Venture Asheville announces micro grant winners

Press release from Venture Asheville:

Venture Asheville awarded six entrepreneurs micro grants totaling $25,000 to help launch new ventures. The winners are:

  •          Cardstalk, a custom greeting card and gift card kiosk-based technology, Founder Stephanie Prime
  •          Helios Sanitizer Company, plant-based hand sanitizer using solar-powered mobile distribution stations, Founder Axie Blundon *HCA Healthcare Mission Fund Winner*
  •          Hire Powered Staffing, employment placement services for recovering and re-entering citizens, Founder Change Agent Philip Cooper
  •          Monstera Brewing, a machine that replicates water profiles from anywhere in the world, Founder Will Goff
  •          MosaicMath, online math tutoring and training, Founder Nathan Koerschner
  •          StoryVault, an interactive video platform focused on remembrance of deceased family members targeted for ethnic and racial minorities, Founder J Hackett.
  • The six winners were chosen from a pool of 55 applicants ranging from various industries including food distribution services, technology, education and more.

The Asheville Impact Micro Grant Program is an important indicator for the Asheville ecosystem. Thirty-three of the 55 applications are businesses responding to, or pivoting in relation to, COVID-19.

“We learn who is starting a business, what industries are rising, what trends we’ll continue to see develop. We also learn what relationships we need to build, what populations are left out, and where we can improve as an organization to build a more inclusive ecosystem.” said Jeffrey Kaplan, Director of Venture Asheville, the high-growth entrepreneurship initiative of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County.

One of the effects of challenging economic times is new venture creation. As individuals are finding themselves out of work and pursuing new opportunities, starting a business is a viable path to upward mobility.

“Compounded by a health pandemic and social movement propelled by the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many black people before them, our leadership structures and influential businesses are reckoning with a paradigm shift,” Kaplan said. “Now is time for prescient entrepreneurs to lead the way to create a truly  equitable, diverse, and inclusive regional economy.”

Funding for this program comes from fifty local individuals along with donations from the HCA Healthcare Mission Fund, the First Horizon Bank Foundation and the NC Biotechnology. The newly formed HCA Healthcare Mission Fund contributed $10,000 and dedicated one winner in the Health and Wellness industry, $5,000 came from the First Horizon Bank Foundation, and $3,000 came from the NC Biotechnology Center.

“We found ourselves with only $7,000 when the health crisis hit and had to find partners to help us raise the rest of the funding,” said Michael Meguiar, board chair of the Economic Development Coalition. “We are thrilled to have these more established corporations leading by example and supporting a new generation of startups here in Asheville.”

In addition to receiving funding for their start-up, these six entrepreneurs will benefit from eligibility to enter Elevate, Venture Asheville’s mentorship program, connections to resource partners, and follow-on rounds of funding. These winners join 2019 recipients (Sara Delaney, Carol Ann Bauer, Alexandra Herman, Dr. Jason Cook, and Ben Goliwas) as Asheville Impact Micro Grant winners. Once the winners are awarded the funding, Venture Asheville supports these ventures

Venture Asheville is the high-growth entrepreneurship initiative of the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at The EDC for Asheville-Buncombe County is a public-private partnership committed to creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions.  The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment.  The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the AVL 5×5 Campaign.

For more than 120 years, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce has been the catalyst for economic vitality in our community. The Asheville Chamber connects 1,700 member organizations, both large and small, representing more than 80,000 employees, to valuable resources such as economic development and research, business education, marketing opportunities and advocacy. Asheville Chamber initiatives have stimulated economic development, influenced public policy and supported the growth of thousands of local and regional businesses. Learn more at

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