Health Innovation Hub in Williamson WV

Eric Mathis speaking at WHWC launch

Eric Mathis speaking at WHWC launch


Accelerating Appalachia showed their support at the launch of the Williamson Health and Wellness Center which is a health innovation hub in Williamson WV. The launch included words from guest speakers from Appalachia and beyond who discussed the value the hub provides to the community. This hub’s goal is to provide free health care to those who can’t afford it while promoting a healthy lifestyle to community members. Williamson is located in Mingo county which in the past has had the highest rate of diabetes in the USA.  The hub is committed to decreasing the diabetes rate in Mingo county. The goal of creating a healthy lifestyle was emphasized through an excellent lunch catered by 34:Ate, a restaurant that is opening soon in Williamson that serves locally produced foods.

Great food by 34:Ate

 Click the link to learn more about the efforts to decrease diabetes in Mingo county:

Presentation at Startup Product Asheville

Startup Product Asheville holds regular events for people who are passionate about product excellence and want to come together to collaborate about what it really takes to produce products. Find out more about Startup Product Asheville, click here!

Hemp! The future of Appalachia.

Growing Warriors EventAccelerating Appalachia participated in the Growing Warriors hemp planting event in Rockcastle County Ky. This is the first hemp crop planted in over 80 years. The farm plans to grow the hemp with the intent to be used in Appalachian based textile products. The event resulted in the state of Kentucky suing the DEA for attempting to prevent the event from continuing. Growing Warriors purchased a 600 acre farm for veterans to live and learn how to farm. Accelerating Appalachia linked Growing Warriors to folks in Appalachia for growing opportunities.

For more on the details of the event check out the article in USA Today:

Watch to learn more about the Growing Warriors and view excerpts from the ceremony:

While in Kentucky Sara Day Evans also attended a meeting at the Lexington Venture Club . There she got to hear Kentucky native Joshua Slayton speak about his failures and eventually success with AngelList.

Appalachian Food Summit

On Sunday May 18th, Sara Day Evans had the opportunity to attend the inaugural at the Hindman Settlement School in Knott county Ky. The food was excellent and it was a great opportunity to connect with Appalachians in the food industry. Additionally this summit matters because it displayed Appalachian heritage to those outside the region and is an opportunity for tourism in Knott County.



Check out more at #appfoodsummit on Twitter or Facebook and read more about the event on the following websites:


Earlier in the week, Sara Day was at Hindman to speak to Artists as Entrepreneurs conference. Special thanks to Ronni Lundy and Laura Smith who led the event.

Accelerating Appalachia’s Sustainable Business Course at Warren Wilson

Accelerating Appalachia had the exciting opportunity to work this spring with Warren Wilson College in teaching a sustainable business and entrepreneurship course. As the spring semester has wrapped up, most of the students have considered continuing their sustainable business projects or plan to use the skills learned in the course to contribute to other organization in Appalachia. The three businesses created in this course that are continuing to operate include Appalachia Green Interior, an eco-friendly paint service, Sweets from Heaven, which is a healthy foods service and lastly a management-consulting firm used by local businesses like Green Sage Coffeehouse & Cafe in downtown Asheville. Other students who choose to discontinue their projects have gone on to start working in successful organizations like Appalachian Botanical Alliance.

botanical products

Find out more about Warren Wilson College here:





Accelerator Featured in Capital Institute Field Guide

Sara Day Evans, a sixth generation Kentuckian, tells the story of the people and places that inspired her to found Accelerating Appalachia, a new business accelerator that is nurturing natural and entrepreneurial capital to appropriately scale a post-extractive, regenerative economy in coal country.

Read more in the Capital Institute: Field Guide for Investing in a Regenerative Economy.

field guide






                                              – Sara Day Evans



Village Capital, our mentoring accelerator

We could  not have gotten where we are now without our mentoring accelerator, Village Capital. They are the ultimate in collaborative open source sharing, and we look forward to continued partnership as we move forward with Accelerating Appalachia. Here’s a great article on VilCap, that gives you something of an idea how our model will work:

Entrepreneurial accelerator programs, where early-stage companies can get advice and sometimes funding, are not uncommon.

When 15 startup businesses got together in Atlanta this spring for a 10-week program put on by the nonprofit organization Village Capital, however, it was something different.

Besides trying to make a profit, all of the companies hope to make a positive impact on society.

Also, the companies, not a panel of outside observers, assessed one another’s business performance and prospects over the 10 weeks, even deciding which two companies would share $100,000 in prizes awarded at the program’s end.
(Read More)

Village Capital sources, trains, and invests in impactful seed-stage enterprises worldwide.

Village Capital sources, trains, and invests in impactful seed-stage enterprises worldwide.

Sustainable Development Goals

an economy nested in people nested in planet

An economy nested in people, nested in planet.

As a United Nations working group negotiates a set of “sustainable development goals,” 10 scientists and development analysts, in a commentary published today in Nature, have proposed a fundamentally different way to frame this concept. (Click here for relevant Dot Earth posts.)

Over the last several decades, sustainable human development has been conceived largely as the outcome of balanced work onthree “pillars” — economic and social development and environmental protection. The authors, building on arguments that have been brewing for awhile, say that these concepts are instead nested one inside the next, not separate free-standing realms. Here’s how one author put it in a statement released today:

“As the global population increases towards nine billion people sustainable development should be seen as an economy serving society within Earth’s life support system, not as three pillars,” says co-author Dr. Priya Shyamsundar from the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, Nepal.

Owen Gaffney, an author of the commentary and communications director for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, sent a “Your Dot” contribution offering more background on this proposal:

Here’s Gaffney’s piece:

Redefining Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene

Last week, the UN’s 2013 Human Development Reportissued a stark warning: “Environmental inaction, especially regarding climate change, has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress.”

Thanks to the unstoppable rise of the South, that progress has been spectacular to date. Both India and China have doubled their output per person in less than 20 years.

But how can development continue without it costing the Earth? Air pollution in China is so bad that many cities are permanently shrouded in a toxic cloud, and lung cancer rates have soared in the past decade. There are no easy solutions.

At the United Nations Rio+20 Earth summit last year, 192 countries agreed to create a set of universal Sustainable Development Goals. These are set to follow the Millennium Development Goals, due to end in 2015, which successfully focused significant funds and political energy towards eight poverty-related goals.

New goals could change the playing field for social and economic development in the coming decades. As nations gear up to formulate these goals they need to acknowledge the state of planet and the scale of civilization. We use an area the size of South America to grow our crops. An area the size of Africa is cleared for our livestock. Humans are profoundly altering the face of Earth.

But it goes much further than this. We are altering the carbon, nitrogen, water and phosphorus cycles.  We are now the dominant force changing Earth’s life support system – the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, ice sheets and biodiversity that allow us to thrive and prosper.

These changes underwrite a whole new understanding of our place in the world. That change is encapsulated in the concept of the Anthropocene – that we have pushed Earth into a new geological epoch of our own creation.

Our number one task as a global species with an almighty footprint is how to maintain Earth’s life support system while providing food and a decent quality of life to seven billion people climbing to nine or more.

So now comes the hard part. Somehow the development goals must connect the dots between development and protection of Earth’s life support system. Also, very practically, the goals must be simple, easy to communicate and have buy-in from everyone.
Albert Einstein once said that if he had a problem to solve in just one hour, and it was terribly difficult, and his life depended upon it, he would spend the first 55 minutes framing the problem.

The way we define a problem illuminates the solution.
For the past 26 years, a single definition of sustainable development has ruled: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And a single concept has shaped international policy: the three pillars of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.

In the Anthropocene we must abandon old thinking.

We need to redefine the problem. By replacing the three pillars with a clear and simple idea: an economy, within society, within Earth’s life support system. A healthy planet is a prerequisite for healthy, thriving, prosperous lives. From this we need a new definition for sustainable development: “development that meets the needs of the present while safeguarding Earth’s life-support system, on which the welfare of current and future generations depends”.

To deliver on this new definition, we need measurable and achievable sustainable development goals. Moreover, the goals must not stop at the nation state. They need to inspire countries, states, cities, organizations, companies and people everywhere. These should be goals for humanity.
Ultimately the goals are a political decision, but science can help to ensure they meet these core objectives.

This week an international team of scientists and experts including myself produced an analysis of how it’s possible. The group identified six universal goals: Lives and Livelihoods, Food Security, Water Sustainability, Clean Energy for All, Healthy Ecosystems and Effective Governance.

Each goal will be met by reaching a set of quantifiable targets beneath the goal such as halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, improving the lives of slum-dwellers, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Much more work will need to be done to create sound, measurable targets.

Targets for each goal will span economic, social and environmental domains. For instance, food security should seek to end hunger and improve the efficiency of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.

Poverty elimination is addressed by providing food, water and energy – the basic needs – plus, gainful employment through the goal on lives and livelihoods. Energy for all is linked to ending harmful subsidies on fossil fuels and unsustainable agriculture.

And economic growth must be based on sustainable production and consumption: we need to change the global economic playing field.

Success for the universal Sustainable Development Goals is contingent upon two things: bottom-up support from all sectors of our global society plus strong leadership. In our highly interconnected and networked world, we need the power of self organization to drive global leadership.

I encourage you to follow or join the Twitter discussion of Sustainable Development Goals — centered on the hashtag #SDGs:

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Overview of our Accelerator

AcceleratingAppalfacebook_06So, here’s the big-picture overview of the accelerator, which we’ll keep fresh and updated as we develop and evolve.

Accelerating Appalachia is the world’s first nature-based business accelerator, attracting and scaling high-impact innovative businesses aligned with place, people and prosperity. We accelerate seed-stage businesses in sustainable food, farming, forests, fiber, fuels, green building, craft brewing/distilling, natural medicines and clean energy, with special consideration for innovators from marginalized populations. We will also bring in seasoned entrepreneurs and proven practitioners to serve as business development mentors, and coach entrepreneurs around pitches for funding and expanding their networks. The 12-week intensive session will commence in September 2013, with applications for admission starting in March 2013. At the conclusion of the session, two peer-selected businesses will receive a minimum $50,000 investment each, in the form of a convertible note; build capacity for our businesses to achieve follow-on investment (ideally at least half will obtain follow-on of up to $500,000 or more within 18 months); and for all of our businesses to develop an ongoing network of like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors.

Inspiration: We are deeply committed to place, people and prosperity, in balance with nature. We support those who commit to a place and make it better and we equally value the wisdom of the traveler who brings lessons learned from the world. We are inspired by our friend and father of sustainable agriculture, Wendell Berry. His dogged determination for over 50 years to radically apply wisdom and affection and commitment to place continues in the “Resettling of America”: “Do the work of changing our ruinous industrial agriculture system into a culture that uses nature as the standard, that accepts no permanent damage to the ecosphere, and that takes into consideration human health in local communities.”

Attract: We’re partnering with organizations from around the world to identify and attract incredible entrepreneurs from Appalachia and elsewhere who are solving big problems with their business models, profiting through improving the health of people and planet. Through an extensive review and vetting process, these early-stage entrepreneurs are chosen to join our accelerator.

Unite: Bringing the best entrepreneurs to Asheville, NC for our core program, we will also take our entrepreneurs on the road. Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to present their business to a variety of markets and investors/mentors in two (2) additional cities within a 5-hour radius of our home base in Asheville. We will carefully develop our peer cohort of 14 businesses, ensuring they are at compatible stages in their business development.

Mentor: To guide the entrepreneurs, we bring in seasoned entrepreneurs and proven practitioners as mentors, who advise and consult with intensive sessions of 3 days or more with each mentor. They work with entrepreneurs to build companies that effectively address social and/or environmental needs, while being profitable, scalable, and considerate of the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

Finance:  We give our entrepreneurs the chance to build relationships with lead investment decision-makers from our fund. These lead investors mentor the accelerator entrepreneurs for between 3 days and 2 weeks each during our 12 week session, providing our entrepreneurs the chance to learn how to make their companies more investable, secure capital, and begin conversations that will lead to later-stage and follow-on investments.

The Team

As founder and CEO of Accelerating Appalachia and Prosperity Collective, LLC, Sara Day Evans brings over 20 years of creative, impactful solutions working across the southeast in sustainability. Winner of many awards for her work in the fields of sustainability and economic development, including a US Presidential commendation, she is dedicated to solving challenges in impoverished regions, leveraging the creativity of those regions, and establishing networks and funding support.

Noah Wilson is our dynamic jack-of-all-trades support staffer, with a degree in sustainable economic development and many essential skills to bring to the table. A recent graduate of a fellowship program training young leaders to lead collaborative efforts, he is skilled in facilitation, event planning, logistics, web development, and copy/grantwriting. He has also worked in many of the nature-based fields we are focusing on, including fine foods, farming, renewable energy, and green building.


Regional/Local: Grant funding from Appalachian Regional Commission is providing significant first round funding, via the Advantage West regional economic development partnership. We are receiving additional mentorship and guidance from:  Asheville-Buncombe Economic Development Coalition, Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Wendell and Mary Berry of the Berry Center for Farming and Agriculture (Kentucky) and a number of seasoned and successful investors, finance experts and entrepreneurs.

National: Working with Village Capital, Social Capital Markets (founders Kevin Jones and Rosa Lee Hardin, world leaders in “good capital”), You Noodle (San Francisco), People and Planet Holdings (a Good Capital fund), alongside relationships with other investment and philanthropic organizations. Many individuals, regional and international, are volunteering their time and talent in the development of the accelerator.

Location: We feel downtown Asheville is the ideal location for our home base, providing our entrepreneurs and mentors with a unique and exciting setting, a wealth of mentors and support organizations, and a vibrant culture around the industries we’re targeting. We are conducting site visits for the perfect location to house our accelerator, from vibrant co-working offices to university spaces.

Why Asheville and WNC? – In the heart of the world’s oldest mountains and one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, western North Carolina is growing one of the world’s most extraordinary and diverse nature-based economies.

  • Over the last several years, top chefs and foodies from New York to San Francisco have highlighted Asheville as having one of the best local food cultures in the US, supported by more than 700 family farms in the immediate region of Asheville, and 11,000 in WNC.
  • The wisdom and ways of the Eastern Band of Cherokee influence the culture of our region
  • We are a destination for healing: with a significant integrative medicine presence in our hospitals and several integrative health care practices, home to Gaia Herbs and five (5) schools of holistic herbalism, the Bent Creek Institute for Natural Biotech, an innovative natural product development center and shared use kitchen for organic and natural foods, and hundreds of alternative care and healing/wellness practices.
  •  Asheville is “Beer City USA” with 11 craft breweries, a local malt house, farmers growing local hops, and a number of top national breweries moving to the region.
  • The NC manufacturing base has long included large-scale farming, furniture and textiles. NC is still home to more furniture companies than any other state in the country, making up part of a larger forest products industry, and is among the top three US states for textile manufacturing.
  • NC has the most clean energy firms in the southeast, including nationally recognized firms based in WNC doing work in biofuels and solar energy.
  • WNC has the highest per-capita number of green and natural home-builders of any region in NC.

We are a world HUB for nature-based businesses, so establishing the world’s first nature-based accelerator to support these businesses is the natural next step.

Contact: SaraDay Evans, Founder and Executive Director, Accelerating Appalachia. ;  |  Phone 828.216.9416

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Accelerating Appalachia – Growing Nature Based Businesses for Good!

We’ve made great headway over the last several months:  it is with great appreciation that we welcome our $85,000 grant from Advantage West and the Appalachian Regional Commission for the next 2.5 years. The grant will enable us to raise additional working capital and create a non-profit investment fund for the peer-selected accelerator graduates. We are also making good headway in the formation of a knowledgeable and diverse advisory team, collaborating and consulting with investors and supporting organizations, have hired a data/program manager/sustainability specialist, 14 interns signed up to interview for our intern position, and are filing our non-profit articles of incorporation.


Funding: awarded and finally got the contract completed to HELP fund our accelerator ( we are also raising philanthropic support and private investment for our non-profit fund for the accelerator businesses) with a grant from the Obama administration for jobs accelerators, via the Appalachian Regional Commission, via Advantage West, our regional economic development organization – whew! Only 13 regions in the US were awarded the jobs acceleration funding, and we were the ONLY one in the US that focuses on the nature-based economy, supporting businesses grounded in nature and culture: food, farming, forestry, fiber, fuels, medicinal herbs, healing, natural building are examples, and with special consideration for marginalized populations and cultures.

Important milestones from our Timeline:

  • By April 30, 2013, complete survey of businesses, establish our non-profit, confirm support from at least 4 advisers/investors for funding. Collaborate with partnering organizations such as The Berry Center for Farming and Agriculture, engage at least four mentors for our accelerator session, (will repeat each quarter until we’ve enlisted a fabulous cohort of 15 mentors). Present to Village Capital and investors to engage partnership and investment.
  • by July 1, 2013: final 14 businesses are selected for the accelerator, secured our funding, and and confirmed our agreements on location/space for the accelerator, established our mentors and curriculum, completed logistics of food, transportation, fun. Whew!
  • September  – November: Accelerating Appalachia session underway! Final pitch session with 50+ mentors, thought leaders, investors. 2 businesses are peer-selected for $50,000 each and if we have done it right, at least half of the accelerator graduates will go on to receive up to $500,000 in follow-on investment over the next 18 months!


This process has me calling all resources as community pollinator, connector, maven, event planner, scientist, strategist, entrepreneur, researcher, ex-government worker, musician, giver, lover, budget manager, fund-raiser, graphic designer, map maker, brander, PR, mentor, therapist, community planner, hydrogeologist, researcher, etc, etc.  My copious lists of innovative nature-based businesses, mentors, thought leaders, advisers, supporters, leading research and trends in acceleration/social enterprises, impact investing,thought leaders, spaces, partners, core team, logistics, transportation, food resources, fun for entrepreneurs are becoming reality now that dazzling data manager/sustainable economy upstarter extraordinaire and Warren Wilson grad, Noah Wilson, has joined the team! We had a great day yesterday at Warren Wilson College’s “Sign Up to Serve Day”! 14 students signed up to be interviewed to intern with us!! It’s gonna be tough to narrow the pool down to just a few. So happy to have Noah on board! :)


Noah and I are in the midst of conducting our survey of businesses, with connections to over 700 businesses in our region and beyond. While we are “Accelerating Appalachia”, we are looking for disruptive, innovative nature based seed-stage businesses that are positively about people, planet and profit. Please DO send us your suggestions!


To Village Capital (James and Ross) for the huge amount of guidance they are providing us through this process and to Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, Pam Lewis, Matt Raker, Noah Wilson, Dayna Reggero, Daniel Goldman, Darrell Glasco, Bruce Roberts, Greg Cumberford, and many, many more for their awesome support and guidance thus far.

Cheers to Being the Change in 2013!