Our accelerator will bring together 16-20 entrepreneurs over a 10-12 week period (still refining the numbers and length of program). We design so that the cohort of peers are their own coaches and mentors, and we also cycle through world-class mentors, thought leaders, legal advisors, design consultants, investors, funders, and so on. At the conclusion of the session, the 16-20 entrepreneurs will peer select which two receive the pre-committed capital (we are developing a non-profit fund).

As important as the capital, however, are the relationships they form: with one another and the mentors/coaches/thought leaders/funders. Our goal is to accelerate these ventures so they can scale and impact across their sector – for instance, a water-saving or energy saving innovation for farmers, a simple mechanism for farmers to get their product to market for a fair price, an innovative design for looms that could be used by home weavers and industrial weavers alike, innovative uses of wood waste, and those are just a tiny sample of the WORLD of innovation that we know is out there!

We don’t know what the innovations will be, of course, but are very excited at what is already happening in this space around the world. we don’t know of any other accelerator focusing on these sectors, although there are some food-focused ones. Our developing model is inspired by www.unreasonableinstitute.org and www.vilcap.com, as well as other high-impact, social enterprise accelerators. currently, we are casting a big net to reach out to hundreds of innovative entrepreneurs and develop a robust pipeline. We will send a short survey to gauge their interest and feasibility, and if they fit, will invite them to apply. Let us know at esaraday@gmail.com!

This recent farm study from Iowa is a great example of a simple solution that could have a huge impact on the sustainability of farming. An innovator that can figure out how to get this word to farmers on a large scale is the kind of innovator we want to help. How about an app made available to ag extension agents nationwide? would they share it? if their boss, president obama, mandated it they would :)

An excerpt from the article: “The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent. In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons.”


Well, GrittyWorks is evolving, as we expected, and the name evolves with it. We are so excited to have established a partnership with one the most successful accelerator models in the world, Village Capital. And, ta dah, our Asheville-based accelerator is Village Capital Appalachia! VilCapApp! Village CAppalAchia! Ha, fun with names, but we are Village Capital Appalachia. Together, we’ll accelerate a combined group of 15-20 innovators from Appalachia and beyond, that are tackling the big challenges of land-based economies around the globe, bringing them together with world-class mentors and investors, to help launch these successful seed stage businesses into even more successful early and later stage companies! We have a lovely downtown location and are also considering staging some of our co-working at a beautiful farm school just outside of town. Over the past three years, Village Capital has launched 15 programs in 6 countries, supporting over 250 entrepreneurs. Village Capital participants have raised over $20 million, created over 7,500 jobs and served over 4 million customers worldwide. Combining Village Capital’s proven track record with our traction in this region of nature-based networks and business development, our growing cluster of vibrant agrarian and nature-based businesses in WNC (we were recently recognized as having the best local food culture and the best networked shared use facility for food and natural products in the country) and the recent award of the Obama administration’s jobs accelerator grant, lots and lots of interest AND some verbal commitments from investors and philanthropic organizations, and we are on our way to launch in Summer 2013. It’s a good day in the mountains :) How can you help? We are curating a list of at least 50 potential applicants for the accelerator, early stage businesses in the sectors of F’s and Energy ;) with proven success and good prospects for growth, with investment capacity for $50,000 – $500,000 and up over the next two years. Also, please do pass along your recommendations for philanthropy and investment to support our launch. We’re raising about $200,000 ($125,000 for the Village Capital part and another $75,000 for developing supply chain infrastructure that will begin the foundation for a sustainable accelerator for Appalachia :)

I’ve been away, my blog, for good reason. My beloved father died after several years of living with Alzheimer’s……what a bizarre and wretched disease. For his last two years, I traveled every month from my home in Asheville, NC to my family home in Midway, KY and pretty much lived there the last couple of months. I wanted to know Papa Joel (PJ) as much as possible while he still knew me. And, he did, till the very end. He still had his faculties about him, knew his family, some friends, said “I Love You” alot. Over the last couple of months he was deteriorating rapidly, growing weaker, but still his essence and determination were pushing through – he would still flirt with the nurses during his 10 day hospital stay and say “i love you” to me every time he saw me. We were trying to get him rehab to help with his diminishing ability to walk, but the overflowing and understaffed public institution that is the University of Kentucky medical center just couldn’t do much for him – their default was to nursing home. Having none of that, we set up home health care and took him home to Midway. He was so happy to be there, showed some improvement, but after 5 days, in the wee hours of the morning on June 3rd, he read a page of Harry Potter (his constant companion for the last year), told the nurse to turn out the light, “he was ready to go to sleep” and he did, peacefully. He saw the road diverge, and took the one less traveled. To not linger more, and suffer more, and hang on expecting western medicine to prop him up. He has now joined us in our hearts, where he lives and guides, and is with me always. Over 600 people showed up over the two days we celebrated the life of this extraordinary man, this generous man who gave to his community, his beloved Kentucky, through his political activism, he and my Mom feeding over 20,000 people through the years at their Kentucky home, his free and open sharing as a physicist, a woodworker, as a human being. He loved the world, loved people, and rode out on a full moon, lunar eclipse and Transit of Venus into the Unfinished Universe. Welcome, PJ, welcome to one love.

Good things this way come – so very much excitement around the accelerator and it’s evolution. Regional economic development group included us on grant, invited to speak on panel for accelerators at Gov’s statewide entrepreneurship summit in AVL this fall, invited to Silicon Valley for Global Innovation Summit in July and am part of multi-media project on Women of Appalachia doing badass stuff. Sweet couple following me around with cameras, to boring meetings for now, but I take them to Kentucky soon and that will not be boring! Symbiosis happening with Mycelium School and many others as we develop a pathway of support for socents in Appalachia. Reaching out to many people and organizations, even some I preconceived notions that I didn’t like and found I was wrong wrong – being less stubborn. As PJ would say, “be helpful to people, even ones you think you don’t like, you never know how or when they may be helpful.”

And on a final note, I have intentionally not promoted my blog to grow followers cause I wanted it for my own thoughts for awhile. But I’m ready to get it out there now, to ask my friends and kindly strangers from around the world to help grow this sweet accelerator to help the land economies of Appalachia, and well….anywhere that people live off the land!  :)

New info in Accelerators and Such. Atlanta to get new accelerator for good. Asheville next???

Atlanta getting social good accelerator, and other sundry accelerators for good. http://mashable.com/2012/02/29/social-good-startup-accelerators/.  No time to waste, AVL, let’s do this!









Asheville stuff: Asheville will host the N.C. Governor’s Entrepreneurship Summit this fall. This is the first time Asheville is hosting the summit, a gathering of top business leaders. Here’s the website for last year’s summit. It’s a big deal to get these leaders in town.

It’s also a big deal for Asheville to host a Startup Weekend, also in late summer/early fall. These weekends are awesome for people looking to launch a business. At Startup Weekend, you get expert help and actually get off the ground in 54 hours. From the website:

Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. Come share ideas, form teams, and launch startups.

Look for more details to come.

Add in the fact that Asheville is creating a new tech accelerator, and we’re starting to see key ingredients come together to make Asheville a true hotbed for entrepreneurs. What is a tech accelerator, you ask? Dale Neal of the Asheville Citizen-Times recently reported:

The accelerator program is the first project of a new private foundation at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship on campus and across the community.

Here’s how it works:

The accelerator will accept up to 10 companies for a 12-week intensive course. Each company principal would get $6,000 up to $18,000 per company. For the first four weeks, they focus on building their management team, the next four weeks on their product, then the final four weeks on sales.

Along the way, they are matched with a series of mentors to help refine their business plan, their product and their pitch. The program builds toward a Demo Day, when the companies unveil their product and business plans to interested investors.

The accelerator model has proved successful at Y Combinator in Silicon Valley and the TechStars programs in Boston, New York, Boulder, Colo., and Seattle.

from kevin:

it’s international. the socents pay their own way, via an online marketplace. it’s residential, six weeks and mentors and investors stay in the broken down fraternity house with the entrepreneurs. those are the basics.

 then there is brand value.
  it’s got a huge brand within the world of developing world focused social entrepreneurs.
then there is association with two other high quality programs that are world class in their ways
unreasonable is not as good as echoing green, probably, but UI does media, social media, video better than more substantive programs. i would propose we adopt elements of both, along with the global social benefit incubator at santa clara university, which boasts kiva as it’s top grad. it’s about two weeks, based in silicon valley, brings in top vc’s but it has elements that are adaptable. i am not a huge fan of any program or curriculum in its entirety.
and i could recruit an international cohort in a heart beat, tying into agora’s nicaraguan based accelerator, adding in curriculum on becoming investable for blended value social and environmental value social entrepreneurs like c02 bambu, a great company.http://www.co2bambu.com/
as well as being in a network with Dasra, a great Indian accelerator program
we’d be in a network of the world’s best social enterprise accelerator programs, linked to a global seed fund network, when that came on line, via village capital.
and then we’d be an expansion fund up on the top level

Our social change collective, www.prosperitycollective.net was just accepted into the GroAction network. Here’s the fun acceptance letter from Luke at www.groaction.com

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to the GroAction Network of Changemakers February Class.

Why did we choose you exactly? A lot had to do with your killer smile of course… but even more than that we look at how well you filled out your shareable assets.

The reason we care so much about what you have to offer is that this network thrives with people like you who want to share resources and help other members make an impact in the world.

Now that you’re in the network… get excited! You’re part of an elite group of social entrepreneurs and change agents that are taking action.

What’s next?

You’ll receive an email from me every week or so with a list of needs that you can help fill.

You’ll also receive emails from me when we have found matches to fill your needs and help you make an impact!

How do I get the GroAction Member Badge that I keep seeing on members’ websites?
Write your name on a $100 dollar bill and send it to 2343 NW Glis…. Just kidding!
Email our account specialist Anna Flores (anna@groaction.com) and she can get you flying the GroAction colors in no time.
If you have any questions, comments, funny stories, or bad jokes… you know where to find me

the last several days have been inspired. presenting to two sustainability classes have reminded me how deeply important mentoring is to me. accelerator/institute seems good fit. without my even asking, three young folks/students have asked to intern with us. thinking how best to utilize their talent and ensure that they recieve benefit in exchange.

canvassing and sharing our concepts with existing programs/accelerators getting input from established area economic development folks and change-makers. also asking for their thoughts on businesses that meet our vertical sectors and with capacity to receive support from the symbiotic fund, perhaps seed fund, perhaps candidate or mentor for institute.

Met with Wendy Cagle, the director of the Small Business Development Center for Western Carolina, based at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC (west of Asheville 45 minutes) www.sbtdc.org  She’s deeply inspired by our three-pillared symbiotic fund/seed fund/ and social enterprise accelerator and especially concurs that our vertical focus is right on par with the place-based skills, ecology and ethics of the mountain region. She wants to connect and  collaborate. In her 20+ years working with entrepreneurs and job seekers in WNC, she feels the focus of farm/ag/forestry/indigenous culture are a better fit for the rural people of this place that want to stay in this place. Further, she was truly excited to connect us to a very unique branding that WCU is considering as a one-of it’s kind world-class patented medicinal herb program for local growers. The NIH and FDA have asked them to develop patents for a long list of local herbs, so that those herbs can actually be prescribed as medicine. Wendy identified that their would be a gap and need for businesses that will manufacture the herbs to make available for consumption. I think a good area for our fund and institute to consider supporting and developing those medicinal herb distillers and medicine makers.

Meeting with Pam Lewis, Asheville-Buncombe Economic Development Director for Entrepreneurship today to get her take on our concept. I know she’s already into it, but going to flesh out more thoroughly how we can support one another.

another beautiful indicator as i talk with established, institutional folks, they want to be on board, to help, to join us in some form or fashion. signs that our path is lighted:)