Anyone running (or thinking of running) a small business in Asheville enjoys a number of perks by virtue of just being here, from our fabled Western North Carolina quality of life to a widespread mindset that favors small and locally owned over big and boxy. Asheville's also home to an abundance of small-business advisory and support organizations above and beyond the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration. Business owners/new entrepreneurs also can receive help from a host of other local advisory organizations including Mountain BizWorks, A-B Tech's Small Business Center and Business Incubator program, Asheville SCORE, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, HandMade in America, the Self-Help Credit Union, the Small Business and Technology Development Center and AdvantageWest.
For those wondering where to look for money and assistance, here's a selection of local resources, classified by the type of business:
The Golden LEAF loan program offers financing for biotech, aerospace, manufacturing, health care, defense, agriculture—and the most popular category for Asheville, green business, says Jane Hatley, commercial loan officer with the Self-Help Credit Union, whom business owners can approach about a Golden LEAF loan.
Golden LEAF loans have no minimum or maximum, but Hatley advises they are standard business loans in every way: Applicants must have a business plan, decent credit and collateral for loans larger than $25,000. The businesses must create jobs, and the loans can be requested for startup capital, equipment and "almost anything but refinancing debt."
Green-business Golden LEAF loans are also available for businesses making Earth-friendly improvements such as solar panels (Self-Help Credit Union, 34 Wall St., 253-5251, self-help.org).
The Golden LEAF Foundation helped finance another local agency helping small businesses, Blue Ridge Food Ventures, home to just over 11,000 square feet of industrial kitchen space in which food entrepreneurs can create food products in bulk (Blue Ridge Food Ventures, 1461 Sand Hill Road in Candler, 348-0128, blueridgefoodventures.org).
Natural products biz
Herbal supplements and the like are covered locally by the BioNetwork BioBusiness Center, part of a five-year initiative to develop a supply chain for local products made from plants. According to Paul Knott, BioBusiness Center manager, by late spring or early summer the Center's new equipment should allow for the extraction, rendering and testing of plant-based supplements and products, making it sort of a Blue Ridge Food Ventures of herbs, seeds, berries and leaves (BioBusiness Center, 1463 Sand Hill Road in Candler, 254-1921 extension 5843, ncbionetwork.org).
The Small Business and Technology Development Center is "tapped into the state university system and all the resources that universities can offer in terms of technical development," says Pam Lewis, senior vice president of entrepreneurial development at AdvantageWest (Small Business and Technology Development Center, 68 Patton Avenue, 251-6025, sbtdc.org).
Women- and minority-owned biz
Women business owners can check out Mountain BizWorks' Women's Business Center, one of the first programs of its kind in Western North Carolina (Mountain Biz Works, 153 South Lexington Ave., 253-2834, mountainbizworks.org). Minority business owners also can look into the City of Asheville's Minority Business Program (City of Asheville Office of Economic Development, 29 Haywood St., 232-4566).
AdvantageWest's Advantage Opportunity Fund targets entrepreneurs or businesses (usually with 30 to 50 employees) showing or moving to "high growth," what Lewis quantifies as a company showing swift, significant and measurable growth (AdvantageWest, 134 Wright Brothers' Way in Fletcher, 687-7234, advantagewest.com).
Small businesses that suffered economic damage from the Haywood County rockslide (restaurants, hotels, etc.) may be eligible for Small Business Administration loans, says Carol Hensley, assistant vice president of small business and entrepreneurship at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce (City of Asheville Planning Dept., 29 Haywood St., 225-1844, sba.gov).
In other news for local business owners generally, according to Mike Arriola of the regional SBA office, loans are also available to businesses with fixed assets and the ability to create new jobs: "Our 504 loan program for fixed assets—land and building or large machinery—offers long-term, low-interest, low-down payment financing in consideration of the small-business borrower creating or retaining one job for every $65,000 of SBA financing" (City of Asheville Planning Dept., 29 Haywood St., 225-1844, sba.gov).
You can reach Jennifer Saylor at email@example.com.