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.

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:


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.  saraday@acceleratingappalachia.org ; acceleratingappalachia.org  |  Phone 828.216.9416

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!

Do you know an entrepreneur or business that’s doing great stuff in food, farming, forests, fibers, energy, medicinal herbs, outdoor industry…..basically, a business that benefits land and people, sustainably and with potential to scale? Please let us know!!

Send them to us, in droves! By e-mail to saraday@acceleratingappalachia.org!

We are looking for those innovators and we want to help them by connecting them to one another, to mentors, coaches, designers, legal specialists, investors, funders. launching in summer 2013. We’re focusing on accelerating Appalachia, but are looking for innovators wherever they may be, willing to join an extraordinary cohort in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina. We would love for you to help develop this innovative pipeline of businesses – it’s good for all of us, and we will do something nice for you (details TBD)!

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 :)

If Vermont can do it, surely so can we, North Carolina! WNC has a particularly innovative  local food culture, boasting one of the most vibrant food cultures in the country, infrastructure support for those systems, and developing extensive supply chain, regional and local economic development priorities for local, healthy food. However, WNC also has a reputation for siloing, a history of “stingy culture” (low wages and we are third in the nation for food hardship), duplication of efforts (highest per capita number of non-profits in the country is one example I’ve heard cited), factioning and turfism amongst local, regional and state organizations.. This lack of true cooperation is detrimental to our region, and perhaps why, even with all of our amazing accolades for a vibrant food culture, still only 2% of the food consumed locally is produced locally. We have alot of good, smart people with heart who perhaps can see beyond their turf to the bigger picture and come together to truly accelerate our local food economy, accelerating farmers out of poverty and accelerating better health for our populous . Maybe a little friendly “coopetition” with Vermont can ignite a vibrant statewide food systems serving ALL of WNC and the state.

“I have seen the future of how we can transition to a healthy local food system and it is in Vermont. Picture this: 180 people from all parts of the state’s food system, in one room, reflecting on how they have worked together over the past year in a coordinated way towards goals of doubling local food production, increasing jobs, and improving access to healthy food for all Vermonters. Picture a network that connects and provides the structure for collaboration among farmers, food processors, food businesses, retailers, consumers, policy makers, state agencies, university researchers, technical assistance providers, educators, non-profits, and funders. Picture these conversations informed by data and ideas gathered through in-depth research and stakeholder input of over 1,200 people in the state, summarized in a close to 1,000 page strategic plan” (eek, 1000 pages, but if 1200 people are implementing, maybe not so bad!).

Here’s the full article  and I’ll be advocating for this with my friends in state, regional, local governments and the private and non-profit sectors :)

Vermont Collective Impact to Transform a Food System


So, I’m writing from Hayes and Divisidero in the NOPA district of San Fran. Ready to plunge into SOCAP, THE MARKET AT THE INTERSECTION OF MONEY AND MEANING, THE SPACE BETWEEN GIVING AND INVESTING, WHERE PEOPLE COME TOGETHER TO PUT THEIR RESOURCES TO WORK TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.”. Am in the esteemed role of Living Bridge/connector/socent leader/den mother for 100 scholarship entrepreneurs coming in from around the world. Connecting them, making sure their experience is meaningful, and learning more about their extraordinary work . Am so excited, like, can’t sleep excited! Thanks to mentors/advisors Kevin Jones and Rosa Lee Hardin for setting me up with this cool gig :) I just hope there is enough of me for all 100 of them!! The “living in the hostel with 100 extreme do-gooders from around the world”, am calling #SOCENTREALWORLD!! I need a video camera. Here till October 6th…..then back to sweet and gritty Appalachia to continue advancing GrittyWorks, our accelerator for good innovations for land-based economies.

So I relived my “Michelle Shocked” moment at the Global Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley this past July – well, sort of. The folks at Michelle Shocked were super fun and noisy – Silicon valley, thoughtful, and a little more restrained ;) “My Michelle Shocked moment” was at a show in Newport, Kentucky, when she asked if anyone in the audience of about 450, would like to come up and play. I had no plans to, but suddenly found myself onstage. And what was so cool is that SHE was truly shocked that not only could I play her songs, but I knew the lyrics and backed her up. And the audience loved it, during and afterward, many folks came asking who I was, where was I from, what was I doing. My Silicon Valley moment so similar: no plans to make a pitch, but found myself making a you tube pitch, along with 59 others, and was selected as one of 5 to come onstage and make a longer pitch to the crowd of about 450 and a panel of investors. And some of the naysayers that were sitting at my table before I made the pitch, insisting that small agriculture was dead (folks who seemed very detached and worked mostly for big government and big corporations – could there be a connection?), were also truly “shocked”. I was a little surprised myself! And sooooo many good folks came up after, wanting to know who I was,  where I was from and what I was doing :)

Great research on accelerators, and looking forward to working and collaborating with Village Capital and Unreasonable Institute – both founders offering to collaborate and partner. VilCap seems to be very good model for regional, has a nice chunk of capital at the end, and runs on a bare bones budget. Looks like we have our grant funding, awaiting on contract to ensure it doesn’t get gobbled up into some governmental programmatic staffing nightmare. Still need to raise about $250k in philanthropy and investment.

Off to North Beach for a macchiato in the Italian neighborhood, pick up my daughter, Amelia, and to say “hey” to my crazy lovely sweatermaker friend, Marianna, whose little shop in the neighborhood bursts with amazing creations of sweaterhood. Then to THE HUB, for the deluge of good! Follow the fun @esaraday!