, make sure you have the resources, do your market research, and account for startup costs.”

Examples of startup costs can include: research, opening a facility, advertising, travel costs for securing distributors or suppliers, consulting fees, fees to organize

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a partnership or corporation, wages to train employees, and costs to create a product inventory, according to Hawks. He also said that liability insurance, rent, and utility bills should also be considered for brick-and-mortar locations.

When starting up a new small business, considerations also have to be made for the type of business structure that makes sense for the company. Different organization structures include:

Sole Proprietorship - Owner is responsible for profits and losses and legally liable for the business.

C- or S-corporation - Owned by shareholders and managed by Board of Directors.

General Partnership - Two or more owners that are both legally liable and contribute money, labor, and skills as well

Nonprofit Corporation - Owned by members and managed by Board of Directors with no tax on income.

Limited Liability Corporation - Member ownership legally separated from individuals.

Another important consideration when creating a business, according to Hawks, is deciding on its name. When considering options, Hawks said it may help to say it out loud and share the idea with others. He said to check the NC Secretary of State business database at SOSNC.org to see if the business name already exists, and to make sure that the new business name is not too similar to an established business.

Once a name has been decided, the next step is to file an Assumed Business Name with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina at EDPNC.

information on corporate and employer forms that may need to be filed.

Hawks said it is also helpful to go ahead and register a domain name for your website, and there are a variety of platforms with which to do so. A business can also register a trademark for any intellectual property, start social media accounts to claim handles, and obtain an Employee Identification Number for tax purposes.

It will also be necessary for businesses to register at NCDOR.gov to pay state income taxes as well as file annual reports with the Secretary of State.

Other NC small business startup requirements can include permits or licenses for specific occupations or zoning locations. Federal, state, and local agencies may have different requirements, so it is important to check with them all.

Access to Capital and Support for Entrepreneurs

Since 1989, Mountain BizWorks has helped more than 1,900 businesses in the 26 westernmost counties of North Carolina get started, and helps more than 1,000 businesses each year in a variety

Their 29 staff members and 60 coaches provide services including entrepreneurial development tools, peer-to-peer classes like Business Foundations, one-on-one business coaching, and capital lending for businesses at stages ranging from

As far as capital lending, Executive Director Matt Raker said Mountain BizWorks is a “mission lender focused on funding for entrepreneurs who aren’t able to access lending from a bank.” Loans in the amount of up to $500,000 for startups and/or growing businesses to provide help in purchasing equipment, obtaining property, or other costs may be available.

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Though some businesses may need these large loans, Raker said no ask is too small. “Some of our largest local businesses started by coming to us needing just enough capital to get them a booth at a local farmers market,” he said. “Now, some of these businesses are thriving with 50 or more employees.”

With around 150 clients per year receiving capital lending, Mountain BizWorks provided a total of $10.6 million in 2022, and Raker believes it will be a similar total in 2023.

“We are expanding access to opportunities for everyone,” Raker said. “Whether it’s people in rural areas or those who don’t have access to startup funds, we want to make sure the local economy looks like the local community. Right now, about half of those receiving loans from us are women, and we try to maintain a good overall diversity in other aspects as well.”

More than just startup assistance, established businesses may also need assistance for a variety of needs when it is time to grow and expand. Raker said it is really helpful when a business already has actual numbers and data, and that conversations regarding needs can move more quickly. The Alpine and ScaleUp programs can help in developing growth strategy and hone in goods costs, and once that is dialed in, Raker said it is easier to figure out how to finance the business.

According to Raker, growing businesses must also continue looking at the market for unmet demand. As a business grows, it is really important to have solid financials, and a good CFO. He noted that a CPA, or bookkeeper is a necessity. It’s also key to discover where systems are scalable and where problems may lie.


With 1/3 of capital lending going to startups, Raker said that some entrepreneurs come to Mountain BizWorks with nothing but an idea and

a desire to get started. The Business Foundations course can help people figure out the market, perform an analysis, and determine if their idea is viable or not. Once they are ready, the entrepreneur can then apply for a loan.

“Over 10,000 people have completed our Foundations course,” Raker said. “This course helps business owners learn the basics so that they are well prepared and equipped as they begin their business. We also offer the Alpine and ScaleUp courses

for those needing support further along in their journey.”

Within one-on-one coaching programs, topics can vary widely. Raker said the coaches at Mountain BizWorks are area business owners with a variety of expertise who want to give back to the business community, and can help with anything from establishing a general business plan to financials to marketing.

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“Over half of area business owners are older than 55.”

wnc’s small business landscape

Learning Program Associate Lilley Washburn said sometimes business owners may think that growth is the solution to their challenges, but that’s not always the case. She said sometimes it’s more of a focus on the profitability of what a business is currently doing and tuning that in that can open up opportunities. “When a business is marginally profitable, market research analysis is extremely helpful,” said Washburn. “Capturing the customer segment a business is targeting and where they can be found is key, and it’s possible to run experiments and see what happens to demand. Minor adjustments can make a big difference.”

There are also several specialty programs that highlight important areas of opportunity for the community. For example, focusing on the artsy nature of the region, Washburn said Craft Your Commerce is a twice-yearly program focused on local crafters, makers, and artisans. The program is helping those creative and craft-centered businesses understand strategies through business training classes that were designed by makers.

Washburn also said WNC is a great region for small businesses. “Our communities are super locally focused and love local businesses,” she said. “They think local first, which creates a great environment in which to get started. The high level of collaboration and connectivity allows entrepreneurs to grow teams within programs and organizations which can give each other a good edge and support when they need it.”


When business owners are ready to sell their business, they can also turn to Mountain BizWorks for help. The organization now offers a Market Advisors program that can help both buyers and sellers looking to transition into or out of business ownership.

“We are in a decade of transition,” Raker said. “Over half of area business owners are older than 55, and 80% of those will look to shift out of their business in the next decade. There is a whole other avenue to business ownership through acquisition, and we are helping entrepreneurs realize those opportunities.”

Raker said the goal is to help retain these established local businesses because small businesses were struggling to find buyers.

“We can help increase the market and help these businesses do more,” Raker said. “Entrepreneurs can take advantage of this economic opportunity and be their own boss, realize their dream, create financial security, and gain value from their predecessor without having to build something from the ground up.”


Raker and Washburn agree that though some entrepreneurs may be hesitant to share their ideas, the opposite is more beneficial. They said it is really important to gather different points of view and different opinions, and that people have to get over the hesitancy to share their ideas.

Raker and Washburn also shared that there are lots of great organizations working on various aspects of small business support. “We work closely with small business centers at local colleges who offer very specific classes, whereas we offer more in overall strategies,” Washburn said.

“Whether it’s through any other organization, we try to do a good job of referring people back and forth,” Raker said. “The important thing is that entrepreneurs can reach out to any of us; just get started somewhere and one of us will get you plugged in to where you need to be.”

New Entrepreneur Resource Connects Small Businesses to Entrepreneurial Support Organizations

With so many entrepreneurial support organizations throughout the state of North Carolina, Supportedly Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Kissel saw an opportunity to help connect entrepreneurs to the support that they need to grow their business at whatever growth level they are in.

Supportedly is a new free online platform that helps business owners find the support, advice, and access to capital that they may need. “We were just a directory at first, then we discovered that there is a deeper need to connect these entrepreneurs to the right entrepreneurial support organization for where they are in their business journey,” Kissel said. “Now, they will no longer have to dig through

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“Small businesses provide the majority of jobs, and even solopreneurs are important to building the ecosystem.”

multiple websites; they can go directly to the organization and program that suits them best.”

Kissel said anyone in the state can use the Supportedly platform to get right to region-specific content, share their journey and their business, watch videos of fellow entrepreneurs giving industryspecific advice, engage in peer-to-peer learning, find applicable ESOs, and interact with other entrepreneurs to ask questions and gain feedback.

The organization is working on a new directory-piloting navigator program that should be launched toward the end of April, according to Kissel, which can provide entrepreneurs a match to the specific support they need in the area in which they operate. Since not everyone will visit the Supportedly website directly, this system offers a plugin that can also be

installed on the websites of ESOs without breaking the user’s experience. They will get curated listing links to websites’ programs and options of places where they can learn more.

“Organizations using that host navigator on their site will have the ability to add, update, or archive their own programs,” Kissel said. “It’s a tool that the entire ESO community can proactively help keep updated, allowing the community to stay on top of the most recent additions.”

With funding coming from a Dogwood Health Trust grant, this dynamic tool provides a holistic look at what the startup ecosystem provides throughout the state. “Supportedly will be able to offer its services at no cost through June of 2024 for DHT’s area footprint, and we can embed the plugin on sites for free until then,” Kissel said. “After that time,

we still want this to be a low barrier, affordable annual subscription-based tool for organizations.”

Supportedly will continue to add functionality and perform needed updates to sustain the tool, as well as add additional curated core business training pieces and specific webinars from small business centers, according to Kissel. She said additional webinars from other organizations may be added to the website as well.

Supportedly also offers entrepreneurs the ability to ask questions, some of which Kissel answers herself. She said if she doesn’t know the answer or if someone needs a specific recommendation, she will happily make an introduction to a known, trusted connection within the community. If she receives similar questions from a

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wnc’s small business landscape

variety of individuals, she said that helps her to pinpoint topics that would create good blog posts to generalize advice for entrepreneurs.

“We are also working to launch an asynchronous program for entrepreneurs to ask and answer questions for each other,” Kissel said. “Creating more community as well as connectivity to these startup ecosystems can create a higher rate of entrepreneur success in a meaningful way.”

Kissel reflected on what she said was a profound moment with leaders in economic development in Catawba County when someone said they need to get large organizations and manufacturers to the area. She said while everyone does believe that is important, one individual responded that what is most important is to support the smaller Main Street businesses, as those must be in place for the larger businesses to want to come.

“Every single business in Western North Carolina is important,” Kissel said. “They all support and bolster the economy. Small businesses provide the majority of jobs, and even solopreneurs are important to building the ecosystem. This holistic approach to connecting entrepreneurs to

each other and to ESOs is imperative to support businesses of all sizes.”

Online Training Concepts

Growing Businesses and Improving Retention with Online Training Resources

Started in 2019 as a side project, Founder and CEO of Online Training Concepts Shane Parreco had an idea to utilize online training courses to better serve students. Formerly a paragliding instructor, Parreco said he first created an online curriculum for his students. Before long, he saw engagement from all over the world, and saw a need for that kind of resource. Other paragliding schools began to reach out wanting to participate. Parreco said he learned about other software programs, tracking data, certificates, and more, and then other schools wanted to invest to make these programs better. He created a business, set up commerce and course sales, and began to engage with the U.S. Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association and host their endorsed content.

Sara Martin, COO and Client Services Director, said that they figured out that all the things they were learning and doing for educational platforms can also be beneficial for growing businesses. She

said that they made the commitment to go full time and give the idea life and room to grow.

Online Training Concepts offers business development services for organizations in an online format. “We are bringing training and onboarding content into the 21st century,” Martin said. “With the tools to make it interactive and easy, we can build programs from scratch to capture key information, presenting it in a way that speaks to adult learning principles and can reach people more easily.”

“Modernizing existing content and making it more accessible can make information easier to digest,” Parreco said. “By breaking it down into bite-sized pieces, people can have the opportunity to work through the content on their own, take frequent breaks, and celebrate their wins along the way.”

“It’s also the unwritten message that the company sends,” Martin said. “Reevaluating the delivery system of training and onboarding can set the tone with an engaging experience in a well designed program. Not only does this start the participant by immersing them into company culture, it sends a message to participants that they are valued by

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the company having taken the time to introduce their why, as well as highlighting why the participants are important.”

Online Training Concepts is also pushing into virtual and augmented reality training, according to Parreco. He said they have their finger on the pulse of the data that supports immersive VR training experience, saying that they can be very successful due to the lack of distraction. “The same gear developed for online gaming and entertainment can be used as we enter the frontier of online training,” Parreco said. “The technology is maturing and becoming more affordable. This style of training can be truly immersive. People are learning four times faster than in the ‘real world’ with an opportunity for repetition and practice, creating familiarity and confidence with systems

wnc’s small business landscape

and processes. This can be a huge benefit in the manufacturing world as VR trainings can be much safer for people getting comfortable with expensive and potentially dangerous equipment.”

“Online education was on the rise anyway, but since Covid, many businesses and organizations realized how much of their operations that VR world really is,” Martin said.

Martin said financial institutions are recognizing the long-term implications of how retention is affected by accessible and engaging training materials. By realizing this importance, institutions may feel more inclined to help financially support the growth of small businesses. She said OTC can even set up tracking metrics and analytics that can be reported back to lenders showing how effective improving their programs is.

Parreco and Martin understand that improved online experiences can never replace the value of in-person interactions, but they said the online experiences can definitely better support those in person interactions.

“By front loading information for new clients or new hires, these people can come into an understanding and empowerment by knowing what is expected of them and what they can expect from the company,” Parreco said. “These people are walking into an initial meeting with much more information and can have deeper discussions and ask more informed questions, allowing these initial conversations to go much further than they would have without the online portion.”

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events that help create connections in the community as well as serves as a social outlet for those working from home.

“I’ve been working remotely for the last seven to eight years, two and a half of those here in Asheville, and while it works, there is a level of social isolation,” Pratte said. “I met with a few other entrepreneurs over beers and brought up the idea of doing a Meetup. Well, 30 people registered — and 30 people actually showed up. That’s not a typical result, and I figured I was onto something here.”

That first event with 30 people was held in June of 2021, and the size of the group has grown significantly in a short amount of time. Pratte said some events are small lunches with 20 to 30 people, though a recent larger event hosted over 200 people.

Sarah Andrews, an organizer with Asheville Digital Nomads, said while there were talks of the organization hosting programming or informational events, those ideas “got weird and fell flat.” She said that the purpose of the group is casual socializing, not instruction.

Parreco said small businesses can benefit from solutions provided by OTC as their team of 12 helps create everything from web development, videos, and content production to interactive training and onboarding systems, digital learning academies, and even augmented reality trainings that leads to better staff and client engagement with their company.

“We also recognize that budgets can be a concern, and we want to make our programs accessible for any business, Parreco said. “We can institute a phased approach, creating a product with a staged timeline and a monthly payment instead of one large product and cost. We can get the business to where they need to be and can best manage resources to fit their needs.”

Martin said a business is not required to have an outline of what its needs are. She said that with their deep discovery

start, they can learn the needs and the opportunities that will work best.

“We can discover what the pain points are and what the solutions can be for each of those,” Martin said. “By coming at this from a curiosity standpoint, we can talk it out, figure it out, and illuminate some things that may have gone unnoticed. We are discovering what can support them the best, then building the pieces of the puzzle and putting it all together.”

Connecting Remote Workers to Each Other and Local Businesses

Asheville Digital Nomads is a social networking group consisting of more than 1,240 members and growing.

Born out of the need for remote workers to gather and socialize, founder Ric Pratte said the group hosts a variety of regular

Pratte said the group started to grow slowly and steadily with a wide variety of remote workers. “All of these new members want to connect, socialize, and not feel isolated,” he said. “I thought it would be a group of tech dudes like my community up north, but here in Asheville the variety of remote information workers crosses all genders and all kinds of occupations.”

The group is also widening the possibility of connections in the community and opening up pathways for people, according to Pratte. He said there are lots of “wannabe entrepreneurs” in the area, and this community helps to let people know about the vast amount of area resources available.

The group is not exclusive to entrepreneurs and small business owners; it is available to anyone in business that works remotely.

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A large social gathering of Asheville Digital Nomads.

Pratte said everyone deserves to not feel isolated.

Whether a business owner, solopreneur, or a remote employee, anyone working remotely can visit Meetup.com to learn more and join the group. “People working at all levels of entrepreneurship as well as people working for other people are welcome to come and connect,” said Andrews. “We are working to make this channel between business and life more visible as well, and thinking of ways to leverage what we have here.”

Area small businesses with a physical location and/or an event space can benefit from the group in other ways, according to Pratte. Several businesses have reached out to the group and asked them to host an event at their location knowing that the group will bring people out and spread the word about their business. “It’s great

for someone wanting to show off a new space,” he said.

Andrews also said small businesses are benefiting from hosting events. “It is so satisfying to bring hundreds of people to local businesses when they would normally be slow,” she said. “We are exposing these people to different businesses and their spaces, and it’s likely that many members will return to them and spread the word.”

A side effect of this social network is that relationships are growing, according to Andrews. “Friendships and partnerships are being formed,” she said. “There have been remote workers visiting the area that have attended a few events and decided to stay. There is also business matchmaking happening. By bringing a lot of people together and knowing who is doing what, we can help facilitate growth.

Possible new ventures are on the horizon that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.”

Asheville Digital Nomads posts upcoming gatherings on Meetup.com, and Andrews said they always try to have at least three to four upcoming events posted. Pratte said people used to just show up, but now members must register for events, and some locations have various capacities. “We have to make sure the event spaces can fit all of us in there,” he said. “Our members are really showing up.”

In addition to MeetUp.com, Asheville Digital Nomads recently started a Slack channel, an Instagram profile, and are working on developing a website in order to facilitate even more connections.

Pratte said the group is serving more areas than exclusively Asheville. “From

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Weaverville, Waynesville, and Burnsville, there is a thriving part of the region’s economy that remote workers bring to the area,” he said. “Many are bringing in salaries above the average pay grade for WNC, and they all want to connect and be a part of the community. We want to help facilitate these connections in the best way that we can.”

Hubs of Support and Networking for Remote Workers

Remote working seems to be here to stay, and organizations are creating ways to help foster this type of work environment. There are now at least 10 coworking spaces in Asheville and more popping up in other towns around the region. Coworking spaces offer standard office necessities including desks, meeting spaces, high-speed internet access, private call rooms, printers, scanners, and coffee makers.

Coworking spaces also encourage networking among members. Sean Comeaux and Erika Gifford of Hatch Innovation Hub and 1 Million Cups Asheville said they have seen new partnerships created from entrepreneurs engaging with others within their coworking space. “People have opportunities to meld and develop ideas as well as help each other solve problems. They are bouncing ideas off each other and even creating new businesses,” Comeaux said.

Many coworking spaces offer learning opportunities as well. Educational and inspirational workshops as well as networking events for members

are offered regularly at several area coworking offices, expanding the benefits of memberships.

Newcomers to Western North Carolina seem to enjoy the opportunity to meld into the local business community. Comeaux and Gifford said that 60% to 70% of their members are new to town within the last two years. “We are plugging people into their community, and opening up the community in a way that people didn’t know was even possible,” Gifford said. “It’s a feel-good place to be.”

A New Opportunity for Hispanic and Latin Entrepreneurs

During the last quarter of 2022, Pharus Global Executive Vice President Rudy Chacon and his wife, Pharus Global Director of Business Development Ellen Chacon worked with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce to create the Latin Business Council.

Rudy Chacon said the Council was created based on the needs of the many Latin and minority entrepreneurs in the Asheville area and to make sure that they are aware of and receive the same resources and opportunities available to entrepreneurs of any descent.

“We are able to create connections and open doors, providing an opportunity that wasn’t there before,” Rudy Chacon said. “Speaking the same language provides a level of comfort to these people and allows us to be a voice for the Latin business community. It’s also really a fun culture; these people are really passionate about the things they are doing.”

With previous experience creating programs and bringing in resources for Hispanic communities with the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Chacon and other Chamber members presented a survey to Latin businesses in the Asheville area to discover the needs of the local Hispanic and minority entrepreneur community. According to their survey’s results, the largest need of these entrepreneurs is access to capital in order to grow their business.

To meet this need, one of the programs that will be put in place is called Access to Capital. The Asheville Area Chamber has already granted approval to launch this program, which should occur sometime in 2023.

The Latin Business Council has also begun work to create initiatives and sponsorships that can help provide real solutions to real problems that are faced by minority entrepreneurs. “We are reaching out to large companies like Pratt & Whitney that may be able to provide funding that can help some of these small businesses grow and succeed,” Rudy Chacon said.

Established businesses that are ready to level-up are in the right space to work with the Latin Business Council. Using the Chacon’s business, Pharus Global, in addition to other local business resource organizations like Mountain BizWorks to provide an entire ecosystem of resources, entrepreneurs can have access to more than just capital.

“Our business really helps reduce the operating costs for any growing business,” Ellen Chacon said. “We help identify backend issues that a business may have and

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“By bringing a lot of people together and knowing who is doing what, we can help facilitate growth.”

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provide a variety of options for services to choose from while using only one contact person, all while maintaining excellent customer service.

“Through our business, we are building genuine business relationships and finding solutions for businesses regardless of the problem that they may be experiencing,” she said.

The Latin Business Council can provide any service or solution that is offered by Pharus Global from bookkeeping, payroll solutions, and capital access to exit plans, mergers and acquisitions, and locating business buyers.

The Latin Business Council is also planning community networking and educational events to let members know what is offered. An inclusive organization,

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Staff and coaches at the Western Women’s Business Center.

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Rudy Chacon said the inspiration for his entrepreneurial mindset comes from his immigrant father’s determination. “I’ve always heard him say ‘There must be an easier way’,” he said. “I want to help others find that easier way.”

Helping Women and Minority Entrepreneurs Develop their Small Businesses

Amy Cervantez, Program Associate for the Western Women’s Business Center, said since moving to the location at the Asheville Mall in 2022, the amount of women showing interest in assistance with their business has tripled.

Since founding in 2015, the WWBC is a nonprofit organization that provides coaches to work with business clients who are mostly women entrepreneurs starting a new small business. Coaches can help these women with everything from creating a business plan to marketing, financing, learning how to pitch and network.

a business seeking assistance does not have to be Hispanic. Anyone in any type of business may reach out for help.

“We want to provide education to the entrepreneur community regarding all of the aspects of running a business,” Ellen Chacon said. “So many of these business owners are great at their business, but may benefit from some help in other aspects such as marketing, human resources, or business culture. It’s also increasingly important to focus on employee retention and enhancing the employee experience.”

The Latin Business Council works with many area organizations, primarily Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce as well as Black Wall Street, Hola Carolina,

Mountain BizWorks, Self-Help Credit Union, and Western Women’s Business Center.

Though the Latin Business Council is a new organization, they are already hearing success stories from participating entrepreneurs. According to the Chacons, one company specializing in a quicksale food business operating from a gas station space has already expanded and is being sought after by other gas stations that desire the products in their stores. The Latin Business Council is helping the company with that growth, funding for equipment and payroll, bookkeeping structures, and consulting.

According to Cervantez, the WWBC helps entrepreneurs get “business ready” free of charge. Business owners seeking help from the WWBC must be located within the 22 county range that the Business Center serves, and can start the process of becoming a client with just a 15 minute conversation to gain basic information. Cervantez said they partner with A-B Tech to provide three to four webinars a month. “These webinars discuss a variety of educational topics for small businesses,” she said. “They are always free, always give time for a question-and-answer session at the end of the program, and cover topics from quickbooks education to how to use social media in a business aspect.”

There is also a Digital Learning Academy consisting of free classes in both English and Spanish. The faculty covers a wide variety of topics across a variety of industries and professional backgrounds. Courses can also help businesses obtain

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Women entrepreneurs celebrating at the 2022 Western Women' Business Center Conference.

certifications including Women-Owned Business, Minority-Owned Business, LBGTQ-Owned Business, or VeteranOwned Business which may be able to help a business obtain lending in some situations, according to Cervantez.

“Though we offer services to businesses just starting, established businesses can come to us for help as well,” Cervantez said. “We help businesses at any level connect with learning, certifications, and grants, helping to funnel connections and funding to entrepreneurs ready to grow.”

The Western Women’s Business Center also helps women entrepreneurs gain access to capital. Cervantez said funds are granted through organizations like the Carolina Small Business Development Fund as well as the Small Business Association. She said finance coaches

wnc’s small business landscape

with the WWBC can help businesses find out exactly what they need and get entrepreneurs ready to apply for applicable grants and loans.

Cervantez said the WWBC also offers two pop-up events at the mall every year to makers and creators interested in selling their products. “It’s a pop-up shop in just the right place to get these businesses in front of customers who are ready to purchase,” she said.

The Western Women’s Business Center also hosts a large networking conference each year. The theme for 2023’s conference is ‘Better Together’, and Cervantez said last year’s conference was attended by about 300 women in business, and there are hopes that this year’s conference will be even larger.

Over the years, the WWBC has worked with entrepreneurs across a variety of sectors, according to Cervantez. “We’ve had women working in restaurants, coffee shops, day cares, campgrounds, breweries, and holistic medicine like reiki and acupuncture,” she said. “Many of these are women who left the workforce during Covid, and many who wanted to turn their side hustle into their main hustle. It’s a very ‘Asheville’ blend of businesses.” Cervantez said businesses at any stage are welcome at the WWBC. “Some come in with a brand new idea and nothing else,” she said. “We can start with the very basics, or with established businesses — those that have seen a decline, need marketing help, knowledge of using their websites — we are here to help everyone build their business.”

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industry spotlight Tourism

The magnetism of WNC gives life to the many layers of a thriving tourism industry.

The tourism industry encompasses a variety of aspects, and according to the North American Industry Classification System’s designations, larger industries are broken down into accommodation and food services, as well as arts, entertainment, and recreation. Riverbird Research reported that within the accommodation and food services industry across an 18 county area of WNC, the growth rate was slightly down at -1% between 2017 and 2022, with 41,202 jobs across 2,567 payrolled business locations earning an annual average of $25,445 in 2022. During the same five year time period, NC showed a decreased growth rate of -2%.

Accommodation and food services in Buncombe County supports 17,529 jobs,

followed by Watauga County’s industry of the same supporting 4,333 jobs in 2022. Within the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry across an 18 county area of WNC, the overall concentration of jobs was 1.7 times greater than the national average in 2022.

This industry’s 2017-2022 jobs growth rate of 11% was positive compared to the state’s overall -3% change, with a total of 8,201 jobs earning an annual average of $35,342.

Buncombe County’s arts, entertainment, and recreation industry supported 3,325 jobs, Watauga County with 812 jobs, and closely followed by Avery County with 790 jobs in 2022.

Intentional Tourism Marketing Through Telling Asheville’s Story

The work of Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau is ‘economic development through tourism’, according to its President and CEO Victoria Isley.

Isley said her job with Explore Asheville is to help the city get into the hearts and minds of visitors so that they come and enjoy the area, and then come back again. The marketing efforts are concentrated into four strategic imperatives to attract visitors and conferences that: deliver a balanced recovery and sustainable growth, encourage safe and responsible travel, engage and invite a more diverse

30 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Planes from multiple airlines lined up at Asheville Regional Airport.

audience, and promote and support Asheville’s creative spirit.

“It’s a combination of marketing and storytelling,” Isley said. “Coming into this community during Covid was an opportunity to really listen to the community and be a student of Asheville and Buncombe County, and that continues today.

“It’s really meaningful to me,” Isley said. “Through all of my one-on-one conversations with community members, I’ve never heard so many phrases of people being ‘drawn to’ a place, and I’m listening to why that is. This has shaped the lens through which we tell the colorful story of Asheville as we share the value of our community with potential visitors.”

Isley said tourism programs that encourage day trips outside the city help support Asheville’s story, as well as disperse visitors throughout the region.

“Helping farm tourism in the surrounding small towns is imperative,” Isley said. “It’s an educational opportunity to understand and show how differently the flavor and character of Western North Carolina feels and operates compared to the rest of the state, and how different the region is from nearby areas in Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia.”

Concentrating on attracting the quality of visitors is important as well, according to Isley. Noting that 73% of tourist spending comes from overnight guests, she said that marketing efforts focus on attracting those visitors since they spend more time and money throughout the community and vary their activities the longer they stay. Dispersal across every season is also a marketing focus, as is sustainable growth and responsible values. Isley said marketing efforts offer five-day itineraries throughout the county and across all seasons. She said they are also sharing Leave No Trace campaigns and are working with VisitNC and Year of the Trail to educate visitors on regional opportunities and attractions all year long.

Explore Asheville also works with partners like the Economic Development Commission on initiatives to bring conferences and events into the area that reflect the business verticals they are trying to attract like technology, advanced manufacturing, outdoor products and recreation, climate and environment, and health and medicine, according to Isley. “Business leaders can visit and learn what it might look like to bring their business here,” Isley said. “It’s like the story of Oscar Wong and Highland Brewing; he originally visited the area on vacation, and now that business is woven into the fabric of our community.”

Explore Asheville also works with municipal partners to determine how to invest the Asheville area’s lodging tax dollars, with two thirds of the budget allocated for promoting the area as a leisure and conference destination and the other one third allocated toward tourismrelated capital projects and operating a grant program for municipal partners or nonprofits.

In over 20 years, these funds have helped invest approximately $60 million in 46 community projects including Pack Square Park, the Wortham Center for Performing Arts, the Wilma Dykeman Greenway, the YMI Cultural Center, and more.

Another Explore Asheville-supported project underway is Woodfin Greenway & Blueway which includes expanded amenities in Riverside Park and the instream Wave — a man-made whitewater rafting feature. RiverLink is assisting in the project which includes wetland enhancements, stream restoration, and cleanups along the French Broad River. Upon the Wave’s expected completion in 2025, Riverside Park facilities will include changing rooms and a viewing pavilion. Isley said the community has expressed immense excitement about the project.

continued on next page

The overall concentration of jobs in the 18-county region was just under 1.4 times greater than the national average in 2022. The -1% jobs change in 2017-2022 was comparable to the state’s overall -2% decrease.

WNCBusiness.com | 31
snapshot (NAICS 72) 41,474 Jobs in 2017 41,202 Jobs in 2022 -1% Job Growth -272 2017-2022 Change in Jobs
2022 Average Annual Wage
Payrolled Business Locations in 2022
accomodations & food services
NAICS refers to the North American Industry Classification System. Source: Lightcast, 2023.1 Jobs By County (2022) Buncombe 17,529 Watauga 4 ,333 Henderson 3,905 Jackson 2,326 Haywood 2,303 Rutherford 1,840 Macon 1,765 Transylvania 1,258 McDowell 1,218 Cherokee 975 Swain 884 Avery 879 Polk 512 Madison 336 Yancey 331 Mitchell 301 Graham 267 Clay 238

entertainment, arts & recreation snapshot

(NAICS 71)

7,407 Jobs in 2017

8,201 Jobs in 2022

11% Job Growth


2017-2022 Change in Jobs


2022 Average Annual Wage

535 Payrolled Business Locations in 2022

The overall concentration of jobs in the 18-county region was 1.7 times greater than the national average in 2022.


The Front Seat of WNC’s Tourism Growth

The Asheville Regional Airport is a driver and a facilitator of WNC’s tourism industry. Supporting 10,655 jobs and $727 million in personal income, its 58,204 annual operations help to bring in $118 million in tax revenue and produce an overall $2.26 billion economic impact, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Tina Kinsey, Vice President of Marketing, PR, & Air Service Development for the Asheville Regional Airport said by tracking Wi-Fi data to learn the zip codes of airport visitors, they are able to determine approximately 35% of the traffic is due to locals traveling outward, and about 65% consists of visitors to the region. Over the last six to seven years, the airport has seen about a 10-point increase of visitor traffic compared to that of locals.

they are working to set a groundbreaking date. She said there will be space for more concessions, more security, spaces for art, and live music in the terminal. She noted that it will be bright with lots of natural sunlight, and a true reflection of the region they are stepping into.

Jobs By County (2022)

11% job growth 2017-2022 was positive compared to the state’s overall -3% loss. NAICS refers to the North American Industry Classification System.

Though airport crowds are growing, Kinsey said the airport staff is great at helping to manage the crowds well and though lines can get long, the TSA can process people through security rather quickly. The airport is also adding parking areas for more cars as well as parking for more planes to support increased traffic.

The airport has expanded its unique destinations and routes, and according to Kinsey, that is a long process. She said airport representatives have to talk with airlines, economic development organizations, and traveler’s bureaus to help the airlines decide to add a new route.

“All of the routes have done well,” Kinsey said. “When a new one is added, there is a short period of time during which we can really talk about it, as the airport and airlines work together to build awareness for the new product.”

Airport leadership also knows they must add to the infrastructure internally to manage the growth, according to Kinsey. She said they have been hard at work for years planning the new terminal, and

“Western North Carolina is a nationallyknown and desired destination, attracting visitors from around the country and globe,” said Lew Bleiweis, Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority’s President and CEO. “We have a front-door view of this growth at the airport, as we are the gateway for many of our region’s visitors. We have seen phenomenal increases in passenger traffic in the past seven years, and we served more passengers in 2022 than ever before – a record 1.8 million. The growth is real, and infrastructure expansion is necessary at the airport just as it is throughout our region. Visitor traffic – and the airport itself — are major economic drivers in western North Carolina, and the airport is committed to evolving into the right airport for our region’s future. We’re already on our way, and there’s more to come. Exciting times.”

Education and Support for Tourism-Based Businesses

Create Bridges, a Wal-Mart funded initiative that began to help people in rural areas bounce back from Covid, helped Elissa Hashemi begin We Speak WNC.

“During Covid, I created a Facebook group to talk about where to find supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer,” Hashemi said. “The group slowly morphed to learning what businesses offered what services, and then business owners started reaching out asking about resources. One business owner thought that the Small Business Center was for startups only, and after being in business for 10 years, the owner needed some help and found some guidance. Now, there are many testimonials of business owners

32 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Source: Lightcast,
Buncombe 3,325 Watauga 812 Avery 790 Jackson 611 Henderson 544 Swain 446 Polk 320 Macon 318 Haywood 297 Transylvania 181 Rutherford 154 Madison 132 McDowell 102 Yancey 86 Cherokee 32 Clay 25 Mitchell 19 Graham <10

who used this resource and got help.” Hashemi said she wants people to know what resources are out there. “We want to hear and share stories of their successes so that others can see what the possibilities are in action,” she said. We want entrepreneurs to know that they have a literal army of support behind them, all at no cost to the entrepreneur.”

One of the reasons We Speak WNC was created was to house Got Your Back – a program that Hashemi said helps people become better employers and connect people with resources to those that are working hard to find them.

The Got Your Back Online Academy consists of free online training that provides tools that employers can use to help find and retain the right employees, learn effective leadership strategies, how to handle a variety of challenges, ways to improve workplace training, and more, all helping business owners to become the best employers possible.

Business owners who complete this training receive recognition, and Hashemi

said this recognition will help job seekers to know that these business owners will have their back. “Not only will employees just entering the workforce know that leadership in that business will be supportive and have their back, it also helps parents trust that their teenagers or young adult children are working with businesses that will stand up for their kids.”

Another main idea of We Speak WNC is that staff working in the hospitality industry can be ambassadors for the region. This is a place for front line workers in the industry to gather information about what there is to do in the region, and therefore pass that information along when connecting with their guests and visitors.

“We Speak WNC has become a local voice for what is really here and available for people visiting Western North Carolina,” Hashemi said.

On a mission to find out what people working in businesses like hotels, restaurants, and retail shops really know

about the region, Hashemi said she worked with a class at WCU to ‘secret shop’ 120 regional businesses. She said their data showed that owners and managers are like tour guides in the region when asked for tips on what to do while visiting the area, but in general, the staff was not as knowledgeable.

After the student’s presentation, Hashemi said she also discovered there was a huge disconnect between the college’s faculty, staff, and students and the utilization of what’s around them.

They came up with a WCU bucket list for both staff and students to learn about local businesses, activities, and resources in the area. This bucket list can be distributed to new students to help introduce the area, and used by the students in the College of Business to help connect with area business owners.

Further building connections between students and business owners, through an initiative with Create Bridges, Hashemi organized a field trip for 25 Macon County continued on next page

WNCBusiness.com | 33 tourism
Concents draw visitors to Harrah’s Cherokee Event Center.

buncombe county tourism by the numbers

high school students to visit several local businesses at locations like the farmer’s market, a local restaurant, and the Smokey Mountain Theater.

After a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of these businesses, Hashemi said the students were fascinated by the stories the owners told of their business journey, as well as the work that goes on behind the scenes to produce the results that visitors see. She said two of the students later got jobs at one of these businesses.

“When I asked the kids what they learned on this field trip, one shy teenager quietly responded ‘You don’t have to be rich to start a business’,” Hashemi said. “This field trip showed them that there are limitless possibilities here in WNC, and they realized they too could be business owners one day. That’s really powerful.”

We Speak WNC hosted its first Workforce Conference at the Cherokee Convention Center at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in February. The goal of the conference is to connect businesses in

the retail, hospitality, accommodation, tourism, and entertainment industry to each other, potential employees, and resources that are available in the region.

“We are driving awareness of career opportunities right here in our region,” Hashemi said. “We want kids to meet owners of these businesses, hear their journey, and learn about the windy road to business ownership and how these business owners got to where they are now.”

Tourism Explodes in WNC’s High Country

Beech Mountain

Tourism is a critical piece of the economy for the town of Beech Mountain, according to Kate Gavenus, Director of Tourism and Economic Development. She said whether visitors come for short visits or long stays, year-round residents would not be sustained without them.

Since the pandemic, Beech Mountain has seen an increase in visitors that the

town can hardly manage, according to Gavenus. “It was mostly skiers in the past, and people have now caught on that the summer here is lovely as well,” she said. “It rarely gets above 80 degrees in the summertime, and that’s a commodity.”

Gavenus said the town’s infrastructure wasn’t built to sustain an influx of 10,000 to 30,000 visitors. The town needs more water and sewer capabilities and more roads to be able to accommodate both the tourists as well as people moving into the area.

“People come here on vacation and stay,” Gavenus said. “Some are bringing along their knowledge and expertise. There are now over 60 businesses in town across sectors like construction, trades, cleaning services, and food and beverage. It’s becoming a more diverse town, and that wasn’t always the case.”

Beech Mountain is not a market that has a lot of hotels, according to Gavenus. She said many properties have become shortterm rental homes, and in 2022, there was a total of $24,492,101 in gross receipts in the lodging industry.

34 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023 tourism
Million Workforce Income
Tourism-Based Jobs
Of Total Workforce
of Visitors Stayed Overnight 73% of Visitor Spending was from Overnight Visitors $2.6 Billon Total Visitor Spending $301 Million Transportation $322 Million Recreation & Entertainment $509 Million Retail $812 Million Lodging $698 Million Food & Beverage

Gavenus said she has sought out certain businesses at times, and that it is important to keep a balance of offerings for visitors that fit the community needs as well as the commercial space that is available. “There are not a lot of shovelready properties here,” she said. “We are mindful of encouraging entrepreneurship and businesses that can come in and hire between two and 20 people pretty quickly,”

The town is also working on itself as a product, improving landscaping, lighting, sidewalks, and trails. Gavenus said through their Parks and Recreation department, they have 27 miles of trails. “Outdoor recreation is what we really have to sell, and we must put dollars into making it the best we can,” she said. “Building Outdoor Communities has projects currently going on, and anything

related to outdoor activities, equipment, or supplies is being very encouraged in both Avery and Watauga Counties.”

Blowing Rock

Executive Director of Tourism at the Blowing Rock Tourism Development

Authority Tracy Brown also said that outdoor recreation is a driver of tourism for their town.

Brown said that people visit Blowing Rock for trout fishing, wintertime snow activities, Grandfather Mountain, and Tweetsie Railroad. He also said the Blue Ridge Parkway is by far the largest tourism driver, as the town is located about halfway between Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, making it a great place for travelers to stop and get some rest.

“No one really knows the exact number of people that come through here,” Brown said, “but it’s about 2 million, and those visitors contribute about $1 billion just from visitation across the High Country’s five-county area. Damn near 100% of those visitors are getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Parkway absolutely drives international visitors as well.”

Visitation peaked in Blowing Rock in 2021, but rates are starting to slip, according to Brown. He said despite that, visitor numbers are still 40% above where they were in 2019, and if they slipped another 10% to 20%, that would be okay too.

“Businesses are okay with things slowing down a little,” Brown said. “Some were having a hard time meeting the demand. More visitors are more demanding and

continued on next page

WNCBusiness.com | 35 tourism
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Visitors enjoying food and wine at La Bodega by Cúrate. expect more of the town while businesses have less bandwidth to deal with issues. Supply chain issues, skyrocketing prices, and maintaining staff are some of the things that make it tough.”

Like Gavenus in Beech Mountain, Brown said they are working with businesses that inquire about coming to the area. He said through working with a Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation initiative called Blue Ridge Rising, gateway communities to the Parkway are coming together to talk about business recruitment and how to steer economic development in a way that gets the right types of businesses in place.

“We need support businesses like restaurants for the visitors and locals alike,” Brown said. “Many people want to come here and do short-term rentals, and frankly, we’ve already got plenty of that. We have to be mindful about what the community needs rather than what someone wants to do.”

Blowing Rock is also creating more infrastructure to support the influx of visitors and new residents. Brown said they are looking at increasing parking solutions and boosting the town’s Wi-Fi systems.

One of the challenges for the town is that visitors are staying, pricing locals right out of their own market. “Affordable housing is no longer a big city problem,” Brown said. “We are looking to get some guidance from places like Vail, CO. Because of the shift that happened, people no longer need to live near corporate headquarters, so they are relocating to places they like to travel to. Now, people are moving here from places like San Fansisco, CA and paying cash for houses that are easily going for $1 million.”

Renowned Destinations in WNC Support Thousands of Employees

Between their two locations in Cherokee and Murphy, Harrah’s Cherokee casinos and resorts play a significant role in boosting the economy of Western North Carolina.

Regional Vice President of Marketing for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Brian Saunooke said both facilities employ approximately 4,000 individuals — 3,000 at the Cherokee location and 1,000 at the Murphy location. These individuals represent approximately 5%

of the population of the six westernmost counties in WNC.

The facilities bring in approximately 4.4 million annual visitors. Saunooke said about 30% of these visitors stay overnight in one of Harrah’s hotel rooms, while the remainder either come in for the day or stay at neighboring hotels.

“Gaming is still the primary source of revenue, but the attraction has changed,” Saunooke said.

“It was an evolution. When we first opened, the casino was the largest draw of visitors. Since then, we have added convention and conference centers that are host to many business meetings and conventions. The entertainment and dining options are other major attractions as well.”

Visitors come from all over, according to Saunooke. He said one third of visitors are local to Western North Carolina and the other two thirds come from a variety of locations, many within about a threehour radius. He said it is an easy drive from Atlanta, Charlotte, and Eastern Tennessee, and that the Valley River facility is particularly attractive to the North Georgia market due to its close proximity.

36 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023

Saunooke said the Cherokee resort functions almost like its own small town. He said that celebrity chef restaurants including Gordon Ramsey’s Food Market — a unique concept featuring seven restaurants in one — paired with entertainment, gaming, and other resort amenities create a fairly self-contained environment.

This “small town” of a facility just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and to date, has returned $6 billion to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the owners of the facilities. About $117 million flows into the regional economy in the form of direct salaries, and $30 million is paid directly to local vendors for a variety of services including paper products, food and beverage providers, technology installations, repairs, and more.

The Valley River location, which is a “snapshot of Cherokee 10 years ago”, has a $275 million expansion project currently underway. The project, which broke ground in September of 2022, will add 296 hotel rooms, rooftop dining with unique extraordinary views, a spa, and 25,000 square feet of additional gaming space.

“This expansion will add 100 or more operational positions to our staff,” Saunooke said. “It is also adding 2,500 construction labor positions over the project’s duration, some of which are filled by locals and some are being filled by people coming to Murphy from outside of Western North Carolina.”

The year-round nature of this facility is also helpful to the region, according to Saunooke. He said many tourism-based businesses in the far west counties close

throughout the winter, and conversely Harrah’s maintains their operations and staff all year long.

Saunooke said the facilities offer a huge variety of careers. To support this variety, the company offers professional development programs, possible tuition reimbursement, and career development programs. He said there are internship programs, preferences for hiring internal applicants, and a development program for enrolled members of the Cherokee tribe to expose interested individuals to more aspects of the casino, allowing them to discover positions they like, as well as advance their careers.

More than gaming and bar staff, the company has positions in human resources, finance, entertainment,

tourism continued on next page


production, marketing and more. “These are really great jobs right here in WNC,” Saunooke said. “I myself am grateful that I was able to return home after college and find a career right here.”

Expanding Business Avenues Within the Tourism Industry

When Curaté Owner Katie Button first visited Asheville, she and her family knew the city was the right place to open their first restaurant.

“It was a feeling,” said Button. “The vibrant downtown, the artist community, the craft breweries, the markets… It’s the creative energy that makes Asheville so wonderful. It was everything that Asheville is now, just smaller.”

In 2011, the family opened Cúrate, a Spanish tapas-style restaurant that has earned many awards, accolades, and recognitions over the years including Food & Wine Magazine’s 40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years. When Covid swept through the nation in early 2020, Button said she felt forced to close Cúrate’s doors.

Button said another of her restaurants, La Bodega, was then created out of necessity.

“Cúrate is not the kind of place that’s top of mind for takeout,” Button said. “We knew we had to get people back to work, and from that idea, we opened La Bodega to continue connecting people to the Spanish cuisine and wine that we love through pick-up friendly dishes.”

In the summer of 2020, Button created Cúrate At Home and the Cúrate Spanish Wine Club as a way to continue to reach fans and friends that don’t live in Asheville as well as the locals still staying at home. By creating these at-home services, Button realized an opportunity to create her own product line — charcuterie. “The head of charcuterie has an eye for perfection,” Button said. “We are focusing now on products that we make, still working with our producers and farmers as we perfect the process, and reaching more people through our store in Asheville as well as a wider range of people online.”

Button said starting these ventures felt like a necessity, and now they are redefining the company’s visioning. She said by

diversifying her business, she can better handle ebbs and flows in any crisis time and reach more people.

As a business that employs 160 people in Asheville, Button said she is leveraging her many avenues of business and learning how others in the tourism industry can better set themselves up to survive.

“Anything can mess up habits of consumer behavior,” Button said. “It’s nice to be able to create different ideas in my passion that speak to a variety of customers.”

“Asheville brings in a lot of visitors for the well-rounded list of incredible experiences that makes the city such a special place to live and visit,” Button said. “It’s the combination, not one aspect or another. When you layer all of the aspects together, that’s what becomes the superpower of Asheville.”

She also credits the community of makers for putting the energy and pizzazz into what makes Asheville what it is. She said it is the vibrancy and creativity of artists, musicians, chefs, and business entrepreneurs that encourage more and more tourists to visit the area.

A member of Asheville Independent Restaurants, a nonprofit organization supporting collaboration of independent restaurants, Button said the group is a place of connection and problem solving, helping to improve the area’s restaurant industry.

“We are connecting to the community and networking, asking questions to each other lessening the need to reinvent the wheel,” Button said. “Asheville is full of new entrepreneurs, and the beginnings of these great ideas and passion for something WNC is just one of those stories. When a restaurant owner is in that phase of starting something for the first time, the learning curve is steep. Those that have already figured it out can help those who are learning.”

38 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Artist on stage with children from Buncombe County Schools at LEAF festival.

Protecting and Promoting the Arts in Asheville

River Arts District Artists is a nonprofit organization that was put in place to help local artists thrive, according to President Julie Bell.

Bell said WNC has a long history of creative industries. Noting the John C. Campbell Folk School that was established in 1925, the support that the Vanderbilts gave to local crafters, Grove Park Industries’ help to support people making a living in crafts, and the Blue Ridge Heritage Foundation’s Craft Trail, she said each of these nods to the historic importance of the region’s arts and makers.

“There are artists all over each town in Western North Carolina,” Bell said. “The River Arts District Artists are just a small chunk.

With approximately 300 members, the organization helps to facilitate bringing visitors to the River Arts District, performs marketing projects, and works with Arts AVL to expand the trolley service which brings people to the District from downtown Asheville while alleviating parking strains in the area.

During the second Saturday of every month, many artists in the River Arts District present openings of new exhibitions or events, according to Bell. She said visitors can see potters at their wheels, artists at their easels, and jewelry makers creating with various materials. Tourists are able to hang out and watch specific demos, and according to Bell, artists love to tell people about what they are working on.

The district houses galleries for artists of all kinds — fibers, wire, jewelry, sculptors,

clay and ceramics, and an endless variety of painters, according to Bell. Many offer classes, and she said kids especially get excited when they can engage with art that is touchable and tangible. It’s something they can be a part of.

“With 26 buildings and more than 300 artists within a square mile, there is always something happening and something to see,” Bell said. “Unlike art galleries in some other areas, visitors are talking to the artists themselves instead of a gallery rep. People tell us that it is a different, unique experience, saying they have never been to an area like this before and they love to see the artists at work.”

Bell said this experience also attracts a lot of people that want to pursue art, as well as visitors from other cities and continued on next page

WNCBusiness.com | 39 tourism

other countries wanting to learn how to start a similar district or association in their own area.

RADA is also in place for advocacy reasons, according to Bell. She said they can speak with government agencies, as well as participate in leadership groups and business associations.

“We are trying to make sure that art stays in the arts district,” Bell said. “We are all living with the gentrification that is happening. While people are coming to the Asheville area for the restaurants, breweries, and rivers, art in general is essential to a healthy society. The artists are what made this area funky in the first place, and it would be a shame to not have that.”

Bell said that RADA members are always trying to come up with innovative ideas to help convince artists to stay in the district. She said building owners don’t have to lease their space to artists. Many artists are concerned about being ‘priced out’ as leasing rates increase, according to Bell. “The arts are valuable to tourism, bringing in millions of dollars to the local economy,” Bell said. “The thing is — most artists are

not bringing in millions themselves.”

Fueling Tourism as well as Arts Education in WNC

LEAF Global Arts is a nonprofit organization that has been hosting festivals in Western North Carolina since 1995, bringing in over half a million attendees to their events in that time.

LEAF Global Arts Executive Director Jennifer Pickering said that the festivals have been adjusted post-Covid. She said people have grown to love the smaller events that have started since Covid, and now they host a retreat in May for just 1,500 people, compared to their larger festival in October which is attended by 10,000 people.

Prior to Covid, LEAF festivals brought in 10,000 people in the spring and fall to Black Mountain, and 30,000 each summer to downtown Asheville.

“There are a lot of kids,” Pickering said. “From the start, we wanted it to be a place where you can bring your babies and your grandma. It’s a multigenerational, familyfriendly event where anyone and everyone can feel comfortable.”

LEAF festivals are a draw for tourists from around the country, according to Associate Director Alexa Kincaid. “It’s almost like a family reunion,” Kincaid said. “People come from all over – from places like California, Chicago, and New York, and they come back year after year.”

Performing artists also hail from a wide variety of locations. “We have major acts coming from as far as Africa,” Kincaid said. “We love to support our local poets and musicians too. Smaller local artists will perform on stage between the bigger names.”

Business owners in Black Mountain, surrounding communities, and members of area Chambers of Commerce say that it is obviously clear when the LEAF community shows up, according to Pickering. She said 55% of attendees are from WNC, and the remaining 45% are from outside of the region, and about half stay overnight at the festival.

“The rest of them are staying in local communities, supporting area lodging, restaurants, and shops,” Pickering said. “There are also 350 supporting staff, some of which come from outside of the region

40 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Foundation Woodworks is a shared gallery and woodworking space on Foundy Street in the River Arts District. Photo source: RADA.

for this event. Not to mention more than 100 performing groups and acts and about 300 individual performers, and more than 80 craft and folk art vendors and their teams. It’s like building a small city.”

“It’s a tremendous weekend for local artists and their sales,” Kincaid said. “They are very competitive because so many want to be able to vend at the festival.”

She said since the location in Black Mountain is so secluded, attendees don’t really leave once they are set up, which creates a demand for any and every type of vendor including food, clothing, jewelry, massage, healing arts, drinks, and even skateboards.

Pickering noted the “unseen” industry behind the festivals’ infrastructure as well. She said there are suppliers of walkie talkies, tent rentals, sanitation items, as well as distributors that are all sourced locally, all seeing a large impact from each festival.

With a mission to connect culture and create community, LEAF festival revenue is used for several missions including supporting local and teaching artists, education arts programs for Buncombe County Schools, as well as cultural preservation in 13 different countries.

Schools In Streets utilizes local artists and headlining acts to visit schools and teach about culture, who they are, and how they got to where they are in their arts careers. Children may be invited to perform onstage alongside the artists, and their families that may be otherwise unable to attend the festivals are invited to participate.

Revenue from LEAF Global Arts also gives back to the community by helping local children attend summer camp programs. The organization is able to offer summer camp on a sliding scale for families who feel summer camp experiences are too cost prohibitive.

“This allows us to meet people where they are,” Kincaid said. “Kids of all backgrounds

can participate in arts, music, and cultural programs and have the same summer camp opportunities as their peers at school.”

The organization’s work in cultural appreciation and preservation inspires yearly themes for the festival. For 2023, the theme is Legends of the Americas. “I’m blown away by how much I am

Business Resources: Tourism North Carolina Travel Industry Association

The North Carolina Travel Industry Association was established in 1955 by Governor Luther Hodges and given a mission to consolidate resources and promote our great State. To this day, the Association remains open to anyone interested in becoming a member, but most are local businesses or statewide organizations that thrive on the tourism economy.

North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association

NCRLA is the uniting force of the North Carolina hospitality industry. The Association brings together restaurant and lodging establishments and partners who support the community. The Association also impacts legislation and policies, cultivates relationships, and provides valuable resources to help members run their businesses. Their mission is to serve members by advancing and protecting North Carolina’s hospitality industry.

Learn more at NCRLA.org.

learning and how little we know of the deep history of this area,” Pickering said. “I am honored to be able to work in a way to create platforms for artists to share first nation, indigenous, and Latin cultures. It’s amazing that these festivals have been woven into the fabric of the community at historic sacred locations, and I am honored to be a part of that.”

Asheville Independent Restaurants

The Asheville Independent Restaurant Association is a (501C-6) organization committed to supporting the independent restaurant community in Asheville through education and training, advocacy and member collaboration.

Learn more at AIRAsheville.com.

River Arts District Artists

The River Arts District Artists is a membership organization established to promote the common interests and wellbeing of its 300+ artist members. The organization is dedicated to diversity, innovation, and positive expression to promote our individual creative businesses. RADA’s goal is to help local artists and businesses thrive.

Learn more at RiverArtsDistrict.com/ Join-The-Artists-Association/ —

Find a comprehensive list of resources for businesses and organizations of all types at WNCBusiness.com/Resources.

WNCBusiness.com | 41

Star Diner

Fine Dining in a Small Town Attracts Visitors From Across the State

get to know

After taking an extended time off of work to be with family, former chef of Tupelo Honey Brian Sonoskus met with the owner of an old Gulf gas station in Marshall in 2016 to chat about new venture possibilities for the building.

While the owner imagined a true diner-style restaurant featuring burgers and hot dogs, Brian Sonoskus envisioned something a little more unique.

“I wrote a mock-up menu featuring finer menu items,” Brian Sonoskus said. “The owner liked the ideas and decided to go with it.”

The restaurant started by serving only dinner, then added weekend brunch to their schedule. Co-Owner Kate Sonoskus said having the business open during weekend days helps the entire business community in Marshall by bringing people into the area. The unique history of the old building is a connection to local history, according to Kate Sonoskus. She said it’s interesting to meet people who used to work in the space or knew the place come back to see what it’s become. The highway used to be a major route from Asheville to TN, and the old building holds memories for a lot of people.

“When people do stop in at the diner for the first time, they are surprised by what they find,” Brian Sonoskus said. “We have seen a lot of ‘deer in the headlights’ looks from people taking their first look at our menu. They often expect to see those burgers and dogs.”

As Mr. and Mrs. Sonoskus designed the menu, they said they took into account what dining options the town already offered and what else it might need. They also had to figure out how to produce revenue from the small 24 seat space, and the fine dining menu helped to support that.

Brian Sonoskus said sometimes ideas for dishes sometimes come to him randomly. “I’ve been a chef for 37 years,” he said. “I have lists of favorites to rotate through. We do have some staples as well as a good variety, mostly of classic Euro-Americana dishes and seafood. I can also get really creative with what we offer at different times.”

The intimate space and the slow, intentional method of seating helps keep a close-knit staff for the business. The couple said they are fully staffed with 12 individuals, including themselves. They also said the entire kitchen staff is local to Marshall. Their last two hosts hired were daughters of customers, and they typically have interested hires coming to them asking for work instead of the other way around.

Mr. and Mrs. said they love to see conversations and relationships between their guests and their staff. “I was the main chef in the kitchen for every plate for the first five years,” Brian Sonoskus said. “People liked that they could see and get to know their chef.”

The couple said while their location is small and unique, they would never move to another location. They noted that a second location is possible further down the road, but right now the small number of staff and their hands-on approach keeps their hands pretty full.

“We are really content just doing what we are doing,” Kate Sonoskus said. “You never know what the future holds. I think every town should have its own Star Diner as far as a place for the community, but not as a means to simply make more money for ourselves.”

Kate Sonoskus said as a member of the Marshall Downtown Association, she is really involved with the town, and it means a lot to be able to volunteer and give back to the community. “We are not just here to profit from the community, but to be a part of it,” she said. “All of the businesses work together to keep the businesses open.”

The couple said when they made the cover of Our State magazine in February of 2020, people were traveling from all over the state to visit the Star Diner. They said while the popularity started out with the local community, other towns caught on and more people started coming. Kate Sonoskus said the restaurant attracts visitors from Raleigh as well as other towns across North Carolina. “We see a lot of visitors from the Piedmont region,” she said. “There are also many new and regular customers coming here from neighboring communities like Weaverville, Burnsville, and Biltmore Park.”

Before the Star Diner was established, people in Marshall and neighboring outlying communities looking for a fine dining experience had to drive to Asheville. Now, the couple said, people in Marshall and surrounding communities are happy that there is a fine dining option in the small town where it is easy to drive to and easy to park. They said customers have a great chance of getting a reservation, and the reduced ‘hustle and bustle’ after a scenic drive creates a peaceful experience.

Mr. and Mrs. Sonoskus said they do not advertise for their restaurant. “There is a large retiree demographic of return guests who like to come back and hang out with their neighbors,” Kate Sonoskus said. “It’s mostly word-of-mouth, and people feel like they have discovered something special. We are a rare gem with an interesting atmosphere; it’s a little bit of a secret.” —

Brian and Kate Sonoskus are the owners of Star Diner in Marshall. Learn more at StarDinerWNC.com.

WNCBusiness.com | 43 get to know
“ When people do stop in at the diner for the first time, they are surprised by what they find.”
- Brian Sonoskos

my job

Scott Yerkey

Secondary Guide with LaZoom Tours

One character he said that he does is Sister Mary Annette. “She’s a nun that’s also a puppet,” Yerkey said. “She gets on the bus and straightens everyone out. Another is Beer Man whose goal is to keep everyone drinking local. Some characters are really great and really funny.

town stop and wave and the people on the bus get to be the stars. “It’s really magic,” he said.

After 20 years in the food and beverage service industry, Scott Yerkey was ready for a career change.

A job change led to about a year of working at Argo Tea in the UNCA library, and Yerkey was offered a management position. “I felt like I was staring down the barrel of another management job in the service industry,” Yerkey said. “I said no to the job and quit without any future plans. I happened to get a call that same day from a friend of mine at LaZoom Tours — he needed a host for their Fender Bender tour. For the first time in my life, I was ready to just take the job and figure it out.”

Working as a Secondary Guide for the last three years, Yerkey’s position requires that he checks in guests, gets to know them, and loads them on the bus. He also grabs a variety of costumes for the day and throws them in his car.

“I quickly drive from stop to stop in front of the bus, of course obeying the speed limit, and sometimes cutting through parking lots,” Yerkey said. “I get into the right costume and hop back on the bus at each stop and interject with comedy skits that relate the history and stories of Asheville to guests.”

“It’s hard to pick a favorite — they all give me energy in a great way,” Yerkey said. “The Ghosted tour is adults only, so it’s a little raunchy and fun. The kids’ tours are great too. They are an easy crowd and so delighted from the second they step onto the bus.

“It’s honestly the only job I’ve ever had that gives me energy when I leave at the end of my shift,” Yerkey said. “I’ve never experienced that before and didn’t even know it was possible. I come home charged everyday because I get paid to clown around with my friends, and that’s pretty awesome.”

While Yerkey said the job is a lot of fun, he said that LaZoom is still a serious business and they have expectations of how the tours are run. He said some of his coworkers have studied theater in Chicago and New York. Without a background in theater, he said that it can feel both intimidating and challenging to work with world class comedians and performers. “It’s one thing to be funny, and another thing to be funny while working with another professional and having certain lines to deliver,” he said. “It’s a welcome challenge to be ridiculous and wild in a certain predetermined way.”

Part of LaZoom’s mission statement is to ‘roll joy through town’, and Yerkey said it’s great to see the effect as that happens. He said people get so happy; people in

“Making people laugh and spreading joy around is the best part of the job. It means everything to me,” Yerkey said. “My friends tell me that they are surprised that I found this job because it is so perfect for me. I really am excited to go to work everyday. It can be tiring sometimes, and I am still excited and happy to be there.”

While Yerkey said he wants to stay in this position as long as he can, he does think about the expiration date of a comedian on a bus. “It’s a small company so there is a bit of a glass ceiling,” he said. “People do get promoted, and there are opportunities for the company to grow and expand. I may be ready to transition when an opportunity arises, but I really love the chaos and joy of the position that I have now.”

— Scott Yerkey is the Secondary Guide at LaZoom Comedy Bus Tours. Learn more about LaZoom at LazoomTours.com.

44 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
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Craft Beverages & Breweries industry spotlight

According to Riverbird Research, the concentration of jobs in beverage manufacturing across an 18 county area of WNC was four times greater than the national average in 2022.

The 2017-2022 jobs growth rate of 63% over those five years was slightly lower than the entire state’s 66% growth rate, with 2,556 jobs at 105 payrolled business locations earning an average annual wage of $41,548.

Beverage manufacturing in Buncombe County supports 1,295 of those jobs followed by Henderson County’s beverage manufacturing supporting 613 jobs.

According to the Brewers Association, the total economic impact of the craft brewing industry in the state was $2,259,801,000 in 2021. For the Asheville Metro Area in 2019, a combination of effects from labor

income and value added contributions produced $934,964,990, according to the Asheville Breweries Contribution Report produced in 2021.

Collaboration, Creativity, and Inclusivity Within Asheville’s Craft Beer Scene

The Asheville Brewers Alliance is a collective of local brewers and other likeminded businesses and organizations celebrating the area’s industry of craft breweries.

Karis Roberts, the newest Executive Director of the alliance, said in this role, she helps with planning events, hosting member socials, coordinating educational seminars, and facilitating collaboration amongst the ABA members.

Actively working as a bartender with two member companies, Roberts said her schedule allows flexibility for the many ways she stays active with the alliance as well as her community, and that the ABA has a huge potential to embark on more philanthropic opportunities in Asheville.

“The Asheville Brewers Alliance is trying to understand new ways of bringing beer into communities through philanthropy and education,” Roberts said. “We work to host events that promote diversity and inclusion as well as supporting community outreach programs and community volunteer opportunities.”

With 119 members across a variety of industries, the ABA consists of members from surrounding communities including Hendersonville, Waynesville, and Brevard. Even Crosby Hops, a hop distributor

46 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
More than just quenching a thirst, craft beverage production is a booming asset to the region. Selection of local beers at The Canteen at Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabins.

in Oregon, is a member because many local brewers source their hops from that business.

Roberts said some benefits of ABA membership include website highlights, help with networking, and industry education. Other opportunities include engaging with other members for troubleshooting and making more connections, fine tuning processes, and creating dialogue with others in the industry on a casual, comfortable level.

“It can be very easy and enticing to reach out to other members,” Roberts said. “There are a lot of collaborative efforts happening here.”

Partnerships, according to Roberts, occur not only between brewers like Devil’s Foot and DSSOLVR, but also between brewers and area fundraisers and events that attract visitors and bring more awareness to WNC.

She said that such events include:

• H ighlands Brewing hosted the Aleblazers Beer Festival, a fundraiser for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in March that featured more than 25 of NC’s craft breweries.

• A sheville Beer Week, scheduled for May 19-27, will consist of a wide variety of breweries, activities, and locations in various communities in and around Asheville, bringing locals and visitors alike closer to the creative brewing culture that the area is known for.

• T he Whale is organizing The Whale Invitational, a beer festival hosted at The Mule in June featuring more than 50 breweries, musicians, and other local vendors.

• N ew Belgium is hosting WTF Fest, or Women to the Front Fest, in June, featuring live music by female musicians, female-owned business vendors, and opportunities for businesses that support women.

• W icked Weed is hosting AVLFest in August, an inaugural venue-based music festival which will bring music artists and visitors to Asheville over a four-day period, and of which ticket sales will benefit local nonprofit partners including Black Wall Street, Campaign for Southern Equality, Homeward Bound, and RiverLink.

“Now that some other brew festivals are gone from the area, these are very enticing for Asheville tourism,” Roberts said. “Locally generating revenue and bringing in tourists that will spend money with restaurants, vendors, and hotels, each of these festivals helps to stimulate the area’s economy in a big way.”

The ABA also helps to spread awareness of WNC’s craft breweries in ways like transporting some of the area’s beers to the annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO, according to Roberts. She said the Alliance also works with the NC Brewers Guild and helps with legislative initiatives and bills, bringing that information back to the area’s members, and discussing what opportunities are available to address any issues that may arise.

Roberts said in working with many area brewers, she is noticing some interesting trends in the industry. She said while there are downsizing trends for smaller businesses due to rising costs, larger numbers of people are visiting tap rooms. She said many breweries are more conscious of and using more recreational outdoor spaces, companies are increasingly inclusive of BIPOC and LBGTQ communities and more women in positions of power, and many are moving towards an increase in sustainability efforts.

“There are member companies focused and working on sustainability projects,” Roberts said. “Wicked Weed is changing the game on how we think about recycling, as they are the first craft brewery to add continued on next page

(NAICS 3121)

1,564 Jobs in 2017

2,556 Jobs in 2022

63% Job Growth




Change in Jobs

2022 Average Annual Wage


Payrolled Business Locations in 2022

The overall concentration of jobs in the 18-county region was approximately 4 times greater than the national average in 2022. The 2017-2022 jobs growth rate of 63% was slightly slower than the state’s overall 66%

NAICS refers to the North American Industry Classification System.

Source: Lightcast, 2023.1

WNCBusiness.com | 47 Jobs By County (2022) Buncombe 1,295 Henderson 613 Haywood 143 Transylvania 108 Watauga 101 McDowell 85 Yancey 69 Rutherford 51 Macon 44 Polk 27 Jackson <10 Madison <10 Mitchell <10 Graham <10 Swain <10 Clay <10 Avery <10 Cherokee <10
beverage manufacturing snapshot

craft beverages & breweries

How2Recycle labeling on their cans. Highland Brewing has the 22nd largest brewery solar array in the world. Sierra Nevada built the first LEED Platinum Production brewery in the United States. ExactWater, a device supporting more efficient water usage, is helping some ABA members save on their water costs and encouraging them to use those savings to donate to area philanthropic efforts.

“Asheville Brewers Alliance is full of members doing really cool things,” Roberts said. “It’s surprising to learn about all of the amazing things that are happening that everyday consumers may not realize. It’s an inviting, safe space full of incredible individuals, lots of talent, and tons of creativity in the community.”

A Visual Representation of the Vastness of WNC’s Brewery Industry

A resource for craft brewing businesses and their patrons, the Asheville Ale Trail magazine highlights the importance and popularity of the region’s breweries, wineries, and distilleries for locals and visitors alike.

Katie Eastridge, Marketing Consultant for the Asheville Ale Trail, said Asheville is regarded as “Beer City” by many, and is well known for the industry. “The Ale Trail helps people to see how many different varieties and specialties there are within the beverage industry, and how far across the region these locations are spread,” Eastridge said. “It shows that the beer scene really helps to make Asheville what it is.”

Publishing 40,000 copies during each six month cycle, Eastridge said area businesses run out of their stash of the free Ale Trail magazines quickly. She said the magazines can be found at all of the large tourist destinations like the Biltmore Estate, Asheville Regional Airport, and at many breweries around the region. “Breweries go through them really fast,” she said. “Some visitors take a copy to check off the places they visit, and keep it so they can check off more places when they come back again.”

Private groups visiting Asheville often request copies directly as well, according to Eastridge. She said wedding parties are a large percent of these requests, passing out copies to attendees so that each

person can have a guide for themselves while they visit.

Eastridge said while Asheville has that famous “Beer City draw”, the Ale Trail helps to bring exposure to some of the smaller towns in the region. “It’s a really great regional resource for beer drinkers,” she said. “It makes it easy to have one place where industry information is gathered up and easy to find.

“Locals use this guide just as often, and some people say that they keep copies in the door pocket of their car,” Eastridge said. “They also like to pick up new copies; there are always new breweries, tap rooms, and locations popping up around the region, and we are continually reaching out to newer and smaller businesses that don’t have a listing yet. There’s something new in every issue. The Summer/Fall 2019 issue contained 76 listings, and the Fall/ Winter 2022/2023 issue contained 144 listings. Locals like to know the latest of what is going on in the beer world, and this is one easy way for everyone to keep up.” While locals and visitors love the resource, brewers in the industry are just as excited about the Ale Trail as a resource as well, according to Eastridge. She said everyone gets a free listing and a place on the map. “The graphic designer at Green Man said that he used the Ale Trail as a resource before ever working in the beer industry, and encouraged Green Man to get a featured listing in the magazine once he started working there,” she said.

Owning a seasonal outdoor recreation business of her own which offers a SUP tour on the French Broad River that stops at multiple breweries, Eastridge also said she wanted that business featured in the Ale Trail before ever working with the publication.

“The region has very active beer drinkers,” she said. “Hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, or rock climbing may draw them to the area, then they stay for the breweries and restaurants. Or they come for the beer scene and stay to play outside.

Visitors enjoying local brews with Greenflash Watersports tours.

craft beverages & breweries

The Ale Trail is a valuable resource for a variety of businesses across more than one industry.”

Telling Native Stories, Healing Generational Trauma, and Improving a Community Through Craft Beer

Morgan Crisp, President and Owner of 7 Clans Brewing, never planned on a career in the beer industry.

Crisp, who’s father and grandfather are Cherokee, shared that there was a time that the U.S. government wouldn’t allow indigenous people to consume alcohol. They couldn’t purchase or be given alcohol because the government said indigenous people couldn’t handle it.

“After years and years of being told this, the people eventually began to believe that themselves,” Crisp said. “I remember going into a brewery for the first time thinking that everyone I saw would be drunk, but what I actually saw was community. There were families, friends, and even kids there just enjoying each other and conversations. It was people talking to each other and telling stories, and that blew me away.”

Working in the food and beverage industry, she said she and her husband bought a franchise restaurant to start, and a few years later obtained another restaurant in Canton, which also had a bar.

“I felt worried that other tribe members would be mad when they learned that we had our first bar,” Crisp said. “Seeing those responsible people at the brewery showed me that a person didn’t have to become an alcoholic if they had a beer, and it really began a personal healing journey for me.”

Crisp said while running their bar and restaurant, she and her husband became friends with the brewers at BearWaters Brewing, who mentioned to her that there was a lot of interest in women coming into the industry. They knew she had

interesting cultural stories to tell, and she could use beer to tell some of those stories. They decided she would craft a one-off beer to see what happens, and with access to BearWaters’ equipment, Crisp made the first batch of 7 Clans Blonde Ale.

The stories that Crisp longed to tell are the stories of the Cherokee. Living on the Qualla Boundary with her Cherokee family in her early childhood, she said she gained a real sense of community and knowledge as it was being passed down to her. “My grandfather was a farmer and herbalist,” Crisp said. “We spent a lot of time harvesting and foraging. I remember how we would shake trees in the summertime — literally climbing the hemlock trees and shaking the tops until the seeds fell down to the plastic lining on the ground around the tree so that we could collect the seeds to make money.”

Formerly working in publication with Cherokee Publications, Crisp had been writing and publishing stories from the Eastern Band of Cherokee. Consisting of many herbal stories and legends of how Cherokee people relate to each other and to the land, she said she always felt passionate about making sure that rich history is preserved. She said what she is doing with beer now is inspired by these traditions and stories.

After that one-off beer crafted with BearWaters was reproduced again and again, they decided to make another — Hop-Rooted IPA. “At that point, we decided that I would actually do this,” Crisp said. “We entered a contract agreement with BearWaters, then got approached to be in distribution. We were told our beer would be taken all over the state. We eventually outgrew that space and looked to buy and manage our own.”

Crisp said that was a difficult choice because they weren’t sure where to go next. She couldn’t go home because she said at that time there was no alcohol allowed on the Qualla Boundary. A timely

discussion with Clark Williams of Frog Level in Waynesville led to the purchase of that facility.

While considering what to name her own brewing company, Crisp said she was researching Native American beer names or words that Cherokee used. She said she was finding them all over the world but that none of the brands doing so were indigenous. She said one of these brands she found was in Australia with “some weird graphic” on the can, and after that, she felt the only way to stop these misappropriations is for native people to do it themselves.

“People are starting to go back on incorrect imagery,” Crisp said. “Now that Native people are making different things like beer, kombucha, or whatever business product, we are telling a more accurate story. We are fighting off these misappropriations in a way that’s never happened before. I felt like I have to do it now because they’ve had it all wrong.”

continued on next page

WNCBusiness.com | 49
Taps at 7 Clans Brewing’s Asheville taproom.

craft beverages & breweries

While telling stories of her heritage, Crisp is also creating positive change within the Waynesville community through the success of her brewery. Frog Level Brewing had been in business since 2011, and Crisp said there were some things that needed to change when she and her husband joined Frank and Julia Bonomo as the new owners in 2020.

“The area was in trouble; there were lots of vacant buildings and it was a bit of a sore spot in town,” Crisp said. “We kept thinking of where we wanted to bring our own families. We added activities like music, fundraisers, and more. We brew all of 7 Clans beers there, we tweaked a few of Frog Level’s recipes, and we brought families back to the brewery.”

of what people may expect to find at a brewery, sharing the value of recognizing Natives in the industry, and sharing the stories that need to be told.”

Crisp said that she chose the name 7 Clans as a powerful way to pay tribute to the tribe. Prior to removal, the tribe consisted of 13 clans or family systems, and now the number has been reduced to seven. The naming issue also brought up an interesting conversation regarding who owns the right to use the Cherokee name or language, which stirred up some points about sharing their culture.

“Some people didn’t want our oral stories put on paper and sold,” Crisp said, “but others felt like we needed to do this. If you put something in a box and never talk about it, there is a chance it might die. If you tell people that they can’t use certain words, that could slowly force our culture to die. If we share the stories in print and I can share them through beer, it can all be very healing for individual tribe members as well as for the culture.”

While some people may not understand what she is building and why, Crisp said that it has been a really meaningful experience for her and she hopes that others will eventually gain an understanding as well.

Crisp said she has invested all of her revenue back into the community by purchasing the surrounding vacant buildings, improving them, and renting them to entrepreneurs ready to start their own businesses. “The two that are in there now are women-owned businesses in the retail space, which makes me really proud,” she said.

Crisp said that her businesses provide a good living for her staff. “The bartenders are making a great living,” she said. “They are buying houses and starting families, which feels so good to witness. It makes all of the challenges so worth it.”

Though Crisp and her team are putting in a new 30-barrel brewing system at Frog Level that will be an upgrade from the previous 7-barrel brewing system, Crisp said she really enjoys the level at which the business is currently operating.

“I love the Asheville location because it is really small,” Crisp said. “I love the indoor/ outdoor space, and I love telling stories through beer. We do not have any TVs or live music for a reason; we want people to come in, sit around, talk, and share stories. We have story time with our staff and they share those stories with our customers. I am breaking the stereotype

Bringing this awareness to her own Native community is important to Crisp, along with the importance of bringing awareness of the small Native community to the rest of the world. “The Native community is so small that many people have never met a Native person, even here in Western North Carolina,” Crisp said. “I have to stay true to what I’m doing to represent my culture in an authentic way. I am still struggling with a lot of things — personal history, reverse racism, and generational trauma, and I really don’t want to commercialize this very personal journey. I never imagined this career in my life. However, if it can be healing for me, perhaps the stories and the journey can be healing for others as well.”

Large-Scale Production of Craft Cider Helps Drive Mills River’s Beverage Industry

According to Lindsay Dorrier III, Senior Brand Manager for Bold Rock Hard Cider, opening Bold Rock’s Mills River location is a great connection with North Carolina’s agriculture and apples.

Originally founded in Virginia in 2012, Bold Rock’s brand grew quickly, and in 2014, leadership had to choose whether to expand in Virginia or establish a presence in a new community to nurture brand awareness, according to Dorrier.

Co-founders John Washburn and Brian Shanks worked together to craft cider and establish the brand, and Dorrier said Washburn had vacationed near Asheville as a child and was aware of the apple farms as well as the craft beverage scene in the area. This knowledge encouraged the team to take a look at WNC as an option for the new location, and as they did, Dorrier said Washburn knew he wanted to be in the epicenter of the region’s apples.

50 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Apples in preparation for processing at Bold Rock Hard Cider.

While Bold Rock does its best to source its apples locally, there is usually a mix, and sometimes brokerage and costs do not allow for exclusivity due to the large scale of their business, according to Dorrier. He said there are so many ways the apples are utilized in the area, and hard cider is just one of those.

Bold Rock’s Mills River location has an even rate of visitation by locals and tourists alike, according to Dorrier. He said business is driven by and large by locals, and they are also seeing emerging tourism groups and bachelorette groups coming in. With close to $2 million in annual revenue in 2020, approximately 75,000 people visited the Mills River facility. The Mills River location has the capacity to produce around 850,000 cases per year, and according to Dorrier, last year produced more than 600,000 cases. With

a total company output of 1.2 million cases sold between both production locations, this makes Bold Rock the largest regional craft cider in the country, and the sixth largest craft beverage produced in the state of North Carolina.

Bold Rock’s Mills River location employs about 40 full time staff in their facility between operations, administrative positions, and tap room staff. Dorrier said there are about 15 additional parttime staff.

“There is such a supportive and wonderful staff there, and we are excited to see where the brand heads as we move into the future,” Dorrier said. “Mills River is key to the growth of the Bold Rock brand, and we are happy to share the fresh product and the connection to the area’s apples and agriculture. We’re loving that we are demystifying a craft beverage product

and introducing folks to how good a craft cider can taste.”

In 2020, Bold Rock Hard Cider was acquired by Artisanal Brewing Ventures, an umbrella company owning several northern brands, according to Dorrier. He said this allows for more access to resources such as cans, helps with better pricing for certain items, and has helped open new tap room spaces. It also allowed the company to reinvest in better equipment such as an improved filtration system, which decreases waste and increases efficiency in processing.

“The timing was impeccable,” Dorrier said. “The acquisition provided access to support and resources that helped us to weather the pandemic. The acquisition wouldn’t have happened if it didn’t happen continued on next page

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Building Community and Creating a Destination Through Winemaking

Steve Tatum, owner of Grandfather Vineyard and Winery, first envisioned planting Christmas Trees on the property located in Banner Elk on the banks of the Watauga River. Then, he said he had the idea of planting grapes instead.

keep reserved for the wine club members who receive a selection of wines twice per year. If we have any Estate wines left over, club members get first pick, but we always sell out.”

before Covid, and it really put us in a better position to face the challenges that were presented.”

Budweiser of Asheville is Bold Rock’s distributor, and Dorrier said the distribution company has really helped them grow as a commodity and a respected high-volume brand. “We have a number of phenomenal local retailers like Tupelo Honey and Ingles as key partners,” he said. “Our distributor offers a constant connection to the retail environment. They also believe in our brand and are passionate about our brand.”

Mills River is emerging as its own little hub of the craft beverage industry between Asheville and Hendersonville, according to Dorrier. “The number of breweries there makes it a more attractive area for some people,” he said. “When looking at places to visit around the region, folks are marking it on their itinerary.”

Dorrier said it is awesome to have this critical mass of energy in a small geographic location, and the best days are ahead for the area. “There becomes a tipping point where it really starts to drive the economy in a more meaningful way,” he said. “It’s symbiotic with the tourism industry, really drawing people into the area.”

“I did about a year of research on similar wine-growing areas before planting anything,” Steve Tatum said. “I looked at elevation, hours of sunlight, the makeup of the soil, pH levels, and all kinds of things. We first planted four or five rows of grapes in ’03 or ’04. They did really well, so we cut down some trees and planted more grapes.”

Winemaking is a family affair at Grandfather Vineyard & Winery, the first winery in Watauga County to plant grapes on the property. Steve Tatum’s son Dylan Tatum studied viticulture and oenology at Surry College and is the Winemaker and General Manager. Dylan Tatum’s wife Nicole Tatum is the Tasting Room Manager. About 10 to 12 varieties of grapes are now grown on the Tatum’s property, and are used to produce the 25 to 30 wines that are on the menu. While many of their wines are dry, they produce five to six sweet wines as well.

Since opening their winery in 2011, Steve Tatum said that 99% of the wine is sold at the vineyard. “We are producing about 6,000 cases of wine each year,” Steve Tatum said. “We appeal to locals and tourists alike, though there are usually more tourists during busy seasons and on most weekends. Hundreds of people visit on the busy days — one time I counted 300 cars in our full overflow parking lot, and very rarely is there only one person per car.”

“We also have a wine club with 500 members,” Nicole Tatum said. “We produce exclusive Estate red, white, or rosé wines from our vineyard which we

To keep up with demand, the Tatum family must supplement their estate grapes with shipments of grapes from other vineyards. They said they purchase from local vineyards who are not wineries, from some vineyards in Virginia, as well as a few vineyards in CA and OR.

“Those grapes are picked fresh and shipped to us in a refrigerated truck,” Steve Tatum said. “They are fresher than grapes you see at a grocery store, and we start production immediately once we receive them.”

Nicole Tatum said the company is experiencing severe growing pains, and they are currently working on plans to expand and accommodate the growing demand for their wine. She said they will remodel the existing tasting room by moving the production room to its own building to create more tasting room space inside, as well as add a new on-site storage facility for their wine.

“We are currently the largest producer in the area, and we still want to bump up our production by 4,000 cases per year,” Steve Tatum said.

Wine making is increasing in popularity around WNC as well as across the entire state, according to Steve Tatum. He said 10 years ago there were less than 100 wineries in NC, and now there are more than 200 in total, about six of which are in the High Country with more moving in soon. He said since he started his vineyard, others began planting grapes, and one new vineyard owner from Napa, CA is working on one that will encompass several acres.

“It’s a growing and thriving NC industry,” Steve Tatum said. “State legislators have helped with this too. There are still counties that are dry in some parts of the

52 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Grapevines at Grandfather Mountain Vineyard and Winery.

state, and some towns and cities have passed laws to allow different alcoholic beverages. Legislators now say that if a certain amount of grapes are grown on the property, we are allowed to ‘enhance the value’ of the grapes and sell the wine on the property. We are a farm, and without the grapes growing here, we wouldn’t be able to sell our wine.”

Steve Tatum said they also use other NC businesses to support their own. They use Nomacorc corks, a synthetic cork company based in Zebulon. Labels for their bottles are also produced in NC.

Nicole Tatum said the family is close with other area vineyards and winemakers as well, and that they can lean on each other for support when they need it.

“The more wineries that come to the area, the more of a destination this area becomes for wine,” Nicole Tatum said.

“Each has its own setting and its own portfolio, and it’s not about competition. We have also talked about doing events together and reinstating the High Country Wine Trail. We have borrowed totes and bottles from each other, we have sold juice to each other, and bottled cider or sparkling wines for others. Equipment is expensive and hard to come by, so if something breaks we have to help each other out. We are a community, and we will help each other out in any way we can.”

Craft Soda Company Embraces Innovation and Employee Relationships for Growth

After finding that many local breweries had no options for non-alcoholic beverages other than water, Devil’s Foot Beverage Company Co-Owner Ben Colvin saw

a need to create something better. He said he was already using a homebrew process at home to make cocktail ingredients, and thought he could use that existing system to create N/A options for something bubbly that people can have to celebrate with, and for a wider variety of consumers than just kids and pregnant women.

“We have found that our biggest customers are drinkers,” Colvin said. “People may be taking a break from drinking, spreading out their cocktails, or just in the mood for something different. The non-alcoholic beverage scene is growing in popularity for many reasons, and we are trying to stay creative and ahead of the growth curve.”

Seeing the potential for Devil’s Foot to expand with the growth curve, the company recently moved into the new continued on next page

WNCBusiness.com | 53
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manufacturing space/tap room combo, The Mule. This grew their facility from 2,500 square feet to 15,000 square feet.

“We went from seven barrel tanks which hold about 165 gallons to 15 barrel tanks which hold 400 gallons,” Colvin said. “This doubled our volume. We have also doubled the speed of cold carbonation and doubled our efficiency.”

Colvin said the current canning machine exponentially increased the number of cans produced. He said at the old facility, the team would manually can about seven cans per minute. Now, with the new machine, they are able to can 44 cans per minute.

With the new larger space and upgraded equipment, they have multiplied their production by six times their former rate. The company has consistently grown 60% year over year.

“It’s pretty unusual in the food and beverage industry,” Colvin said. “It is common in the tech and medical industries to see that kind of revenue growth, and we are grateful to be seeing a similar growth for our craft beverage company. We are scaling with intention and direction and the right crew.”

The company’s mission is to do more good and less harm, according to Colvin. Their

crew and the facility work to get the full potential out of the fruit that goes into their beverages. He said the juices are fresh pressed from organic fruits on site in order to have the best quality, and the pressed berries and zests are vacuum sealed and sold to other companies that utilize those products. “This allows them to have a much fresher option than dried ingredients, and allows them to get more creative with their own brews,” he said. The 12 current Devil’s Foot employees are a fantastic team, according to Colvin. He said that he understands the worker shortage, but the combination of the environment and attitude of the company seem to help with employee retention. “We started a three-month trial of the whole crew working only four days a week,” Colvin said. “These are not four ten-hour shifts like some models, just a four day week. As long as production is met they can take off, and they are also aware that some days may be longer than others.”

The company received a workforce development grant from the Land of Sky Regional Council that allowed the company to cross train all of their employees. Colvin said every employee can do any task, and the ability to interchange roles throughout the workweek keeps the week less mundane for the employees.

Another perk for Devil’s Foot employees is a ‘firehouse-style lunch’ every day. Colvin said having the employees get together for lunch every day not only offers a break, but gives the opportunity to sit down and just be a team.

“We are able to get more in tune with each other,” Colvin said. “It’s more effective to casually talk to each other to communicate, streamline processes, and really be able to understand each other. This helps to create relationships that make working together more of a joy than a chore.”

Colvin said it is imperative to take good care of his employees and compensate

them robustly. He said by finding ways to take care of each other, allowing the crew to listen to themselves and hold each other accountable, and providing ways for them to really be a part of the company is crucial to Devil’s Foot’s success.

“There is historical economic pressure for ‘churning and burning through staff, especially in the service industry,” Colvin said. “Hiring and training new staff constantly is expensive, and I’d much rather support a team that flourishes with knowledge and responsibility. I couldn’t imagine the sort of growth we are seeing without the retention of this incredible team.”

Through the company’s innovative working models and coupled with the new aspect of the ability to engage with customers in their tap room, collaborations and new ideas have space to flourish, according to Colvin. He said the staff are responsible for creating their own bar menu, and they are also working toward each staff member creating their own soda. They work together to create their own recipe and can develop new styles and flavors. “We can really branch out and try some really wild stuff,” he said.

Collaborations with other companies are now more accessible as well, according to Colvin. “Doing great things with great people is good marketing,” he said.

Devil’s Foot can offer products to other breweries that complement what they are already doing. “We are doing tastings with other brewers and creating co-branded non-alcoholic products, cloning sours or fruited beers, and mimicking what they are already doing but with an N/A version. With our new facility, we are able to do tank rotations more quickly which allows us to innovate and collaborate more frequently.”

The nature of these options leads Colvin to reach out to beverage distribution companies for sales as opposed to grocery stores. He said the N/A customer base is growing and taking advantage of many new options like kombucha and CBD

54 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Devil’s Foot Brewing Company and Archetype Brewing discuss collaboration.

seltzers, and he and his company are eagerly jumping on that boat.

“We have a passion to cater to that customer,” Colvin said. “We are not just slopping something together; we are asking questions and being very intentional in figuring out what works best. Distributors can presale different options to retailers, the retailers keep getting new and innovative products, and we are getting lots of great feedback.”

In addition to the plethora of N/A products that are being created, the company can now bring partially-filled kegs to area high-volume vendors. On site, the vendor’s bartenders can mix a predetermined amount of spirits into the soda keg and offer on-tap mixed cocktails to their customers and maintain a standard alcohol-by-volume percentage.

Devil’s Foot is also expanding to create canned or kegged mixed drinks with their new Devil’s Foot distillery — Friend of the Devil. Working with a like-minded organic distillery in SC, the company now has the ability to can pre-made cocktails like Moscow mules, vodka lemonades, and mojitos.

“By offering more options with a variety of collaborators, we are helping each other to grow together,” Colvin said. “We are also making sure to keep the vibe of who we are along the way.”

Expanding Kombucha Company Reflects WNC Roots

More than 14 years ago, Zane Adams, Jeannine Buscher, and Sarah Schomber co-founded Buchi, a company that produces kombucha, kefir soda, and living energy drinks.

Kombucha is a living beverage made by fermenting sweetened black tea. Tea is the medium that helps the yeast and bacterial community unite themselves into one symbiotic beverage. The starter tea is called the mother, and the yeast eat the sugar creating alcohol, then the

bacteria eats the alcohol. The byproduct is kombucha.

“A lot of people think that there is a mushroom involved in kombucha, but that is not the case,” Adams said. “The process is similar to sourdough or friendship bread that requires a ‘mother’ starter. The result is similar to making grape juice into wine — it’s a byproduct of fermentation.”

The vision and mission of Buchi is to nurture life, according to Adams. He said the company is creating nutrient-dense beverages by harnessing fermentation, allowing them to be elevated for people to consume and enjoy while bringing prebiotics and soluble fiber into their bodies.

Buscher and Schomber met through a homeschool co-op, and Adams came in six months later when the team decided to go commercial. Adams said after brewing kombucha at home for their families and selling the excess at local farmer’s markets, the team decided that their first name idea — Asheville Kombucha Mamas — wasn’t broad enough. The team expanded how they thought about what they were doing, and moved into a broad east coast perspective based on demand and continuing tradition.

Adams said North Carolina is an interesting place to create carbonated beverages. “With the history of Cheerwine and Pepsi, there is a lot of awareness of fizzy stuff that

continued on next page

Business Resources:

Craft Beverages

North Carolina

Craft Brewers Guild

North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the American South, with more than 380 breweries and brewpubs. The mission of NC Craft Brewers Guild is to advance the interests of the craft breweries of North Carolina and to promote North Carolina craft beer. Learn more at NCBeer.org.

Asheville Brewers Alliance

The Alliance was formed in February 2009 as a trade and membership organization dedicated to promoting Western North Carolina craft beer and breweries. The ABA’s primary mission is to promote WNCcrafted beer and provide member education and support. Learn more at AvlBrewers.com.

Find a comprehensive list of resources for businesses and organizations of all types at WNCBusiness.com/Resources.

WNCBusiness.com | 55 craft beverages & breweries
Large-scale kombucha storage tanks at Buchi Kombucha.

craft beverages & breweries

tastes sweet in your mouth in this state,” he said. “More people are gravitating toward kombucha from other areas of the market, and some are even learning how to make kombucha at home.”

WNC specifically is unique in that many area residents gravitate toward fermentation as well, according to Adams. He said there is a history in these mountains of fermenting pickles, vinegars, ciders, and even moonshine, so the jump from these to kombucha is not a big one. “It’s a friendly climate for kombucha to be cultivated,” Adams said. “The path to manufacturing in Western North Carolina is better thanks to Blue Ridge Food Ventures that helps with various ventures in packing and co-packing. The array of breweries contributes to equipment being readily available. The water is great, the climate is great, and there are other great companies like Fermenti that produce various fermented products which brings an increased overall awareness of fermentation benefits.”

Asheville-Buncombe Technical College and Appalachian State offer classes in fermentation, and Adams said these programs along with local brewing associations make the growth process easier with support, talent, and awareness, even in the non-alcoholic space.

The Buchi team also created Fed Up Foods, the holding company for Buchi, that averages 115 employees seasonally. Adams said this structure helps to make fermented foods accessible to all by growing and scaling up with more retail partners, adding more retail locations to sell their products at an affordable cost, and creating momentum for their beverages.

The momentum and opportunities boosted by Fed Up Foods’ growth strategy has led to the company serving customers in all 50 states, Canada, Central and South America, and even creating a sister facility in South Korea which serves the AsiaPacific region.

“The South Korea facility is a similar brand with slightly different ingredients,” Adams said, “All of the beverages essentially came from the same original mother from the same genealogy pool.”

Through Fed Up Foods, Buchi moves approximately 30 million bottles or cans per year, though and Adams said in 2023 the number will likely be closer to 40 million or more, contributing to the growing $1.2 billion U.S. kombucha market.

Adams also serves on the Board of Directors for Mountain BizWorks, and said he likes to help teach and be a point of resource for the community. He said Mountain BizWorks provides a way for developing a strategy for scaling a beverage company that makes sense as well as builds the local economy.

“Lending and the money that the organization brings in can be deployed in a sophisticated way to build partnerships,” Adams said. “They are helping companies like ours as well as smaller companies growing in the craft beverage industry into a really good ecosystem that helps process ideas, engage with the local economy, and connect with other makers in the community creating camaraderie amongst them. This is a really valuable space that they are holding.”

Entrepreneurial Support Community Encourages Success for Craft Tea Company

According to Ashely Haywood, Founder and Owner of Embrew Tea, WNC’s supportive community is helping craft beverage companies to grow.

After relocating to WNC from the Tampa Bay area, Haywood said she noticed that people here love tea and appreciate it as part of their healthy lifestyle, and that it is a joy to talk to locals about tea.

“Even though the population density was larger where I was in Florida, it was difficult

to sell hot tea to hot people,” Haywood said. “Not only that, people here don’t just talk about buying local, they seek it out and are willing to pay more for it. Businesses here have the culture of helping each other out. People also understand what’s more important in their products, which is not always the cheapest.”

Haywood said she feels people in many types of businesses here in WNC want to help others succeed. She said the great culture, engaging mentors, and entrepreneurs that are happy to share their experiences with others is a game changer for her business.

“The Asheville Area Food Guild is one of the groups of business owners in the area,” Haywood said. “It seems like there is no competition within the group, only collaboration. People are sharing tons of feedback and willing to help in any way. Members understand that there is enough space in the market to go around; it’s a mindset, and people everywhere don’t see that. People in other local industries seem to feel the same way.”

After winning an NC IDEA grant in 2022, Haywood said the cohort of grant winners meet regularly with programming that helps with their businesses. She said the result has been a major change in her business over the last six months, and that many of the cohort members have become friends and/or customers.

Haywood is also part of the Elevate mentorship program through Venture Asheville, which she said has been invaluable in many different ways. “There has been inspiration, collaboration, sharing of ideas and venting of frustrations,” she said. “This has helped to place my business and myself in a position of more likely success.”

The craft beverage industry is 95% beer, according to Haywood, and she said tea and its variations like kombucha and Jun (a fermented beverage made from green tea and honey) are a large part of the

56 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023

remaining 5%. She said the percentage of non-alcoholic beverages is only getting bigger because of a shift away from alcohol.

“This opening up of the industry is allowing craft beverage companies to get really creative with what kind of options they are bringing to the table,” Haywood said. “There are more and more options that align with craft breweries as well, allowing them to offer more options for more people.”

Haywood said independent restaurants in the area are helping to get people to try tea. She said she has had meetings with several restaurateurs who want something to offer a guest as an after dinner drink that is a non-alcoholic option, and that a local, ethically sourced option is definitely something that many are interested in.

craft beverages & breweries

“Tea people find it interesting when they see Embrew on the menu,” Haywood said. “Big tea brands are often less interesting, and it also speaks volumes about the restaurant and the experience that they provide when their guests see that they offer a really good tea. I’ve also been exploring the idea of helping bars at these restaurants craft creative tea cocktails, but it can be a bit more of a challenge to create the recipe and feature it on the menu.”

Another place that Haywood said she loves to see her teas in is high-end grocers and boutique shops. As of late, she has noticed increased news coverage regarding overpricing by large national distribution companies for a variety of items, which is putting small businesses out of business.

“Not only do we need to be in locations that maintain average price points that

mirror the price point of my teas, but small business owners typically pay more attention to how long things have been on the shelf, as well as can be more helpful with promotion of the product,” Haywood said. “I love to work with business owners that offer a real partnership.”

While Haywood is currently operating Embrew as a solopreneur, she said she is at a tipping point with her business. She said she is working with Appalachian State and UNCA to find interns to help take some tasks off her plate, and she’d love to be able to hire an additional two to three employees in the near future.

“I really need employees that will be truly invested in the business,” Haywood said. “I believe in this product so much. It’s supposed to be out there and it’s supposed to be bigger.”

WNCBusiness.com | 57

Outsider Brewing get to know

Breaking Down Barriers Between Drinkers and Their Beer

Outsider Brewing Cofounders Julian Arena and Kaeleigh McCauley had a unique vision for brewing their own beer — they wanted to really see it.

The partners met and bonded over their love of coffee and brewing. While visiting one particular coffee shop, they noticed a large glass container of cold brew coffee. Arena said that he wanted to “get his hands on that thing to brew beer.”

Once the idea began ‘brewing’, Arena began to realize that there were many different types of glass. “I ordered one type of cylinder to begin with,” Arena said. “Then I broke it immediately. But I just kept trying.”

It took some research and trial and error to eventually find the right pharmaceutical grade glass that is strong enough for the brewery’s needs. Arena said they were looking for glass suppliers all over the place. They set up mini systems to start, and transitioned to searching for stronger materials for creating a larger system.

“I called a glass center in Asheville, and they knew of only one place where I might find what I was looking for,” Arena said. “They led me to find the perfectly round DURAN five-foot tube that is cut with a lathe and is ridiculously strong. It’s the only thing that works, but it works well. Now we have a patent-pending transparent brewing system that is the first of its kind in the world.”

Arena said the transparent brewing systems also help to bridge a disconnect between drinkers and their beer, creating

something people can really engage in. Once he started working in the industry, he said unlike wine or ciders, a huge segment of people don’t even know what beer is made of.

The couple’s business is a unique model within the brewery industry. Arena said their mission is to create something unique and get people excited about beer, not to create brews on a massive scale.

“This is a way to meet people halfway,” Arena said. “Without people having to take a class, the people at a brewery wondering what the hell is going on back there can gain some insight. We are shedding some light on the process of brewing and inviting them to be more curious.”

“We are not just about beer or brewing either,” McCauley said. “There is so much more work going on. We are breaking down preconceived notions of what a ‘normal’ brewery does.”

Arena asked, “What does a normal brewery even mean?” He said there are so many possibilities and varieties and variations, and that he is just happy to be here doing what he is doing - breaking down preconceived notions. “We are our generation’s innovators in an industry where craft brewing barely existed even 15 years ago,” he said.

The beers brewed at Outsider are all in small batches. The couple said they are not going for one iconic brew or do the same thing over and over. “Our West Coast IPA may be different today than in the next batch we hook to the tap,” McCauley said. “It’s more of a frequent rotation of one-off beers. Someone can come in and see what’s brewing now, and when they come back in a few weeks to try it, it will be a bit different than what they’ve had before. We are always trying new stuff.”

Outsider is more of a farm-to-table style of connection, according to McCauley. “Not many people are focusing on the connection between drinkers and their beer,” she said. “No one is cost minimizing

and volume maximizing a farm-to-table restaurant. We built a tool that allows us to do business the way we want to do it, and we are using non-traditional tools that focus on breaking down barriers to an understanding rather than maximizing a profit.”

The couple said they want to appeal to people that are not “beer people”, but to people that are more craft-curious. While occasional classes may be held, Outsider Brewing is not explicitly about educating. They said they are gifting people the opportunity for the craft to be accessible.

The brewery has one to two Brew Days per week. On a Brew Day, a brewer will be ‘on deck’ during opening hours, and customers are welcome to come up and ask questions. They said this model allows people to participate as much or as little as they’d like, as there is the option to talk to the brewer or just watch while they enjoy a brew and talk to friends. The idea, Arena said, is “We are here, we are brewing, and ask questions if you want.”

While the couple feels that staying intentionally small is unorthodox, they feel that volume isn’t the answer to all of the industry’s problems. They say their plan is to grow a deeper relationship between people and what they are consuming.

“Craft brewing is everywhere now, and the industry is actually plateauing,” Arena said. “Just because there is room for improvement doesn’t mean others are doing something wrong. We are simply presenting a creative solution to stand up for craft beer and innovate on the side of the customer relationship. We don’t all need to be canning beer to pursue our missions and goals.” —

WNCBusiness.com | 59 get to know
Julian Arena and Kaeleigh McCauley are lovers of the craft of brewing and coowners of Outsider Brewing. Learn more at OutsiderBrewing.Beer.
“ We are breaking down preconceived notions of what a ‘normal’ brewery does.”
- Kaaleigh McCauley

it’s my job Hannah Motter

Quality Control Technician at Highland Brewing Company

After three years of working at Highland Brewing Company, Hannah Motter has developed a unique relationship with their brews.

“I started working in Highland’s packaging department part time for something to do at the beginning of Covid,” Motter said. “I slowly built up to more and more hours, then moved into the Lab Assistant position, and when the opportunity for Quality Control Technician became available, I moved into this job.”

Motter said she starts her days early, around 5:00 or 6:00 AM, collecting the data that will influence the day’s tasks for other departments. She said brewers need data from the lab in order to make appropriate adjustments to fermentation tanks, and to know when the right time is for certain beers to be dry-hopped or have fruit added.

By checking each fermentation tank daily, Motter said she is making sure the yeast is doing its job and the beers are processing in just the right way. She said there is a data analysis aspect of her job as well as a sensory aspect, and each side is unique and equally important.

The data comes from a machine that is calibrated each morning, and provides information determining each brew’s ABV (alcohol by volume), original gravity, density, calories, amount of sugar, and other details. According to Motter, the data collected affects so many different parts of each beer’s journey, and she is with each beer every step of the way.

“There is an app called DraughtLab where we have specific descriptions built for each beer at each stage,” Motter said.

“We have taste panels daily, and the day’s selection depends on the order of what is currently fermenting and what needs to go out. Tasters are trained to pick up certain characteristics of our beers including look, taste, and mouth feel. There is a quiz for each brew, and with this app, we are able to make sure that the characteristics match each one appropriately.”

Tastings for beer are similar to tastings for wine, according to Motter. She said tasters typically begin with lighter beers and move to darker, more full-bodied beers, and there is usually a maximum of six types per panel.

“After about six, you get palate fatigue,” Motter said. “Salt-free crackers, though hard to find, can help cleanse the palate between tastes, and strange as it may sound, smelling your own skin can reset how your nose picks up scent.”

After working in the lab for over two years, Motter said her personal relationship with the journey of each brew has grown so that she is now able to tell by the smell and the color what each beer is. She said she has gotten used to each of them, and learning new brews and seasonal varieties keeps her on her toes.

Every batch, small or large, gets tested in the same way at the same stages of brewing. Data from machines and the sensory panels gets input into spreadsheets with built-in graphs to ensure consistency.

“We’ve got to make sure we are always putting out good beer,” Motter said.

“I like collecting all the data and finding answers to all the questions,” Motter said. “I also enjoy working in the lab by myself and listening to music while I work. My

favorite task is forced fermentation - a process involving adding extra yeast to a sample of beer that allows the yeast to eat the sugar rapidly. The data resulting from this process allows us to be aware of predictive factors that tell us quickly if adjustments need to be made in the larger tanks. Plus that yeast has a texture kind of like play doh, which is pretty fun.”

While Motter said drinking beer is fun too, it can be a challenge for her to drink beer every day. “It can get to be a lot of beer,” she said. “I really only have two to three sips of each sample, though, so it’s enough to get the necessary information without clouding my data for all of the samples.”

Motter said she can see herself sticking with this position and with Highland for a long time. “As the company gets busier, there are more opportunities to grow and diversify,” she said. “There are always new ideas that can influence all departments and bring up the company as a whole.”

Hannah Motter is the Quality Control Technician at Highland Brewing Company. Learn more at HighlandBrewing.com.

60 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023

Asheville Ale Trail Celebrates the NC Year of the Trail

Representing two of the important layers of what makes WNC so special, the Asheville Ale Trail is celebrating the NC Year of the Trail.

2023 NC Year of the Trail celebrates all trails from the well-known such as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail or the Appalachian Trail to the pathways that run through every community in North Carolina providing connectivity, fitness, and space to be outdoors.

While the Ale Trail has no footpath, it is a Field Guide highlighting the breweries, distilleries, and wineries across the WNC region helping visitors and locals discover the best of Beer City.

Asheville Ale Trail is proud to support the NC Year of the Trail by donating $5 OF EVERY MERCHANDISE ITEM SOLD to trail conservation throughout 2023.



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Outdoor Recreation & Summer Camps

2023: The Year of the Trail

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the state’s 1973 Trails System Act, the North Carolina General Assembly designated 2023 as the Year of the Trail, an effort led by the Great Trails State Coalition. A combination of NC State Parks, Visit NC, the State Employees Credit Union, 60 nonprofits, local governments, industry partners, and other businesses are helping to support the campaign with special events throughout the year.

The Year of the Trail celebrates trails of all kinds throughout the state, and has a mission to spread the message of how important trails are to people’s health as well as to the state’s $28 billion outdoor recreation economy.

The outdoor recreation industry generates $11.8 billion in annual revenue for the state in gear manufacturing, guiding services, equipment, and other services. The industry also supports about 130,000 jobs in NC, according to the Year of the Trail organization.

A Resource for Outdoor Adventure and Economies of Local Communities

The Blue Ridge Parkway, a park within the National Park Service, was a draw of just under 16 million visitors in 2022, 11,806,222 of those in North Carolina alone.

Leesa Brandon, External Affairs Specialist for the Blue Ridge Parkway, said with these large numbers of visitors spread out

across 365 days and 469 miles, the drive is still peaceful and leisurely.

Brandon said travelers come from all across the country as well as internationally. “For many visitors, they are checking off a bucket list item,” she said. “So many visitors are within a close drive of the park. Many ‘neighbors’ come for a day trip, and there is an abundance of regional visitors.”

Though the Parkway was conceived and designed in the 1930s when the thought of motor vehicle recreation was new and exciting, Brandon said visitors use the Parkway in a variety of ways.

Brandon said there are so many different activities to suit the many different visitors that the Parkway receives. She said people can enjoy wildflower walks

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As outdoor enthusiasts hear the call of the mountains, WNC’s economy continues to climb.
A Fall day at Lake Powhatan.

in the spring, a cultural experience with Appalachian music and crafts, strenuous hikes, waterfalls, or simply a leisurely, scenic drive that highlights scenic views along the ridge lines.

Some of the most popular stops and attractions within the North Carolina portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, according to Brandon, include the Folk Art Center in Asheville, hikes along the Mountains To Sea Trail, Moses Cone Memorial Park, Waterrock Knob, the Pisgah Inn and campground, and Graveyard Fields.

While the Blue Ridge Parkway offers an array of outdoor recreational opportunities, the large draw of visitors plays a part in the economy of Western North Carolina as well. According to a new National Park Service report, in 2021 the 15.9 million visitors spent an estimated $1.4 billion in local gateway regions when visiting the parkway, supporting 17,900 local jobs and providing a cumulative economic benefit to local areas of $1.7 billion.

“Supporting communities along the route of the Parkway was part of the intent since conception,” Brandon said. “The idea was to create an economic engine to help serve the southern Appalachian region well just after the times of the Great Depression. It was about the time of Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the Parkway has proven time and again the benefit of having that protected space and available recreation opportunities. This more than created jobs for the builders, it also continues to benefit its neighboring communities.”

Brandon said there were debates back in the conceptual days regarding the routing of and links to the Parkway. She said there were debate stories from communities that lobbied and advocated for the Parkway being routed close to them.

“Everyone wanted a piece of a National Park in their backyard,” Brandon said. “This demonstrates the importance of the visitor draw to these communities.

That being said, we think it landed in the right place.”

While there are no plans for expansion in the near future, Brandon said there are current maintenance projects underway. Partnering with the NC Department of Transportation, the new bridge crossing I-26 is in progress. She said the planning was done so that the new bridge and new sections of the Parkway will be fully in place before the old bridge is torn down, minimizing the impact to visitors of the park.

“We are continuing to manage the park ensuring its protection for the next generation,” Brandon said. “We are protecting every aspect of this resource and making sure it remains available to visitors and benefiting communities well into the future.”

Spreading Awareness and Visitation Across NC’s State Parks

North Carolina State Parks are a large draw for people interested in outdoor recreation according to Katie Hall, Public Information Officer for the NC State Park system.

A press release in January 2022 announced record visitation rates for 2021 across NC’s 41 state parks with 22.8 million visitors, three million more than any other year on record. Ten of those parks received more than one million visitors in that year. Hall said 2022 had slightly less visitors than the previous year, though the parks are still seeing more visitors than before the pandemic. While there is no official record of where visitors come from, Hall said rangers say they see license plates from all over the country. She said state parks near cities are very popular with locals, and some parks are often stopping points for people on long road trips.

summer camp snapshot

72 Member Camps in the State

73,147 Families Served by State Camps

11,401 Staff Employed by State Camps

$639 Million Annual Direct Economic Impact

Across the state, the summer camp industry brings $113 million in increased resident income, $42 million in new tax revenue, and 2,317 full-time equivalent jobs created.

45 Member Camps in WNC

57,491 Families Served by WNC Camps

10,261 Staff Employed by WNC Camps

$217 million Annual Direct Economic Impact

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$332 Million Total Economic Impact to the WNC Region

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Source: NC Youth Camp Association

outdoor recreation & summer camps blue ridge parkway visitors snapshot


Total Recreational Visitors in 2021

Total traffic count near Cumberland Knob was 518,424 in 2022, 11.2% increase from 2021 and 111.4% increase from 2020.

Total traffic count near Balsam Gap toward the southern end of the parkway in 2022 was 99,999, a -16.4% decreas e from 2021, with the highest year for visitation being in 2020 at 124,569.

Overnight Stays (2021)

“The perception is that a lot of people learned to love the outdoors that hadn’t before,” Hall said. “People are also rebalancing their lives with other activities that they enjoyed pre-pandemic. As populations grow, the number of visitors that the parks see will keep increasing, as people need their space and time in nature.”

Each region having something different to offer, Hall said state parks throughout Western North Carolina attract more experienced hikers and climbers. “It’s typically a different group of people than those looking for a casual stroll,” she said. “There are more challenging conditions at different times of the year. Western North Carolina’s parks also offer a break from the heat in the summer as well as their variety of challenges.”

With more than 450 permanent staff and 800 seasonal staff, the park system is coming into a modern era for data analyses to determine reasonable capacities for visitors.

While visitation increased by 40% over the last 10 years, state park staff only increased by 2%.

Not dependent on revenue, the state parks are taxpayer funded. Hall said the state parks are working with $20 million in funds from Connect NC Bond on many projects to update and upgrade infrastructure at many parks around the state. There is also a Complete The Trails Fund that comes out of the NC General Assembly to build new trails and repair trails that were overused during recent years.

“We must have the staff to meaningfully manage visitor capacity to preserve these natural resources,” Hall said. “We are close to a tipping point in some locations that are so heavily trafficked that small shrubs, natural grasses, and other plants are getting trampled to a non-recoverable point. We don’t want to do permanent harm to those resources.”

While Hall said they want to promote offseason camping and awareness of other parks to help disperse visitors more evenly, she said their challenge is trying to teach safety and preparedness for park visitors with little to no outdoor experience at the same time. There are programs in place to encourage learning about safety as well as pursuing new places.

The Passport program consists of a book with each page telling about a different park. Visitors can learn what they can see and do at each park, and get a stamp at each park’s visitor center. “This encourages people to visit parks they’ve never been to before,” Hall said. “We’ve had great response from visitors, and it’s really becoming beloved by people.”

There is also the 100-Mile Challenge — a health-focused initiative that promotes a goal of completing 100 miles of outdoor activity in a year. People can track their miles online and look at all the trails in NC, whether they be state, local, or national parks. There are badges to be collected, and special days or months may offer special badges. Hall said these collectible badges remind people of their experience and encourage people to have a goal of physical activity while learning about their parks.

Business Growth and Opportunities in the Outdoor Industry

Ken Stamps, CEO of Forest & Park, LLC and co-owner of Navitat Canopy Adventures, understands the impact of the natural amenities of Western North Carolina on business opportunities in the region.

With a foundation of architecture and engineering, Stamps made his entrance into the outdoor recreation industry by founding Navitat Canopy Adventures in 2009. “I wish I could say that I chose to open Navitat in WNC because I knew of the area’s riches,” Stamps said. “The truth

Source: National Park Service
Concessioner Lodging 38,228 Tent Campers 72.792 RV Campers 49,844 Backcountry Campers 1,242 Miscellaneous Overnight Stays 1,294

is that I chose a location close to Asheville because I have family living nearby. It was only later that I realized the uniqueness of the abundant natural resources of the region.”

Stamps said other Navitat locations have included Wrightwood, CA and Knoxville, TN, and neither of those had the same appeal or demand as the WNC location north of Asheville. The wonderful cities and the sprinkling of small towns across the region only enhances the draw of the area.

“This region is unique in the country,” Stamps said. “We are within a day’s drive of almost one third of the population of the nation. About 85% of our customers are from out of town; they come from everywhere across the entire nation, and international travelers are becoming much more frequent. It’s truly a tourism-based

outdoor recreation & summer camps

recreation market, and the visitors coming to this area are looking for a different experience than those visiting Charleston, Savannah, or even Gatlinburg.” Similarly, Stamps attributes the ability to staff local operations to the community of people that live here. He said the demographic of the region’s residents embraces the outdoors and many really want to work in the outdoor industry, making staffing these facilities less of a challenge than it was in other regions. He also said the Outdoor Recreation programs at Western Carolina University makes a difference in finding available and eager staff.

The outdoor recreation industry is one that has paradoxically benefited from Covid, according to Stamps. “Covid was a huge factor in increased visitation for every outdoor recreation business,” he

said. “Campground occupancy at our facilities couldn’t get any higher. Navitat had its biggest year ever in 2021, and so did every other adventure provider I know.” Many people were introduced to the outdoors during the pandemic, and according to Stamps, this had a major positive impact on interest for the entire sector. He said that while there was a little softening of popularity and demand in 2022, the majority of businesses are still running at rates far above what they were in 2019. Stamps said he is optimistic that the elevated interest will be a continued trend.

Bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah National Forest, and DuPont State Recreational Forest, this region is perfect for people seeking

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these outdoor recreation opportunities, according to Stamps. He said the temperate weather enhances that advantage, and the region makes the ‘top of the list’ of places to start an outdoor recreation business.

“Natural resources are abundant and recreational opportunities are unlimited,” Stamps said. “The capacity is huge, and there’s a powerful opportunity here for anyone interested in exploring the idea of starting a business in the industry.”

Forest & Park, LLC, founded by the previous owners of the Nantahala Outdoor Center Sutton Bacon and Michael Smith in 2017, is a business that manages recreation and camping complexes for the U.S. Forest Service and currently operates facilities in Pisgah National Forest as well as in Ocala National Forest in Florida. These facilities are opportunities for people to get out of urban areas and into the wilderness.

“The original mission of the Forest Service was to manage tracts of forest resources. The recreational opportunity was realized later, and they now outsource the management of large recreational complexes,” Stamps said.

Of their 11 WNC campgrounds and day use facilities, 90% of the company’s visitors visit the main three - Davidson River

Campground, Lake Powhatan Recreation Area & Campground, and Sliding Rock Recreational Area. “As many as 300,000 to 400,000 people a year come through our operations in the Pisgah Forest,” Stamps said. “Sliding Rock alone can get 150,000 people in a three-month period.”

Stamps also discussed the growing interest in unique lodging opportunities. “There is an opportunity to create more experiential outdoor-focused lodging facilities,” Stamps said. “There is a huge potential for success for companies providing a lodging/outdoor adventure combination. People want to walk right outside their door and be in an adventure, and WNC is the perfect region to facilitate that kind of experience.”

Advancing Opportunities for Businesses Driving the Outdoor Recreation Industry

After attending summer camp in Western North Carolina as a teenager, Made X Mountains Director Amy Allison grew a passion for, as well as a career in, Western North Carolina’s outdoor recreation industry.

“One pillar of Made X Mountains, the Building Outdoor Communities initiative is helping communities in Western North Carolina better leverage their outdoor

recreation assets for economic growth,” Allison said. She said the program explores opportunities to work across county lines and to help identify opportunities to diversify recreation options offered throughout the region in hopes of drawing more businesses to local communities, and enhancing the locals quality of life. Building Outdoor Communities is working with 25 of NC’s westernmost counties and the Qualla Boundary to help develop outdoor assets, build new partnerships and connections, and envision new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Made X Mountains helps to tell these stories for smaller communities and act as a facilitator of growth within the region’s outdoor recreation industry.

“We are helping these communities walk through the steps of national models and bring those home,” Allison said. “We’re keeping the conversations going that celebrate what we have and apply what we are seeing that can bring in other business opportunities and resources in the outdoor recreation sector.”

Outdoor Gear Builders is a key partner of Made X Mountains, and Executive Director Matt Godfrey said it started as a collaborative meet and greet in 2013 with about a dozen businesses and nonprofits in attendance.

66 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Kayaking one of WNC’s rivers is a popular activity with Greenflash Watersports.

“That meeting gave birth to Outdoor Gear Builders,” Godfrey said. “Everyone had a chance to be at the table, problem solve, share best practices, and brainstorm. We later realized that this program could apply to different channels of the industry from gear manufacturers to retailers to insurance agencies. It’s turned into a program for anyone working in or with the outdoor recreation industry to participate in connecting and collaborating.”

The 72 member businesses along with 20 non-outdoor supporting companies meet once a month for social networking as well as programming and updates from various committees. Benefits of membership, according to Godfrey, go beyond networking; members also have access to pro deals, cost sharing of press/ media programming, access to lunch & learn educational events, a booth at the annual Get In Gear Fest, and more.

“Collaboration leads to innovation,” Godfrey said. “The culture of the community is here, representative of the business ecosystem.”

Allison said members of the group are constantly reaching out to each other for connections and to build relationships. She said there are plenty of opportunities for conversations that may lead to advancing individual companies in a powerful way.

“In 2013, when we started the Outdoor Gear Builders, we looked around the country for similar collaborative models for outdoor recreation businesses and couldn’t find one,” Allison said. “We were one of the first organizations in the country for collaboration and gathering of outdoor businesses,” she said. “Now there is the State Outdoor Business Alliance Network that we work with as well as other alliances. People have reached out from all across the US and Canada asking how we did it and how it’s working.

“We are also working with partners at the national level to move the needle in a way that benefits the industry by compiling data showing its size and power,” Allison

outdoor recreation & summer camps

said. “It’s larger than many other powerful industries that have historically had a ‘seat at the table’. Now the outdoor recreation industry has more people at the table and can support its members in a more impactful way.”

“North Carolina was the 5th state to establish an Outdoor Industry Office at the state level, and the first one east of the Mississippi River,” she said. “Currently, 16 states have Outdoor Recreation Industry Offices, and other states have a task force representing their states outdoor industry.”

“This all came out from reports from the Outdoor Industry Association, which quantified the huge revenue of the industry,” Allison said. “Someone always has the ear of legislators. They have even brought state legislators directly to some gear manufacturers in the state, putting

a face and a story in front of the people in office which helps them to realize the personal aspect of the size and the impact of this industry.”

Outdoor Gear Builders also offers Waypoint Accelerator, a grant from their partners Growing Outdoors, a group of advisors from the outdoor business ecosystem that helps facilitate a cluster economy around the outdoor industry, according to Godfrey.

“Once a critical mass is reached, more businesses in the same industry start feeling some attraction to the area,” Godfrey said. “These programs help feed the workforce, gain more attention, and gain more resources to support the growing industry. With these grants, we are able to help early-stage outdoor

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WNCBusiness.com | 67
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outdoor recreation & summer camps

industry companies get their business going with this accelerator program”

The first accelerator program in the east specified for the outdoor industry, the Outdoor Gear Builders’ Waypoint Accelerator helps companies to identify and learn about any gaps in their understanding of the industry. The program includes a business curriculum component, identification of business and industry needs, and connects businesses to the industry network, according to Godfrey. He said there are a group of advisors and mentors to help new businesses leap from one waypoint to the next. He said the program also demonstrates the importance and benefits of leveraging their network, working together, and uplifting each other on both an individual and business level.

“You can’t put a dollar amount on the value of connection and causal relationships,”

Allison said. “It is great to see people and communities stepping up to the plate to see what their neighbors are doing, how they may be able to do something similar, and share their successes with each other while they get the job done.”

All three of the programs mentioned above work collaboratively as a team and are funded through the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Keeping Outdoor Recreation a Focus for Visitors to WNC

Jeff Greiner, President of Adventure America Zipline Canopy Tours, grew up in the outdoor recreation industry.

He said his father worked in parks and recreation, and that his parents started a rafting company in 1971 on the Chattooga River. After college and when his father began working toward retirement, Greiner said he fully took over the family’s rafting business.

“Wildwater was all rafting,” Greiner said. “In 2007, we took a family trip to Costa Rica and the aerial adventure stuff was so popular there that it ignited our interest in adding that aspect to our business.”

Greiner said by looking at what his business currently offered and what people wanted to do that wasn’t available, he considered adding additional aspects such as yurt camping and zip lines to Wildwater as well as adding additional attractions in other locations.

“We opened our first zipline in 2009, and at that time there were only about a dozen or so opportunities for this activity across the whole continental U.S.,” Greiner said. “Then the adventure scene really blew up. Now there are about 10 places for zip lining within just 45 minutes of Asheville, and five of those are mine.”

Wildwater also has several locations, and Western North Carolina is the central location and a ‘home base’ for many that

68 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Hikers enjoy a WNC mountain trail. Photo courtesy of Year of the Trail.

come to raft rivers bordering the state, according to Greiner. “Franklin, Highlands, Asheville - people will stay in these towns and adventure out from there,” he said. “It’s often a ‘hub and spoke’ model that people use as they adventure around the region.”

Visitors come from all around the region, and Greiner said they make up about 65% of the customers across his business locations. “We do a lot of school groups and events attended by locals,” he said. “We also offer summer day camps that are attended by locals and visitors alike. Sometimes entire families will come from out of town; the parents can visit the Biltmore while the kids are mountain biking or enjoying the Kid Zip.”

In total, Greiner said thousands of people come every year to experience the outdoor recreation opportunities his business helps to provide. He said the Asheville Adventure Center has approximately 30,000 customers annually, and Wildwater in the Nantahala Gorge has between 55,000 and 60,000. “The first year in business, Wildwater had 172 guests,” he said. “We’ve seen a bit of growth since then.”

Greiner said he has seen a continuous increase in visitors coming to WNC and enjoying the recreation opportunities available here. He said of course when Covid forced his businesses to shut down there was a loss, and as his businesses began reopening in stages, the demand was very high and the tours, beginning with the reopening of mountain biking, were packed.

“The numbers for 2022 were more normalized,” Greiner said. “There is a more steady, standard rate of growth if we skip 2020 and 2021. Yes, we were down in 2022 compared to 2021’s anomaly, though if we remove the outlying data we can figure out where we really are as a business, and we are still seeing growth.”

Greiner also said he has realized how important slowly ramping up is to the success of the business. “This allowed

outdoor recreation & summer camps

the staff to get back in the game and work out any kinks,” he said. “It also creates a demand by word of mouth when we start an early season.”

The demographic of the area, Greiner said, is one of the things that makes operating challenge courses here different than it would be in other locations. He said there are so many people in WNC that want to get outside, and there are plenty of opportunities to cooperate with competitors that have similar objectives which spreads the word about the industry in general.

“We can really work together to build the outdoor recreation industry here,” Greiner said.

The true competition, according to Greiner, is not the competition with other adventure operators, but competition for the attention that other aspects of the region bring. “All of the industries layer together to build national knowledge of the area and I am grateful for all of them,” he

said, “There are great unique restaurants, craft breweries, the art scene… But what is the scene that is bringing people to Asheville? The goal is to get people to realize that the experience is not only about what you eat, drink, and buy, but also about what they do while they’re here. We are working alongside our businesses’ competitors to make sure that we are all keeping ourselves front and center.”

There are some big plans that Greiner said he hopes will offer more of a variety of outdoor recreation options to visitors. He said he has purchased 200 acres north of Asheville, and is working to turn it into a place for people to enjoy outdoor adventures and stay in unique lodging on a piece of undeveloped property.

“The property has 2,000 feet of elevation gain,” Greiner said. “With that kind of topography, there are opportunities to play with ideas for unique above-ground lodging opportunities and rock climbing continued on next page

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Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont camp attendees at challenge course.

outdoor recreation & summer camps

Summer Camps Feed WNC’s Economy While Seeding Outdoors Ambassadors

Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania Counties comprise the ‘Silicon Valley’ of summer camps in the country, according to Sandi Boyer, Executive Director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, a nonprofit that strengthens and expands the educational, environmental and recreational opportunities provided by organized camps in North Carolina.

The NC Youth Camp Association helps provide support to individual camps as well as a statewide voice with policy makers and business leaders, according to Boyer. Started by camp owners and directors, she said the Association helps interact with legislators who may not understand the camp industry.

A total of 20 camp directors, 2,976 families, and 474 staff from the Western region provided usable data for the economic impact analysis. Of the families that provided usable data, 80% were incremental visitors who traveled specifically because of their child’s participation in camp; they spent an average of $2,696 during their camprelated travels. Of the staff that provided usable data, 76% traveled specifically to/ from their camp employment; they spent an average of $256 during their travels in the county and state.

experiences in addition to ATV tours, mountain biking tours, and guided hiking.” Greiner said the property may be able to provide unique opportunities for locals as well, further building the outdoor recreation community. He said he would love to include housing for the guide community that gives an experience they want at a price they can afford. He said there is also potential to share the property with the area’s private hiking guides to use with their guests, and possibly a commercial kitchen that foraging guides may use to prepare food for their guests.

Beginning with the plan to start offroading tours this summer, Greiner said there are lots of ideas for incorporating a variety of adventures on several levels with this new property. “Adventures provide the opportunity for personal growth, bonding, and learning,” he said. “All adventures involve the ability to accomplish more than you thought you could. That’s what the passion is about.”

“Laws can have good intentions with unintended consequences for the industry,” Boyer said. “The NCYCA helps give that voice to the industry as well as helps to give the industry a place at the table to discuss regulations. We understand the economic impact and the needs of the industry and every camp in membership contributes, wanting to be a part of educating outsiders of the industry about the importance and impact of the experience that it provides.”

The concentration of summer camps in Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania Counties make Western North Carolina the region of the state with the highest number of summer camps, as well as the region that receives the greatest economic impact from the industry.

“Western North Carolina makes the summer camp industry strong throughout the state,” Boyer said. “It’s why there is success in the other parts of the state — the mountain counties have created such a legacy and created the cornerstone of the industry. They’ve found their niche.”

Boyer said summer camps in WNC provide the idyllic atmosphere and the right combination of exciting activities that brings campers to the area. She said some camps like Camp Greystone and Camp Tonawandah have been around for decades with ownership that has passed down in the family to the younger generations, which allows for creative programming alongside traditional activities.

Both day camps as well as overnight camps offer opportunities for kids to explore outside, according to Boyer. She said that parents could always choose other options for their children, and it’s great parents have the choice in WNC to give them the love of the outdoors and time to be in nature.

Some camps also host family eventsthere are mother/daughter camps, father/ son camps, as well as family camps that allow time for the whole family to enjoy the unique experience together.

“When people first started moving into WNC, they saw the land and the opportunity for respite here for their families from up north or further into the south,” Boyer said. “It’s the most beautiful place in the world, so of course this tradition has continued over the years.”

Attendees of summer camps get a variety of experiences. Boyer said kids get to use skills that are becoming increasingly

70 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Davidson River Campground in Pisgah National Forest.

rare — they get to take calculated risks, make decisions, think outside the box, and perhaps do something a little scary which allows them to practice determination. “Camps are also teaching children to be good stewards of the earth, and they can take these theories the extra mile,” Boyer said. “ They are learning how they fit into the environment and what their role is, and you can’t teach that without being outside. It’s impossible to imagine these concepts without being a part of or immersed into the environment.”

Boyer said this immersion helps kids develop an understanding of how to have fun outside, and that continues to grow as they get older. She said she finds many of the kids that attend summer camp here keep coming back, and even wanting to be a part of the industry themselves as staff and counselors.

outdoor recreation & summer camps

“The digital age can make the choice to be outside more difficult,” Boyer said. “When they get to be outdoors, they are learning about nature, survival skills, and connecting with counselors that help to relate and uphold these values. They get to experience a throwback childhood.”

Iconic Summer Camp Opportunities in WNC

Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, a branch of the Girl Scouts organization founded in 1912, have summer camp programs that has been in operation in Western North Carolina since 1944. All three of their locations have been operating for over 70 years and will be celebrating milestone anniversaries in the coming years:

• C amp Pisgah in Brevard – 70th Anniversary in 2022

• C amp Ginger Cascades in Lenoir –75th Anniversary in 2026

• Keyauwee Program Center in Sophia –80th Anniversary in 2024

Within more than 1,000 acres of camp property, their summer camp programs host 130 children in their busiest weeks of the summer, and staff more than 18 people at each camp. Staff includes camp directors, course support, lifeguards, instructors, and maintenance crews. In addition to their 10 weeks of summer camps, Peaks to Piedmont also offers weekend retreats and ‘School’s Out’ camps during Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, and spring break.

Camp attendees range from kindergarteners to seniors in high school,

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outdoor recreation & summer camps

and onsite activities are offered to suit the wide range of ages. For example, younger girls have the opportunity to learn archery, and older girls can learn archery on horseback and even riflery. Their programs also partner with other local organizations to offer even more opportunities on other properties, adding another level of depth to their camp programs as well as supporting other local businesses such as the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

“There is magic in getting these girls outside,” Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont CEO Jennifer Wilcox said. “They are getting the opportunity to try new things and experience nature, as well as grow their confidence and ability to lead.”

Wilcox also believes that the progression of the programming keeps the girls interested, engaged, and excited to return year after year.

“We provide the opportunity for success in each proper developmental stage,” Wilcox said. “Seeing the older girls participating in advanced activities seeds the pot, and

the younger girls want to continue to work their way up and continue girl scouting.”

The Outdoor Team creates further advancement opportunities by creating pathways and pipelines as the girls cross into high school years, and may offer opportunities to join the Outdoor Experience Team themselves.

“They do a fantastic job of cultivating relationships all year long,” Wilcox said. “The girls are kept ‘in the fold’, maintaining a level of engagement with activities of the camp all year long.”

This level of communication helps the camp retain staff and maintain a pipeline of new talent that is excited to come and work at the camp after attending themselves.

“Our staff is excited to come back and work,” Anna Reese, Outdoor Experience Specialist for Peaks to Piedmont said. “Many were campers who joined the leadership team and later joined the staff. We have a great retention rate, and have quite a few names of those who want to be a part of the program.”

According to Wilcox, the unique location of these camps in Western North Carolina is one of the reasons for the camp’s popularity. With about 25% of attendees coming from outside of the region, she said people come here to be immersed in the mountainous environment. Peaks to Piedmont plans to offer the opportunity for even more people to travel to WNC. They will be a part of Girl Scout Destinations - a program for girls in grades six through 12 to travel to different parts of the country and participate in programs at a variety of locations.

“Each time a new Destination is created, it’s unique,” Wilcox said. “The Destinations program will bring even more people to WNC, as parents and caregivers may also come and vacation while their girls are at camp. This provides an increased opportunity to really help drive the local economy.”

The Summer Camp Industry’s Impact on Other Sectors

A former camp counselor, Virginia Spigener’s retail business The Wrinkled

72 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont camp director and attendees on nature walk.

outdoor recreation & summer camps

Egg maintains a relationship with WNC’s summer camp industry.

Spigener said she remembers finding cheap trinkets and lots of wrappers in the trash at her camp that came from care packages, and back in 1991 she began to create her own version of camp care packages that parents can send to their children while they are away at camp.

“I try to include more useful items as well as things kids can do during their rest hour after lunch,” Spigener said. “There are also interactive things that require kids to ask a friend to play with them. I try to offer a service that is good for all the kids.”

Sending out about 500 to 600 camp care packages each summer, Spigener said her store also serves camp parents by offering many camp essentials that families can pick up on their way to several of the area’s summer camps.

Camp supplies and care packages are just a portion of the variety of items found at The Wrinkled Egg. It is primarily a retail store offering art, furniture, antiques, clothing and more, and Spigener said the store operates like a community with its neighboring businesses including the Flat Rock Village Bakery and Hubby Hubba Smokehouse.

Spigener said she definitely sees an economic impact from WNC’s summer camps. Many parents of campers also stop by her store to enjoy shopping or to grab a bite to eat after dropping their kids off at camp or on their way to pick them back up.

“The business has morphed into somewhat of a destination,” Spigener said. “It’s very rural where we are, and parents driving a long way to bring their children to camp are usually not anxious to hop in the car and drive all the way back right away. It’s a cute spot for parents to stop and take a break. The uniqueness is part of what makes a trip off the beaten path more fun.”

Business Resources: Outdoor Recreation Outdoor Industry Association

North Carolina’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office works to grow and support the outdoor recreation economy at the state level through collaboration with existing outdoor businesses, local governments, and communities who rely on a richly diverse outdoor recreation landscape. The office focuses on economic development, education and workforce training, conservation and stewardship, and public health and wellness, to ensure the state’s strategic growth as a place where outdoor businesses and recreation communities can thrive. Learn more at OutdoorIndustry. org/State/North-Carolina.

Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office

North Carolina’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office works to grow and support the outdoor recreation economy at the state level through collaboration with existing outdoor businesses, local governments, and communities who rely on a richly diverse outdoor recreation landscape. The office focuses on economic development, education and workforce training, conservation and stewardship, and public health and wellness, to ensure the state’s strategic growth as a place where outdoor businesses and recreation communities can thrive. Learn more at EDPNC.com/ Industries/ORec.

Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC

The Outdoor Gear Builders are Western North Carolina-based companies collaborating to share talents, encourage new ideas, and inspire each other. Member brands are dedicated to creating exceptional outdoor gear and experiences with a focus on responsible manufacturing, cutting edge innovation, and economic growth in the region. OGB provides the support network and resources to help members thrive. By collaborating, OGB members elevate one another, lifting the outdoor economy and profitability. Learn more at OutdoorGearBuilders.com.

Business Resources: Summer Camps

North Carolina Youth Camp Association

North Carolina is home to some of the finest camps in America. From the mountains to the coast, the state’s summer camps are steeped in traditions that span up to four and five generations. The North Carolina Youth Camp Association is a member organization that represents the best of these camps. Learn more at NCCamps.org.

Find a comprehensive list of resources for businesses and organizations of all types at WNCBusiness.com/Resources.

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KidCycle Club

Building Bike-Riding Confidence for Kids and Their Families

get to know

An idea created out of inspiration from a kid’s ski school program in Wyoming, KidCycle Club Founder and Owner Emi Kubota said she noticed an opportunity to combine childcare with incremental instructional lessons to teach kids how to ride bikes.

A former ski instructor, Kubota started planning her new business, KidCycle Club, in the spring of 2020. She was seeking an additional avenue to help teach kids a new skill that can help them and their families have fun outdoors.

“I knew that children often respond much better to a third party when learning certain new skills,” Kubota said. “An experienced teacher or coach has the experience and understands how to break down the steps to learning, and it can be a much smoother process. Kids see these other adults as experts, and the kids listen to them well.”

One of Kubota’s challenges was that she was nervous at first about teaching new coaches to provide a similar experience for her guests. “I have seen all of my coaches become better coaches,” she said. “We are all able to work together, streamline our processes, and get more training. It’s another fantastic experience for me; I love watching that happen, and it’s making the experiences that the kids are having even more positive.”

Kubota offers parent/child classes for children up to five years of age. “Both the parents and the child have to listen to the teacher,” she said. “Some children do better without the parent right there, and some children need the additional support offered by the parent. We also educate the parent on the safest and most encouraging ways that they can support their child and their child’s confidence while kids are learning to ride. Sometimes removing training wheels can be traumatic for children because they create a feeling of safety, but the class equips parents with ways they can be supportive.”

KidCycle Club offers bike rentals for their classes, and Kubota said it is important that kids use bikes that are the right size and style from the beginning of their learning. Kids aged one to three can use a mini four-wheeled strider bike with hand brakes. Older kids need to have a bike with hand brakes and seats that are the right height for their feet to touch the ground.

“It’s better and easier to start off with repetition of good habits,” Kubota said. “Breaking old habits like backpedaling or dragging feet to stop can be challenging. It’s also important to increase the fun to work ratio. When it gets tipped in the right direction, like with a child riding down a small ramp for the first time, they are hooked.”

KidCycle classes include lessons ranging from getting used to the feeling of riding, to getting comfortable with the mechanics, practicing on straight and flat greenway paths, and even learning to mountain bike. In her after school, parent’s day out, and summer camp programs, Kubota and her team of coaches provide a full range of biking activities that are less instructionbased, with a small student-to-coach ratio providing a childcare component for parents.

Age ranges of children are from one year old up to 12 years old, and Kubota said some older kids are learning to ride for the first time. She is also able to accommodate

get to know

some special needs and offer extra support for those children.

“We love to bring new people into the sport at whatever age and stage they are at,” Kubota said. “There is a place for all people of all levels of ability in every sport, and we are trying to make sure that everyone feels included here.

“We are combining childcare with a fun activity in fun places, and we are getting lots of great feedback,” Kubota said. “Parents have said they are seeing their kids blossom and gain more confidence, and many kids are returning for more programs because it’s been such a good experience for them. We are also building our team to provide more camp opportunities – there will be summer camp opportunities at several of Asheville Parks & Recreation locations as well as Dupont State Forest and the Grandfather Ranger District, and transportation for kids and their bikes may be available if needed.” —

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Emi Kubota is the Founder and Owner of KidCycle Club. Learn more at KidCycle Club.com.
“ There is a place for all people of all levels of ability in every sport, and we are trying to make sure that everyone feels included here.”
- Emi Kubota

it’s my job Cory Greene

Camp Director at Talisman Summer Camps

intentional way to return to our core values, changing necessary procedures and activities while still being the summer camp that we want to be.”

“Closing was not an option for us. Only 18% of camps in the area opened during the summer of 2020, but we still felt the need to serve our campers.”

For Cory Greene, Camp director at Talisman Summer Camps in Zirconia, the biggest reward he can ask for is the smile of a child.

Talisman Summer Camp operates with a focus on attendees with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and Autism. Their programs are designed with the necessity of understanding sensory sensitivity and possible motor movement skill limitations. Approaching his fourth summer season as director, Greene is responsible for all of the summer operations including staffing and training. He plans activities and program schedules, and hires new and returning staff for summer seasons.

Working as assistant director the six years prior, Greene said the summer of 2020 was an interesting way of encouraging Talisman Summer Camp to examine their programs to see what was working and what they needed to update.

“Many of our programs were based on tradition,” Greene said. “The changes initiated by the pandemic gave us an

Activities at Talisman don’t differ tremendously from ‘typical’ summer camp activities, though Greene said there are some considerations that must be made to properly care for attendees with ADHD and Autism. He said they offer activities such as rock climbing, archery, and kayaking, though the big difference is how the staff addresses each activity with the children.

“We do a lot of pre- and post-activity processing,” Green said. “We offer plenty of time for the kids to ask questions so that they fully understand the upcoming activity, and after the activity is completed we offer plenty of discussion to hear what each individual liked and didn’t like. It’s similar to traditional activities, just on a slower schedule.”

Another difference is the group structure. Greene said in traditional camps, children may have an array of staff that they interact with for various activities. At Talisman, small groups are paired with three staff members that stick with them for the duration of their stay. Greene said this model helps to build bonds that the kids value and allows them to feel more comfortable while they are at camp.

“Neurodiversity shouldn’t mean that some of these kids can’t go to summer camp,” Greene said. “We may have to do things a bit more differently, but we are giving them their fair shot.”

As times are progressing since the beginning of the pandemic, Greene said that he has noticed a trend of slowing down the progression of learning new outdoor skills. “Many kids have anxiety about getting outdoors because the experience is so new to them,” he said. “We work to help kids feel secure by doing campouts here on our property instead of in the wilderness, and slowly introducing new skills like kayaking and climbing.”

At the same time, Greene said it is more important than ever for the camping industry to be progressive while taking these smaller steps and offer experiences that kids can’t do at home. He said many camps are upgrading ropes courses and ziplines, adding BMX bike tracks, and even renaming cabins to mesh with modern popular culture.

“We can’t continue to rely exclusively on traditions,” Greene said. “We’ve got to upgrade and innovate.”

Greene said the opportunities provided by Talisman are positive for both the kids as well as the counselors and staff. “My favorite thing is to see a kid smile,” Greene said. “They desperately want to make friends and have a good experience. The staff are gaining confidence in their skills and ability to get this job done. It’s so gratifying to walk around the camp in the summer and just stop, listen, and watch. I see the camp working, kids and counselors playing, everyone enjoying their time, and it just feels great. That means we are accomplishing our mission.”

Cory Greene is the Camp Director at Talisman Summer Camps. Learn more at TalismanCamps.com.

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Protect your business and your information Every day we hear about another attack on an organization or someone we know. Practicing these four basics of cybersecurity can make a massive difference to reduce the chance of becoming the next victim. Have questions or need help? Email us help@carolinacybercenter.com We deliver technical training and hands-on experience to shift your career into cybersecurity without the degree in 12 months. Cybersecurity services customized to your organization’s needs. carolinacybercenter.com 828.419.0737 IMPLEMENT SECURITY AWARENESS TRAINING AND PROMOTE A SECURITY CULTURE USE STRONG PASSWORDS AND A PASSWORD MANAGER ENABLE MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION (MFA) KEEP SOFTWARE UP TO DATE Consider a NEW CAREER in CYBERSECURITY EASY ACCESS, EXCELLENT TOOLS - REMOTE, INSTRUCTOR-LED FAST TRANSITION - 12 MONTH PROGRAM HIGH $ALARIES - ENTRY LEVEL $65K AND UP NO TECHNICAL EXPERIENCE OR DEGREE REQUIRED APPLY NOW for FEBRUARY or AUGUST Start

Streamlined Wi-Fi Runs Small Businesses

It is no secret that small businesses rely on technology and digital tools, not just for the day in and day out of running their businesses, but to reach new customers, communicate with employees, innovate, and grow.

In the past few years, we have seen an exponential growth in cloud-based platforms for every area of running a business. Small business owners find they are managing several different applications to perform necessary tasks like point of sale, inventory management,

customer contact, accounting, logistics, human resources… It is a long list.

For these programs to be successful in streamlining business functions, a fast, reliable connection to the internet that can handle uploads as fast as downloads is essential. Seventy percent

of business owners report that when there is an interruption to their network, their business is seriously impacted. However, many small business owners struggle with both the cost and complexity of managing their own network. With so many pressing concerns for a business owner, this important task can feel overwhelming.

wnc business partners

What should a small business owner be thinking about when it comes to their business network? Here are the top questions to ask yourself:


Small businesses are often targeted by cybercriminals. Small businesses need to consider the use of firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, and regular security updates to protect against the continually changing and evolving threats. How protected is your network?

Reliability and Speed

This decision is not just limited to full outages but also includes the speed and the symmetry of service. Do you know the average speed of your connection? Is your upload speed significantly lower than your download speed? Do you experience lag during certain times of your business day? Is your provider local with prioritized response times to commercial customers? Do you have a fail-over connection plan in place?


As your business grows and technology advances, your network needs will change. Will your current network scale when needed? The Internet is delivered to the end user in many ways. Are you connected with the most advanced choice available? Beyond how your service is delivered, your experience can also be impacted by the equipment used inside your network. Do you understand your current equipment and available options?

wnc business partners


Managing a network in-house can be expensive and time-consuming. Though it can feel like an extra expense, a professional Managed Network Service Provider can help you save money and time by taking on the responsibility of network management and maintenance. Are you ready to make the investment to protect your network and business?


Managed Network Service Providers have the expertise and experience to help you make the most of your network. They can provide guidance on best practices, troubleshoot problems, and help you make informed decisions about your network infrastructure. Have you weighed the benefits of professional services?

As a local internet service provider to small businesses, we highly recommend you seek out a partnership with a Managed Service Provider. Riverwave has the privilege of working in tandem with many excellent MSPs in WNC. Whether you are a Riverwave customer or not, we are happy to point you in the direction of professionals in your area that excel in working with businesses just like yours. Reach out to us for recommendations.

If engaging an MSP is on your horizon but not in the budget just yet, Riverwave offers a customized managed Wi-Fi solution that will get and keep you up and running. Our service is Fiber Optic, meaning the service supplied is not only reliable, it is fast, symmetrical (download and upload

speeds are the same), and scalable as you grow. We offer speeds from 100 mbps to 1 Gb, and you can increase your speed with just a phone call – no change in hardware needed. Knowing that it takes more than a great connection to have a great experience, we include a carrier grade WiFi router, award winning network security, and an app that puts the control of your network in the palm of your hand. Through our BizWorks offering, we can help you check off all the boxes above. With fullservice installation by one of our local in-house technicians, your business will be up and running at the speed of light. If our business can help your business, please reach out to us. It would be our pleasure to serve you.

— Ellen Stallings is the President at Riverwave Broadband. Learn more about how Riverwave can help your business at RideRiverWave.com or by emailing Ellen@RideRiverWave.com.

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Seventy percent of business owners report that when there is an interruption to their network, their business is seriously impacted.

7 Tips for Networking

#1 Network Genuinely

When attempting to build trust, credibility and business relationships, you need to present yourself in a genuine light. You should only attend networking events if you genuinely wish to help others. If you attend networking events or situations with the intention to sell, you will come off as self-serving and fail to connect with other attendees, wasting your time and theirs in the process.

#2 Define Your Goals

Do not arbitrarily select a networking event. Before you go anywhere, take a moment to figure out what you are hoping to accomplish through networking. Different networking events have different focuses, like education or database growth. Knowing what aligns with your goals is the key to getting the most out of networking. Remember, networking is about finding prospective clients and referral sources. If you are at a networking event, it is likely the people in the room are out in your community and know a lot of people.

#3 Visit Multiple Groups

Like when buying a car, settling on the first networking group you stumble across is usually unwise. I suggest going to sites like Eventbrite.com or Meetup. com as there are heaps of new events and networking events added daily. Make sure you subscribe to all your Chamber Of Commerce’s newsletter lists as they often have regular events. Go to a Toastmaster evening or charity golf tournaments. When creating your 90-day plan (if you have strong goals to increase your client

numbers), make sure you put “Attend a new networking event every week” on your list, that way you will meet an entirely new group of people in a truly leveraged way. Once you find a networking group that works for you, give it your full attention.

#4 Ask Open-Ended Questions

Successful networking hinges upon your ability to ask the people you interact with a series of open-ended questions, as opposed to simple yesor-no questions. If you rely solely on yes-or-no questions, your networking efforts will fail to encourage any sort of meaningful dialogue. Furthermore, an open-ended question conveys more sincere interest in someone. Questions like “How is the recession treating you and your business?” is a great question to ask once rapport is made.

#5 Make Sure to Exchange Cards

Follow the question in Tip #4 by a conversational response such as, “Yeah, I hear what you are saying. A client of mine last year faced exactly the same thing – but we were able to turn that around. He’s doing really well despite the economy. Never know, I might be able to help you too. I wouldn’t mind popping in and checking out your business. Can I have your business card?” Do you notice how the language is conversational and non-threatening? I have been to too many networking groups where people are so stiff and intense. Don’t be so serious! If you can get a complete stranger to laugh at a stiff business networking event, you’ll get the card, no worries.

#6 Understand Your Business

In order to maximize your networking efforts, you must have a clear understanding of what makes your business unique. For ActionCOACH, “I help business owners make more profit when they are out of the business, rather than in it” is a great introduction. Most business owners are going to be curious enough to say “Huh? How do you do that?” Clearly understanding what sets your business apart from others and how your business can solve the problems of other businesses is key to a well-rounded conversation.

#7 Follow-up with People

After successfully connecting with someone, you need to follow-up with them through drip marketing campaigns. Send a postcard (people have forgotten the art of the handwritten note). Shoot them an email. Look for them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Don’t just call them and ask, “So, are you ready to do some business together?” Building trust and credibility takes time. By taking this approach, you will not only put more prospects in the sales funnel, you will also help nurture your future sales. A good email might be “Hey, I was thinking about your business the other day... I wanted to pop in under the guise of a customer and see it for myself. Sort of like a free secret shop. I might find something that is costing you money or could make you some more. I’ll report back with my findings. Do you mind?”

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Bill Gilliland is a five-time business owner, speaker, and business coach.
Request Your Free Subscription! WNC Business offers FREE magazine subscriptions to the local business community. Request your complimentary subscription to the magazine and email newsletter at WNCBusiness.com/Subscribe.

Business InsuranceInterruption

Have you just started a small business, or are you an entrepreneur who’s been in the game for years? Whatever your experience level in entrepreneurship, you’ll need a safety net to protect you when something about your business goes south.

You don’t have to be located in ‘Tornado Alley’ or in a flood zone for it to be necessary to prepare for possible unforeseen cessation of your operations; door-closing problems such as citywide water outages can happen without warning. Business interruption insurance allows you to prepare for problems like these with that safety net.

What Is Business Interruption Insurance?

Business interruption insurance is one of several types of business insurance. Business interruption coverage is a

form of income protection for when your business must temporarily shut down. It provides coverage for financial losses you might suffer.

Aside from income, there are more things that business interruption insurance will include in its coverage. Business interruption insurance covers a halt in the operation of your business when other basic business insurance policies may not be able to. From protecting potential profits to relocation expenses, business interruption insurance can help you with these costs and more. However, some losses or damages do not fall under business interruption insurance coverage.

For a quick overview, refer to the table on the next page.

How Does Business Interruption Insurance Work?

Business interruption insurance, also known as business income insurance, compensates you by replacing the income you could have made if the business did not close for a covered loss. As soon as a covered event occurs, it is important to notify your carriers that a physical loss has occurred due to a covered peril and that your business has to stop or limit normal operations. This will start your waiting

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period (also referred to as a deductible) and your period of restoration will begin. The period of restoration refers to the time your business interruption insurance coverage will take effect. It is usually of a certain duration, covering income losses for a fixed time. Of course, this would depend on your business interruption insurance policy.

Often, the period of restoration for most policies is 30 days. You can extend this by getting an endorsement. Your restoration period extension can extend by as much as 360 calendar days. The dollar amount covered after making business interruption insurance claims can vary greatly. It all depends on how much revenue your business ordinarily brings in. For this reason, you’ll need to have your financial records in order and on hand when you buy a policy. Every business interruption insurance policy will include the following:

• Financial records

• D ocuments that state when the business shut down

• A document indicating the reason for the temporary closure

• Possibly others depending on your insurance provider

These documents are required to prove what your business stands to lose during closure. This holds true for whatever the amount you wish to be covered for is. If you have all of these documents in order, your business interruption insurance claim should be successful.

Once you have filed a claim, expect a waiting period. The usual waiting period is about 48 to 72 hours.

Do I Need Business Interruption Insurance Coverage?

The short answer to this is yes. During an unexpected closure, you and your

employees will be robbed of your source of income. Big or small, every business can experience unforeseen circumstances that may require closing for an indefinite period of time.

This is why you’ll need a way to ensure that your business is protected if and when your business is forced to shut down. Even if things are going well, it always pays to be prepared. With business interruption insurance, you can receive money for the losses you may incur while your business ‘hibernates’.

How Much Does Business Interruption Insurance Cost?

There are wide variations in the costs of business interruption insurance. The national average is at just under $1,300 per policy yearly.

Again, this is the national average, this figure may not be your business interruption insurance premium. Yours may be higher or lower depending on these two main factors – location and size.

The Location of Your Business

The location of your business can say a lot about risks to your insurance provider. The higher the risk associated with your business address, the higher your premium might be. Depending on your location, your insurance provider might only require a $700 annual premium for a fairly safe area. In a flood-prone area, your business interruption insurance premium may be more than $1,000 annually.

The Size of Your Business

It’s simple – the bigger your business, the more coverage you’ll need in the event of closure. The smaller your business is, the less coverage you’ll need. This is why it’s important to speak to a trusted insurance provider to discuss coverage amounts and options, and to anticipate what you will want to have covered and how much value those items hold.

Protect Your Business Further With Business Interruption Insurance

You, your business, and your employees can feel more comfortable with a bit of protection when things go wrong. For situations that can shut down your operations, a comprehensive business interruption insurance policy can provide that comfort for you. —

Jared Bellmund is an ALLCHOICE Insurance agent in Hendersonville. Reach out to Jared at 828- 237-2327 or visit ALLCHOICEInsurance.com/ Hendersonville.

WNCBusiness.com | 83 USUALLY COVERED by Business Interruption Insurance • Income loss (net income as proven by financial statements and projections) • Rent or mortgage payments • Taxes • Loan payments or repayments • Employee salaries NOT COVERED by Business Interruption Insurance • Broken items • Damage from floods (covered by flood insurance) • Damage to a business’s building (may be covered by landlord insurance) • Utilities • Outbreaks (for example, pandemics like COVID-19) wnc business partners

Employment Insights

Economic Updates

After five months of seemingly slowing growth, job creation growth rates surged in January to nearly double the previous month’s rate. For a job market that’s been facing layoffs, this is great news! Despite current predictions that the country is on the cusp of a recession, the U.S. gained 25,900 temporary jobs and total employment went up by 517,000 jobs last month.

According to Mountain Area Works, Buncombe County’s numbers fare even better. Asheville metro’s unemployment rate is at 2.5%, the lowest of any metro in the state. We had 13,039 job openings as of December 2022.

Other highlights:

• A merica gained 4.8 million jobs last year. Job gains were widespread, led by the leisure and hospitality sector.

• Wages grew 4.4% from a year earlier — higher than expected. (That’s still below the latest inflation reading of 6.5%, though inflation has been steadily declining since June.)

• D espite some high-profile layoffs in tech and media, the broader economy is thriving.

• It is still very much a worker’s market; there are nearly two jobs open for every one person looking for work.

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At Spherion Staffing & Recruiting, “We are Insightful” and “We are Local,” which means we do all we can to learn and help grow the communities we call home. By sharing news you need regarding economic updates, labor market trends, and industry highlights, we hope you can be better prepared for business conversations and armed to differentiate yourself as a business expert in Western North Carolina.

Labor Market Updates

A recent “Closing the Skills Gap” report found that 69% of U.S. human resources professionals surveyed said their organization has a skills gap. That is up from 55% in a similar survey in 2021. This widening of the skills gap is concerning and not likely to end soon. The demand for talent keeps evolving faster, and it’s increasingly hard for companies and higher education institutions to keep up, particularly when it comes to soft skills.

To combat this discrepancy, companies have had to pivot and adapt. Training may be one way to reduce the skills gap, and some firms reimburse employees’ tuition costs for training or partner with colleges or technical schools. The proportion of respondents who said more than 5% of their workforce used tuition assistance rose from 61% in 2021 to 69% in 2022. Fifty-three percent of hiring managers said their company eliminated the bachelor’s degree requirement for certain roles in the past year, and among this group, 60% said they removed the prerequisite for entry-level positions. “The move to eliminate a bachelor’s degree requirement is not surprising,” said Intelligent.com Chief Career Advisor Stacie Haller. “With two open job openings for every job seeker in this market, companies are at war for talent. We are hearing about layoffs in certain sectors, but in many others, companies are vying for the same candidates to fill open roles.”

Quiet hiring is another popular practice for some companies who’re struggling to find talent. Quiet hiring is when employers fill talent gaps by shifting employees around and hiring contractors or parttime workers. This process provides a vital solution in times of economic pressure, when traditional recruitment options may be limited due to labor shortages. By temporarily redistributing tasks among current staff, businesses can ensure their essential requirements are met and financial goals achieved without committing long-term resources toward new hires.

What Do Workers Want?

• Employees are willing to walk away from a job if expectations aren’t met.

• F orty two percent of workers are prepared to quit if requests for better conditions are not met.

• A further third would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job.

• O lder workers in particular value flexibility, and for many, it has allowed them to re-enter the labor market after the pandemic.

• G en Z and Millennials especially seek more satisfaction from work than a paycheck alone provides. This means leaders need to think carefully about how to manage tomorrow’s talent agenda.

• O ver half of the workers said that they would quit a job if they felt like they didn’t

belong there, and this is especially true of Gen Z (61%).

• Employee support is becoming a new differentiator in the ongoing scramble for talent.

7 Things Workers Don’t Want

• Lack of appreciation

• Unfairness and favoritism

• Allowing no autonomy over one’s work

• Showing no Interest in employees’ passions

• One-size-fits-all staff appreciation

• A lack of meaning

• A lack of fun and play

Talk to Us!

How are these economic conditions and labor market trends affecting your business and influencing your workforce plans? Has your company struggled to adapt to new worker expectations? Reach out to our team at Spherion to gain a deeper insight and the tools needed to succeed in this tight labor market.

Jack Keebler is a

Representative at Spherion Staffing & Recruiting’s WNC office. Reach out to Jack at 828-348-0390 or at JackKeebler@Spherion.com.

wnc business partners
We are hearing about layoffs in certain sectors, but in many others, companies are vying for the same candidates to fill open roles.

Effective Marketing Through

There are many factors that influence both the extent to which and the speed at which a business, especially a new, not-yetestablished business, succeeds. Among these factors are all things marketing. As businesses set up and go about their marketing, a common tendency is often to think in terms of non-human and often non-personal mechanics like social media, website, and conventional exposure media (print ads, billboards, radio, TV, FB and Google Ads, bumper stickers, vehicle wraps, etc.). Often overlooked, or at least underestimated and underinvested, is person-to-person community building based on relationships and shared values.

If you stop and think about it, the nonpersonal marketing mechanics can be created to fairly equally high levels by competing businesses in the same field, on the condition that each business is willing to invest similar levels of time, energy, and money to those same mechanical tools. Given this fairly even access, what often differentiates businesses in the same field is the degree to which each business is

“relationally alive” through its human-tohuman network of relationships.

At the end of the day, people like doing business with people they feel familiar with, understand, like, trust, and respect. All things being equal, it is this combination of attributes that compels a person to do business with one party over another. There is no substitute for real human interaction, and the degree to which those interactions are in-person as well as the closer they are to ‘real-time,’ the better. So ‘in the physical presence of’ is better than a video call, which is better than a phone call, which is better than a text, which is better than an email, which is better than a fax, which is better than a letter, etc. There

is no substitute for business networking.

One of the more efficient ways to ‘network’ is to build a network that is dense with a critical mass of relationships that are of special relevance to a business and, in the process, leverage the opinions and experiences of the relationships in your existing network as you continue to build toward an ever-larger network.

A simple example of this would be a yoga studio who would like to build a large following of practitioners, whose owners or representatives would start by recognizing health-minded, healthyappearing, and intelligent adults with whom they are already crossing paths with. As these relationships deepen, an efficient and accelerated method for growing that relational network and related customer base would be for the company reps to then ask each of these, “Who are the five people you know who are most healthminded, physically-fit, intelligent and influential whom you recommend that I meet?” Then following through, meeting those people, referencing the person who recommended the connection, and then asking the same question moving forward is the formula for high-caliber, accelerated growth that can be applied to any product or service and across any industry or profession.

So, in the face of the world’s tendency to be ever-increasingly more automated and less personal, remember the importance and value of setting yourself and your business apart from the pack with your ability to create and then harness the power of relationship-based personal network.

Now go get ‘em! —

Tony Morris is the Founder and Grandmaster Instructor at Asheville Sun Soo Martial Arts. Learn more at MartialArtsAsheville.com.

86 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023 pro-tips

Understanding Performance Feedback

It’s not unusual to dislike giving or receiving feedback on job performance. The Society for Human Resources Management has reported that as many as 95% of managers are dissatisfied with their performance review systems, and 56% of employees surveyed said they do not typically receive feedback on what to improve. Complaints like these may lead companies to consider doing away with performance reviews altogether, but avoiding difficult conversations won’t help your company or your employees improve. How can we make giving and receiving feedback easier on everyone involved? Simply being open and authentic are keys to making this exercise easier.

The Risk of Avoidance

Giving feedback on job performance isn’t easy, especially when it requires sharing information that an employee may not want to hear. However, when managers don’t express what’s on their mind, both sides have missed an opportunity to improve. It’s tempting to avoid discomfort by sticking to check-the-box type comments like “good job,” but fake accolades can actually cause damage. Hiding your true feelings will eventually act as a barrier within the relationship between the manager and the employee. Until what was left unsaid has been acknowledged, this barrier will interfere with communication flows and jeopardize ease in the relationship.

Moreover, from the employee’s point of view, nothing makes them feel more invisible than hearing “good job” when they know there’s more to explore. Being told your work is good when you know there is room for improvement can also

lead to a real disconnect when it comes time for promotions and bonuses. It’s always better for everyone involved to know exactly where they stand so they have time to adjust, learn, and grow.

Start with Compassion

Let humanity speak first by showing you care about an employee’s development and success. It doesn’t have to get too personal - this is not about being best buddies - but do take an interest in what motivates the employee. Focus on shared values, experiences with the work being done, and what the employee has to offer on a professional level.

Be Direct and Specific

Feedback should always be tied to the work, not to the person. It should be specific, related to identified projects and situations, and include examples of what should have been done that was not done. It should also be based on what has been measured and verified, not on assumptions or hearsay. If there are feelings that an employee did not do a good job with something, you must share that with them, but understand that the priority is sharing where the work, not the person, fell short.

Stay Away from Brutal Honesty and Personal Insults

Humiliation is never a good thing for motivation, but being truthful is important. It’s a good idea to combine your need to speak the truth with acknowledgment that you respect the recipient of the feedback as a human being. When

feedback becomes too harsh or personal, employees can feel discouraged and may even seek employment elsewhere because an aggressive tone can be interpreted as a lack of care for their professional development. When managers cross the line and discuss personal aspects while giving feedback, the impact can be highly detrimental to morale for everyone since negativity tends to spread. If you notice a conversation moving in this direction, take a pause, redirect, and begin again from a place of compassion.

The Right Balance

Being authentic and compassionate while delivering performance feedback can be tough, but with practice it can be learned. Finding the right balance will foster substantive conversations between managers and employees, and will inspire trust and motivation to improve. By using the heart and the head together, it is possible to leverage our contributions, learn from our shortcomings, and maximize our ability to grow by seeing the opportunity inherent in giving and receiving performance feedback.

Beverly Jurenko, MBA, certified DEI practitioner, and member of the International Coaching Federation, provides Leadership & Career Coaching and Diversity Equity & Inclusion Consulting through Inside Edge Consulting LLC. Learn more at Inside-Edge-Group.com.

WNCBusiness.com | 87 pro-tips

Business Events Across WNC

For More Information on These Events or to Submit Your Own Event, Visit WNCBusiness.com/Events.


Tuesday, April 4

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business

6:00 - 8:00 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success.

Using Data to Drive Business Growth

6:00 - 8:00 PM | Virtual, Tri-County SBC

Learn best practices and analyze trends about how customers engage with your business online, then turn these insights into well-informed, actionable decisions.

Wednesday, April 5

MindSpark! Small Business Seminar

12:00 PM | Virtual, A-B Tech

Finding your business’s uniqueness and owning it.

Thursday, April 6

Foundations Business Planning Class

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

The Foundations business planning class helps guide ideas from concept to reality in a participatory, supportive learning environment. Repeats weekly through May 11.

Innovations in Health: A Driving Force of Economic Development in Southwestern NC

1:00 - 5:30 PM

Western Carolina University

This in-person event will be an opportunity to hear from area innovators in the healthcare space, ending with an optional tour of the WCU Health and Human Sciences Building and a networking hour with light refreshments sponsored by Dogwood Health Trust.

Spring 2023 Makers Mixer

5:30 - 7:00 PM | Mountain BizWorks

An informal, in-person gathering of artists and creatives from the Western North Carolina region.

Tuesday, April 11

Alpine Business Course

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM | Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

TheMountain BizWorks’ Alpine Course is designed to support founders of businesses that have been operating for at least one year. Repeats weekly through May 9.

Regional Networking Event

5:30 - 7:00 PM | Hunter Automotive

Henderson County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a regional networking eventwith the Asheville Area and Brevard/ Transylvania County Chambers.

Community Financial Education Course

6:00 - 7:30 PM | The Skene Agency

The Community Financial Education Course is a monthly resource for the greater Asheville area to help empower small businesses with the information and resources they need to create financial wellness.

Wednesday, April 12

Business Morning Update

7:45 - 9:00 AM

Hendersonville Elks Lodge 1616

This monthly event features several speakers on timely community events and issues affecting our business community.

Smart Series: Acts of Conscious Inclusion

12:00 - 1:00 PM

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

This training will help you as a business owner to understand your own unconscious bias in order to recruit, hire, and retain diverse talent.

Thursday, April 13

Me + WWBC, Better Together: the 8th Annual Western Women’s Business Center Conference

8:00 AM - 12:00 PM

A-B Tech Conference Center

More than just a conference, this event is a movement to connect a powerful network of women entrepreneurs who are shaping the future economic foundation of WNC.

88 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023

Tuesday, April 18

21 Ways to Fund a Nonprofit

12:00 - 1:30 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This workshop was written to help small nonprofit leaders who have not reached their funding goals identify multiple sources for generated revenue to further their charitable mission.

3rd Tuesdays Casual Networking

4:30 - 6:00 PM

Hickory Tavern

ActionCOACH | Business Growth Partners invites you to come, hang out, and network face to face with other business owners and grow your community.

Business After Hours - Asheville

5:30 - 7:00 PM

TownePlace Suites by Marriott Asheville West

Join the Asheville Area Chambe for Business After Hours at TownePlace Suites by Marriott Asheville West.

Design Thinking For Entrepreneurs

6:00 - 8:00 PM

Virtual, Tri-County SBC

Discover how to create a collaborative environment where everyone is responsible for design.

Thursday, April 20

ScaleUp Workshop

5:30 - 7:30 PM

Hi-Wire Brewing, Biltmore Village

The second in the Mountain BizWorks Building to Scale series, the workshop focuses on the first component for scaling your company: build predictable, consistent and growing revenue.

Thursday, April 27

Email Sequencing Made Easy

12:00 - 2:00 PM

Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

In this two-part workshop, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get your email marketing up and running. (Part 2 - May 2.)

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business

12:45 - 2:45 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success.

business events across wnc


Tuesday, May 2

Marketing and Branding Essentials

9:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

Join marketing and branding expert Murphy Funkhouser for this 6-week master class on the basic principles of branding.

Wednesday, May 3

Anatomy of a Trade Finance Deal

10:00 - 11:00 AM | Virtual, SBTDC

Join the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Export-Import Bank, NC District Export Council, NC World Trade Association and host NC SBTDC International Business Development team for our 8th Annual Trade Finance Webinar Series.

Thursday, May 4

SEO and Analytics: The How and The Why

2:00 - 4:00 PM

Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

This course will review what SEO is and how search engines work, how to identify keywords for your website, and how you can optimize your website for search engines as a small business owner.

Friday, May 5

2023 Chamber Challenge 5K

4:00 - 6:00 PM

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber Challenge is designed to promote community wellness through friendly competition between businesses in the Asheville area.

Saturday, May 6

Get in Gear Fest

12:00 - 5:00 PM

The Outpost

Outdoor Gear Builder’s annual festival showcasing WNC’s outdoor industry products and services along with offering family friendly activities on the banks of the French Broad River.

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WNCBusiness.com | 89

business events across wnc

Tuesday, May 9

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business

12:45 - 2:45 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success.

Community Financial Education Course

6:00 - 7:30 PM | The Skene Agency

The Community Financial Education Course is a monthly resource for the greater Asheville area to help empower small businesses with the information and resources they need to create financial wellness.

Wednesday, May 10

Unlocking the Power of Analytics: Leveraging Data to Drive Business Success

2:00 - 4:00 PM | Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

This course will explain how to use data to drive more effective marketing campaigns and make informed decisions about your customers.

Business Morning Update

7:45 - 9:00 AM | Hendersonville Elks Lodge 1616

This monthly event features several speakers on timely community events and issues affecting our business community.

Thursday, May 11

Grand Opening of Mountaineer Motor Tours

4:00 - 5:00 PM | Grovewood Village

Join the Asheville Area Chamber to celebrate the grand opening of Mountaineer Motor Tours.

Tuesday, May 16

3rd Tuesdays Casual Networking

4:30 - 6:00 PM | Hickory Tavern

ActionCOACH | Business Growth Partners invites you to come, hang out, and network face to face with other business owners and grow your community.

Wednesday, May 17

Smart Series: Everyone Knows Marketing Sucks

12:00 - 1:00 PM

Hatchworks Coworking

Discover ways in which your marketing can be a powerful voice in the world for your brand and the people you serve.

Thursday, May 18

How to Access Nonprofit Sponsorships, Grants, and Resources

12:00 - 1:30 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This workshop provides a high-level overview of the online spaces available for major sources of funding and nonprofit resources.

Sky High Growth Awards

4:00 - 6:00 PM

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

The Sky High Growth Awards honor the determination and accomplishments of Asheville’s businesses.

Tuesday, May 23

Financial Series

6:00 - 8:30 PM

Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

The Financial Series is made up of two classes that comprehensively cover the basic financial skills and tools that every entrepreneur needs to start and run a successful business. Repeats weekly through June 6.

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business

6:00 - 8:00 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success.

Wednesday, May 24

Business & Professional Women’s Luncheon

11:00 AM - 1:30 PM

Blue Ridge Community College

Join the Henderson County Chamber for a special event and the presentation of the 16th Annual Henderson County ATHENA Award.

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

May Chamber Orientation

3:30 - 5:00 PM | Location TBD

Learn how to get the most value from your membership investment with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

90 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023


Tuesday, June 6

Intro to Quickbooks

6:00 - 8:30 PM

Virtual, Mountain BizWorks

Intro to QuickBooks Online class is designed for those that have little to no experience with QuickBooks Online in recent years.

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business

6:00 - 8:00 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success.

Wednesday, June 7

International Methods of Payment

10:00 - 11:00 AM | Virtual, SBTDC

Join the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Export-Import Bank, NC District Export Council, NC World Trade Association and host NC SBTDC International Business Development team for our 8th Annual Trade Finance Webinar Series.

Chamber Golf Classic

11:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Hendersonville Country Club

Henderson County Chamber’s annual golf tournament. All proceeds support the Workforce Development Programs of the Chamber of Commerce.

Smart Series: Compensation Strategies

12:00 - 1:00 PM

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

This session will provide a future-focused approach for compensation strategies that deliver a high ROI.

Tuesday, June 13

Community Financial Education Course

6:00 - 7:30 PM

The Skene Agency

The Community Financial Education Course is a monthly resource for the greater Asheville area to help empower small businesses with the information and resources they need to create financial wellness.

business events across wnc

Wednesday, June 14

Business Morning Update

7:45 - 9:00 AM

Hendersonville Elks Lodge 1616

This monthly event features several speakers on timely community events and issues affecting our business community.

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Annual Meeting

5:00 - 8:00 PM

Omni Grove Park Inn

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s crowning event of the year includes dinner and a celebration of achievements and inspiration.

Tuesday, June 20

3rd Tuesdays Casual Networking

4:30 - 6:00 PM

Hickory Tavern

ActionCOACH | Business Growth Partners invites you to come, hang out, and network face to face with other business owners and grow your community.

Thursday, June 22

Simple Steps for Starting Your Business

12:45 - 2:45 PM | Virtual, SCORE

This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success.

For More Information on Events

Costs, registration links, and more details are available at WNCBusiness.com/Calendar.

WNCBusiness.com | 91



Jared is ALLCHOICE Insurance’s Managing Partner in Western North Carolina, with offices in Asheville and Hendersonville. Jared is both active in our community and at Bethany Baptist Church.

Jared lives in Fletcher with his wife of 10 years, Jenny and their two children, Jamie and Jonah. He is an avid sports fan and when not cheering on his favorite teams, you can find him playing golf, fishing, hiking, or spending quality time with his family.

Schedule a free, no obligation, commercial insurance review to ensure your business has the right coverage at the best value.




CEO, Atlantic Coast Business Brokers

Kégan founded the “next generation” business brokerage and advisory firm, believing that the industry was in desperate need of change. He and his team use their years of professional business consulting experience to elevate the business purchasing and selling experience.

Kégan and his wife are full-time residents of WNC and prefer to spend most of their free time on adventures in the great outdoors with their two dogs.

Looking to purchase or sell a business?

Contact Kégan today to learn more about their services!


MEd/HR, This Leader Life

Mary Beth provides national leadership coaching, fractional HR, and strategic performance solutions for senior leaders and business owners.

After 15 years of leadership in HR and Organizational Development, Mary Beth identified the importance of contracting with external subject matter experts in her field. Mary Beth offers leadership and business best practices such as executive coaching, leadership branding, team development, project management, strategy alignment, and small business HR.

Visit her website for a more in depth look at all that she offers.




Award Winning Presenter, Entrepreneur, and ActionCOACH Business Coach

Bill is currently one of the top ActionCOACH business coaches in the world, speaks on a wide range of business topics, and loves to teach business owners how to build “commercial, profitable businesses that work without them.”

Bill lives in Montreat with his wife of 38 years, Lynn. They have two grown sons. In his spare time, Bill enjoys golf, fly-fishing, reading books on business and theology, and doing anything outdoors with his sons.

Schedule a Free Business Coaching session with Bill Gilliland to get started.





92 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023 wnc business people to know

NICK IOSUE Sr. Commercial Loan Officer, United Federal Credit Union

As the Senior Commercial Loan Officer, Nick has more than 12 years of financial industry experience. Prior to joining United, Nick was a VP of Business Banking at First Citizen Bank. He has a degree in accounting and corporate finance from Western Carolina University and is a graduate of the North Carolina School of Banking at UNC Chapel Hill. Nick lives with his wife and two daughters and has served with the NC Young Bankers Association, the Brevard Chamber of Commerce, and Pisgah Forest Rotary.


Award-winning Designer, Entrepreneur, Owner Lone Bird Studio LLC., webguy.tech

Chris Kaminski, a talented designer, artist, and writer brims with creativity and professionalism. His artistic background adds a unique depth to any design project that Lone Bird offers - including graphic design, web development, branding, and marketing. Top-notch, tailored solutions by constantly innovating allows Lone Bird Studio to exceed client expectations. For outstanding marketing services from a multi-talented professional, contact Chris at Lone Bird Studios LLC.




Regional Sales Representative, Spherion Staffing & Recruiting

Jack has worked with Spherion since 2018 and after graduating from WCU with a Finance degree, he quickly moved up the ranks from Intern to Recruiter to On-Premise Manager, and now to Regional Sales Representative.

With a finger on the pulse of the industry and a knack for forging relationships, Jack connects talented candidates with discerning clients. Through compassion and grit, he works to drive careers, grow businesses, and better the communities we call home. Reach out to learn more about Jack and to see how Spherion can help you.



CINDY KIMMEL Owner/Benefits Advisor

Cindy Kimmel is tackling the diminishing value of health insurance by bringing alternative health plans to local businesses. Her 15-year career in corporate employee benefits has given her valuable insights into the challenges of providing competitive benefits. With a focus on sustainable health plan solutions, Kimmel Benefits+ is committed to ensuring businesses can access affordable, highquality health plans. Holding a Master’s in HR and serving on the Western NC HR board, Cindy is a trusted advisor to her clients.

Contact us today to schedule an introductory consultation.





WNCBusiness.com | 93 wnc business people to know



A Risk Consultant with ALLCHOICE Insurance, Cheyenne Matthews is an Ambassador with the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, a Committee Member with the Fletcher Area Business Association, a Softball Coach with Henderson County Parks and Recreation, and an assistant coach for the Lady Bearcat’s Hendersonville High School Softball Team.

Cheyenne works hard daily to serve her community and to do business the right way. To see what she and ALLCHOICE are doing for the community, give her a call today.

DREW POLLICK (He/Him) Founder + Managing Partner

Drew founded Craft HR Solutions with the vision of helping mission-driven, small and mid-sized organizations grow. He saw leaders struggle to find the experience and expertise needed to make critical impacts through their people. The Craft HR team offers solutions ranging from HR Assessments, Fractional HR, and project-based engagements to enhance compensation, benefits, recruiting, leader training, employee engagement, DEI, and more. Set a time today to learn more about how Craft HR can help you achieve your goals. Follow the QR code to visit our website.




Certified Coach, You Lead Unlimited

Tim has helped leaders lead at their highest level both personally and professionally. As a Maxwell Leadership Coach and Ace certified personal trainer, DISC assessment trainer, and Ordained Minister, Tim is equipped to develop strategies that increase growth potential in business and personal development.

Tim, Elke, and their four children enjoy the friendships, community, and beauty that Hendersonville has to offer.




President & CEO, Vistanet

Andrea’s 40+ years of telephony experience has equipped her with the skill set and knowledge base needed to build Vistanet into the business-ready telephony hub it is today. Having thrived in both the public and private telecommunications space, Andrea brings her passion for connecting business and customers to our Vistanet office every day.

Andrea has a business management degree from the University of Maryland and has experience in business consultancy helping Fortune 500 companies with strategic planning, financing operations, and more.





94 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023 wnc business people to know
Stay in touch with the latest business news from across Western North Carolina at WNCBusiness.com. You'll also find quick links to local business resources and a regional calendar of business events. Want to share your own business happenings? Register your FREE online business directory listing to add your events to the calendar. Let's Connect. WNCBusiness.com | | Info@WNCBusiness.com
96 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023 Protect Your Business & Your Information 828-419-0737 CarolinaCyberCenter.com Learn more at abtech.edu or call 828.398.7900 A-B TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE SUPPORTING WNC BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY As the region’s largest community college, A-B Tech educates and trains the workforce, provides customized training to industry partners, and serves individuals through a Small Business Center and Business Incubation Program designed to foster and support entrepreneurship, small businesses, and economic development. ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA • (828) 398-7900 • ABTECH.EDU marketplace Interior Design for All Spaces 828-424-5427 ekinteriordesign.com Financial Advisor ChFC®, CEPA® 828-793-4310 EdwardJones.com/ Katherine-Morosani Small Business Financing, Let’s Find A Way. 888-382-4968 FirstHorizon.com The Best Relationships Start with Trust 1-800-627-1632 htb.com/business
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Increasing Play Time to Reduce Burnout

Eighteen years ago, when my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, I became a small business owner for the first time. The business was called Craig’s Landscaping, and it was mine for seven years before I sold it to start a tree service called Asheville Arborists.

I helped run that business for another seven years before being bought out by my business partner. After that, I started my third and current business, Asheville Landscaping LLC, which handles almost everything related to landscaping including tree removal & pruning, tree planting, landscape installation, property clean-ups, boulder walls, and hardscapes.

My business philosophy has always been to do good work and to be a problemsolver for our clients. This priority comes first, above any potential profit we may make off a project. I believe that this philosophy is what has allowed my businesses to succeed.

While there has been success, I’ve seen my companies both grow and shrink over the years for various reasons. Our most recent change was scaling back due to Covid. Since then, we have decided to maintain a smaller-sized company in an effort to manage less stress. This allows our focus to be solely on providing our clientele the best service possible.

One of the reasons that I chose to build my career and my life here in Western North Carolina is that I enjoy the natural beauty of the land. Spending time outdoors is what helps to keep me grounded, so it’s great that I get to work outside. I try to take time almost every week to get outside to play too, as often as my schedule allows.

The pandemic’s effects on my business helped to push me back into river paddling on a regular basis. I spend a lot of time paddling around WNC, and I find that these rivers help to clear my mind of stress. They also help me to stay focused on positive thoughts and what’s truly important in this life. When the rain shuts

down my business for the day, I can often see that as a blessing and just go paddling. I am also very passionate about live music. I believe that we have one of the best music scenes on the entire east coast. Not only do we get a ton of nationally touring acts that visit Asheville, but we also have an incredible amount of local talent. Some of my favorite local bands are the Travers Brothership, Brushfire Stankgrass, Josh Phillips, Empire Strikes Brass, and Acoustic Syndicate.

I am also a long time active member of the south Asheville Rotary Club. There are so many wonderful people in our community, and giving back to the community that I love so much is really satisfying. We meet for breakfast at the Biltmore Park clubhouse every Wednesday morning from 7:30 to 8:30 AM, and I enjoy the meeting and the networking every week. I find that this work/play balance does help to prevent burnout in my business. Taking time to enjoy the outdoors, music, and community certainly helps to reduce my overall stress level. This keeps me feeling fresh while living the inevitable hectic life of a small business owner.

When I can take the time for myself, I find that I am more excited for my next day of work. I walk out of the door with a smile on my face, and it stays there all day long. —

98 | WNC BUSINESS Q2 2023
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