ASHEVILLE – Eight select outdoor-focused companies in western North Carolina are expected to get a boost with the Waypoint Accelerator, a new program from Asheville-based MountainBiz Works, a nonprofit organization that serves startups in the region.
The equity-free Waypoint Accelerator offers a variety of resources and opportunities for early-stage startups within the outdoor lifestyle industry in western North Carolina.
Applications are due August 18 by 11:59 p.m. EST.
At no cost to participants, the first cohort will receive mentorship and advising, 10 sessions of training, connections with investors and industry partners, and access to outdoor recreation amenities. The program also includes membership in the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina, a strategic partner with Mountain BizWorks.
The accelerator begins in late September with two sessions, followed by a public reveal at the opening reception for October’s Outdoor Economy Conference in Asheville. Participants will have an opportunity to present at the event as well.
North Carolina’s outdoor recreation industry is growing significantly. According to data compiled by the Outdoor Industry Association, each year in North Carolina the sector generates $28 billion in consumer spending, 260,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Western North Carolina is a leading contributor to that growth, with its wealth of outdoor-focused nonprofits and private businesses, education initiatives and tourism representing the market.
Organizations like Mountain BizWorks aim to provide a launch pad for local startups to build and commercialize products and services to meet this demand. MountainBiz Works provides small business loans ranging from $1,000 to $250,000, regular events and workshops, business coaching and training, and resources for local investors.
It’s funded by federal awards and investments, the NC IDEA Foundation’s ECOSYSTEM grant, a POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, investments from Capital Bank and Wells Fargo, among other funding sources.
Mountain BizWorks plans to host the Waypoint Accelerator annually after the first cohort completes the program. Matthew Raker, Mountain BizWorks’ director of community investments and impact, says the organization is eager to see what kind of outdoor-focused ventures apply.
“Western North Carolina’s thriving outdoor industry is extremely collaborative and has for a while been thinking about how all of the experienced outdoor brands and talent based here can help support the next generation of great outdoor companies,” Raker said. “The Waypoint Accelerator will do just that by combining this specialized industry experience with the startup development program at Mountain BizWorks.”
Entrepreneurs who want to learn more about the program can tune into Mountain BizWorks’ webinar tomorrow from 12-1 p.m. They will also be holding information sessions in Sylva on July 30 and in Boone on August 1. Startups can apply to the accelerator here.