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Accelerating Appalachia Accepting Applications

apply nowApplications will be open in the winter of 2017. If you have any questions, please contact Sara Day Evans, SaraDay(at)AcceleratingAppalachia.org



Accelerating Appalachia connects nature-based businesses from the rural and urban hubs of central and southern Appalachia to help expand their customer base, supply chains, peer, mentor and potential investor network. Nature-based businesses and entrepreneurs in the following sectors are encouraged to apply:

  • Farming
  • Food
  • Clean Energy
  • Forest products (natural building) and non-timber forest products (ginseng, mushrooms, fruit & nut trees)
  • Fiber/ Textiles
  • Craft Brewing/ Distilling
  • Botanicals/Wellness
  • Outdoor Industry
  • Other innovative triple bottom-line businesses with special consideration for innovators and entrepreneurs from marginalized populations.

“Accelerating Appalachia attracts growth-stage high-impact businesses and connects them not only with investment opportunities, sustainable supply chains and expanded customer base, but also with peer networks, mentors, and lasting connections, says Sara Day Evans, founding director of Accelerating Appalachia.  “We accelerate entrepreneurs that display characteristics of scalable, socially and environmentally responsible businesses that will further develop the growing new economy in Appalachia.”

“We are particularly excited to announce our partnership with Kiva Zip. Kiva is a platform that crowdfunds micro loans and is offering 0% interest loans up to $10,000 to farmers in the United States and gives the business incredible exposure. Businesses in the agriculture industry can have difficulty fitting within the terms of formal banking institutions; Kiva better meets the needs of farmers and their financial needs.”

Ms. Evans, a sixth generation Kentuckian, has worked in Appalachia for over 20 years. Her past work includes N.C. Department of Commerce’s Green Business Fund and development of the NC Green Economy Resources Directory, as well as community economic development for WNC’s most distressed counties. As program manager with the  Kentucky Division of Waste Management, she lead development and implementation of the Kentucky PRIDE Fund, an ongoing $15 million fund that has had resounding impact on decreasing illegal dumping, cleaning up roadsides and streams, and increasing recycling.

Testimonials from Accelerating Appalachia businesses:

“Accelerating Appalachia created a unique opportunity for Riverbend Malt House to interact with the successful entrepreneurs, finance professionals, and business leaders throughout our region. Those interactions helped guide our company through a period of explosive growth that continues to the present day,” says Brent Manning, Riverbend Malt House. “Accelerating Appalachia creates a bridge between the new wave of nature based businesses and an amazing array of mentors, venture capitalist firms, and business leaders who are eager to support a more durable, localized economic model for our region.” Brent Manning, Riverbend Malthouse, 2014

“We’re still a young company with no guarantees of future success. However, we can definitively say that Accelerating Appalachia was an extraordinarily helpful program for us. The visionary women who run Accelerating Appalachia definitely make sure it lives up to the name “accelerator.” During the few months of the program, our business probably moved forward two years as far as planning, financial projections, team building, etc. ACAP forced us to get tightly organized, while providing the tools and resources to do so. We’ve also been introduced to a wide range of prospective impact investors that we might not have met otherwise. Accelerating Appalachia has been the best investment we’ve ever made, and we can’t recommend it highly enough to other nature-based businesses who are ready to accelerate.” Aaron and Susan von Frank, GrowJourney, 2015.

Accelerating Appalachia is responding to success and growing demand:

  • Communities – More than 60 jobs created, over 200 new sustainable farm acres and 20 new farmers added over 2.5 years.
  • Entrepreneurs – Accelerator graduates have leveraged over $2 million in investment
  • Women – 75% of the accelerator applicants were woman-owned or co-owned.
  • Investors/Mentors – More than 40 in network, continuing to grow.
  • Youth/Students – Partnering with Warren Wilson College (western North Carolina),  Berea College, University of Pikeville and the University of Kentucky to engage sustainable business students in accelerator program and provide opportunity for student internships
  • Media – Great coverage from local, national and international press

Accelerating Appalachia is collaborating and partnering with multiple enterprises and organizations from across the region, including: Kiva Zip, The Prosperity Collective, Village Capital, Social Capital Markets, Big Path Capital, Appalachian Regional Commission, Brown-Forman, Ouita Michel Restaurants, Kentucky Distillers Association, Kentucky Entrepreneurial Coaches Institute, Kentucky Center for Ag and Rural Development (K-CARD), Kentucky Innovation Network, MACED, Appalachian Food Summit, Community Farm Alliance, Local Foods Network, Kentucky Proud/Appalachian Proud, Grow Appalachia, Rural Scale, and many more.