ASHEVILLE — Mountain BizWorks, a U.S. Treasury certified nonprofit community development financial institution, announced Oct. 15 that applications are now open for its Waypoint Accelerator program for early-stage outdoor-focused companies.
The outdoor entrepreneurship and innovation accelerator, open to eight ventures per year, is set to take place online starting on Dec. 3. The program includes 15 learning and mentorship sessions, access to an outdoor industry network, and connections to both capital providers and industry peers, among other benefits.
“Whether you have recently embarked on your journey or are still at the trailhead waiting to take the first step, this accelerator offers a unique opportunity to move forward and make the right kinds of connections in this growing industry,” said Matt Godfrey, the Waypoint lead facilitator and chair of the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC. “Our mentors and industry partners are eager to share their insights to help you succeed.”
In addition to Mountain BizWorks, partners and sponsors include the Small Business and Technology Development Center, Outdoor Gear Builders, Growing Outdoors Partnership and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The Waypoint Accelerator is the first outdoor accelerator east of the Rockies. Companies that are accepted into the accelerator will receive a tailored learning and mentorship curriculum, along with perks including free passes to the 2021 Outdoor Economy Conference, free booths at the 2021 Get in Gear Fest and membership in the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC (Western North Carolina).
The Outdoor Economy Conference — where the 2020 Waypoint Accelerator was announced — connects, educates and inspires leaders and doers working to grow the outdoor industry. This conference is intended to help entrepreneurs craft an economy that is intimately tied to the wellbeing of their places and communities.
Last year’s inaugural Waypoint cohort members have achieved impressive results. RockGeist, for example, a fast-growing company making custom gear for long distance endurance biking or “bikepacking,” participated in the first cohort of the Waypoint Accelerator. According to RockGeist’s owner and founder, Greg Hardy, “Having capital isn’t enough to find success if you don’t know what to do with that capital. So, step one was to focus on education.” The program, as Hardy explained, “taught me how to actually develop and grow the company into something productive and profitable.”
The application window opened on Oct. 15 and closes on Sunday, Nov. 8, with a live Info Session and Q&A set to take place on Friday, Oct. 23, at 1 p.m. Sessions span topics such as Customer Development; Go-to-Market Strategy and Tools; Design Thinking; and Financial Modeling. The program will also include deep dive presentations such as a session on Leadership and the Responsible Outdoor Company.
Jennifer Pharr-Davis (former Appalachian Trail world record holder and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Co); Lauren Rash (COO, Diamond Brand Gear); and Amy Allison (Director, NC Outdoor Recreation Industry Office), are just a few of the many notable outdoor industry executives helping to mentor this year’s cohort members.
Full program details and the online application are available at mountainbizworks.org/waypoint.