We are thrilled to be recognized as 2018 Outstanding Chamber of the Year (for a chamber with 700 or more members) by the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives! A special thanks goes to everyone who makes the Asheville Chamber great…we have a great staff, wonderful volunteers and members, and a fabulous community!
Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (CACCE) is the professional development organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities for chamber of commerce executives and staff members in North Carolina and South Carolina.
The CACCE Outstanding Chamber of the Year Award focuses on acknowledging one or more significant achievements/accomplishments that a chamber has initiated, stimulated, and/or led in its respective service area at some point during the past 18 months.
Our Chamber of the Year application focused on the work of Venture Asheville, our high-growth entrepreneurial program as well as highlighting recent accomplishments in membership, programming and operations….
Venture Asheville cultivates entrepreneurial ecosystem
Background: In the not-so-recent past, the Asheville Region had a BYOJ (Bring Your Own Job) reputation. Thanks to the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, that outdated concept no longer applies to our city, recognized by Popular Mechanics as the #2 Startup City in the US. The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce recognized that today’s 5-person startup is tomorrow’s 50-person headquarters.
Turning this tide was the explicit mission behind the Chambers’ launch of the Venture Asheville initiative. Venture Asheville grows Asheville’s startup community and connects high-growth entrepreneurs to talent, mentors and investors through unique programming and events. We measure progress in terms of high-growth ventures created, seed and venture capital invested and high salary jobs generated.
Establishing the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is a cornerstone of the Asheville Chamber’s 5-Year Strategic Plan for Job Creation, AVL5x5, which has transformed the way our community understands and measures economic development. More importantly, the Asheville Chamber reimagined how our community can support and sustain entrepreneurs. The fundamental goals of the Venture Asheville Initiative are to connect, mentor and fund the local high growth, scalable business startup. Mentorship quickly rose to the top of a long priorities list as a means of ensuring world-class excellence and longevity in our start up business models. Named ‘Elevate’, the mentorship program of Venture Asheville enables startup founders to navigate the practical, day-to-day challenges of scaling their ventures while developing their skills as effective managers, CEOs and leaders. Start-ups selected into Elevate benefit from team mentoring, modeled on the world-class MIT Venture Mentoring Service. As the founder and CEO of Elevate participant UGoTour noted, “Good mentors find your blind spots for you. Our mentors in Elevate do that for us.” It also positions and prepares them to raise early rounds of capital. Moreover, the rigorous mentorship training and retention efforts required to support our annual cohort of 15 new startups built instant enthusiasm and engagement opportunities for highly educated, experienced professionals, taking advantage of talent that has relocated or retired to the area, but perhaps flown under the radar.
This Year: On October 26th, 2017, the Asheville Chamber held its’ first annual Demo Day for the Elevate program. The event was the culmination of two years of work at Venture Asheville in propelling high-growth entrepreneurship in Asheville. It was covered widely by both traditional business and new-economy press as a sign of changing economic times in Asheville. 15 ventures who had successfully advanced through the year-long Elevate program pitched to a crowd of just over 150 people. Local startup, French Broad Chocolate, raised their final piece of capital to finish out a funding round of $1.2 million thanks to their pitch at Demo Day. Several other companies also obtained investors as a result of the event.
In all, 59 new jobs have been created by Venture Asheville Elevate Companies in 2017 and 2018. Those same companies have obtained over $4.6M in capital over that same period of time providing necessary cash flow for continued product development, innovation, market testing – and hiring.
Demo Day will mature into a standing annual capstone event for the region’s entrepreneurs, for the 1,700 members of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and a regional community that champions the mission of the local entrepreneur.