Recapping Venture 15: Celebrating the Startups and the People Who Make Them

December 17, 2019

This past Thursday, 200+ members of the Asheville startup community gathered at The Orange Peel for the second annual Venture 15 Awards and Asheville Honors. Since its genesis in 2018 as an initiative of the Economic Development Coalition and the Chamber of Commerce, Venture Asheville has quickly proved itself to be a cornerstone in the Asheville entrepreneurial community through unique programming and events.

In total, Venture Asheville has played a part in filling 186 jobs, throwing 205+ startup events, funding 8 startups, and $9+ million in capital investments.

Here are the Venture 15, Asheville’s 15 fastest-growing startups and the Honors award winners.

Mentor of the Year: 3-way tie between Robert Anoff, Dawn Walker, and Scott Shwarts

About Robert: Not only does Robert participate in multiple mentoring programs including Venture Asheville, Mountain Bizworks and others, but he’s happy to step in as a specialist mentor in operations even if it is a company that he doesn’t even officially mentor.

About Dawn: In addition to her formal role as a mentor for several start-ups in town, she also organizes frequent gatherings between female founders, mentors, and other women execs to help us build a business community and support system.

About Scott: Scott is like the Batman of the Asheville startup community. He hears about a startup in need and swoops in when as if we’ve turned on the Scott-signal. He gives his time and expertise while asking nothing in return.

Shining Rock Award: Carol Ann Bauer of No Sweat Undies

About Carol Ann: Carol Ann has become a leader in the area for body positivity and has impacted a whole new wave of founders yet to rise. She is leading by example, with integrity, and heart.

Entrepreneur of the Year: Elisa Van Arnam and Allison Blake of Soulku

About Elisa and Allison: The concept of having moms make the jewelry so they can earn income while staying home with their kids is incredible. The definition of entrepreneurship is the process of creating value by leveraging resources and Elisa and Allison executed this with perfection. Every step of their supply chain adds value for their customer. And again, we’re talking about nearly 50 jobs for women who might not be able to find work otherwise because they became mothers.

Resource + Support Organization of the Year: Hatch

About Hatch: Hatch has impacted the local community in many ways but perhaps one of the greatest is by democratizing access to high-growth entrepreneurship for founders from all backgrounds. As a female minority founder trying to start a fintech company, it’s somewhat hard for me to find the right kind of support and mentorship. Some organizations are too focused on nonprofit work and community impact and they miss out on the economic opportunity of high-growth ventures. Others are very ‘Silicon Valley culture’ oriented and performance driven which puts founders in a box. Hatch has struck a good balance by encouraging founders to think big in manageable, non-intimidating ways. Their programming allows entrepreneurs from all walks of life to plug in without having to jump through hoops or know someone first.I think Hatch has demonstrated strong leadership in providing a pathway for underrepresented founders with big dreams to get the support and mentorship they need without being boxed in. Hatch serves to fill this (surprising) gap in the local ecosystem.

Investor of the Year: Asheville Investment Club

About AIC: While AIC is really just getting started, they are actively creating jobs right here in Asheville through their investments in local businesses. They have also demonstrated a commitment to providing opportunities for all Asheville founders through investments into woman and minority owned businesses, which will have huge, positive long term impacts for the Asheville community.

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