Momentum Summit launches local manufacturers into national spotlight

April 8, 2019

On the top floor of the Cambria Hotel, trailblazing CEOs from across the country convened for two days to focus on scaling their high-growth companies to create positive impact and dispel the idea that businesses exist solely as an engine for profit. Asheville companies shone in this national limelight, starring as panelists, moderators, and also contributing as organizers of the second annual Momentum Summit.

“We have a huge opportunity for us to design what kind of future we want to live in,” said keynote speaker and founder of the vegan food company Miyoko’s Kitchen, Miyoko Schinner. “As collaborators, we have to decide what happens to our world. How can we manifest our businesses into becoming the most powerful force for good in the world? Every step we take should reflect the direction we want our earth to go in.”

Asheville-based companies had some ideas.  

At Thursday’s “Local Makers Go Mainstream” panel, a range of dynamic and exciting Asheville companies that operate beyond the brewery bubble shared their experiences of scaling at a national level. Representing in this panel was Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolate, Philip Curry of Astral, Zane Adams of Buchi Kombucha, and Alex Matisse of East Fork Pottery. Moderating was No Evil Food’s Strategic Advisor Cheryl Newman.

Rattigan, a B Corp chocolate manufacturer, spoke to Asheville’s growing culinary landscape and status as a “media darling” as a huge force in helping her scale up her business. “There’s also a great resource called Elevate that helped me and supported the growth of my business,” Rattigan added. With her company’s bean-to-bar chocolate model, Rattigan focuses on bringing justice to the historically corrupt cacao supply chain while facilitating a deeper connection to its farmers.

“We have a lot of powerful makers that have decided to live here with intention and purpose. There’s a deep sense of collaboration between us,” said Adams, co-CEO of Buchi, a kombucha company that was founded at a farmer’s market in 2008 and since then has grown into a 28,000 square foot facility recognized in the New York Times and Washington Post.

“We’re fortunate to be living in one of the most bubbling areas in the country. But when you travel outside here, you’d be surprised at the lack of nutrient dense food readily available for the everyday worker. It’s in our 30 year plan to change that through the work of our company,” he said.  

Matisse, CEO of East Fork Pottery, has come to the conclusion that “making pottery is our tool for showing how people should treat employees, friends and community members.” His new 14,500-square-foot factory (expected to increase production by 800 percent by 2020) is located in an opportunity zone where unemployment is extremely high. In order to bridge the employment gap, Matisse has gone out of his way to streamline his hiring process for people with a criminal record or disability. “There have been some awkward moments but by building true relationships things have slowly started to change and the benefit of having a more diverse workforce and welcoming culture is worth it.”

Rattigan, Steve Linton of Deltec Homes, and Justin Belleme of JB Media also each contributed to this summit on the planning committee. This is the second year the Asheville Chamber and Economic Development Coalition have sponsored this summit, and Senior Vice President Clark Duncan is excited about its trajectory.

“I think these employers really represent the values of our business community. They all demonstrate that business can be used to achieve community goals beyond profit,” he said. “It was fantastic that in this convergence of talented and national CEOs that Asheville was featured.”