Nested in a quaint, mixed-use development along Lexington Avenue in Asheville, North Carolina lies Mountain BizWorks, a certified nonprofit community development institution (CDFI) that assists Western North Carolina’s founders in the foundation, growth and development of their businesses. The organization has been providing founders with small business loans, educational programs and mentorships for the last 25 years.
“We are certainly… a hub for local business owners and aspiring owners,” says Maggie Cramer, communications and program manager for the organization. “We have an open-door policy, and our clients come and go from our office for services and connection.”
Among its services, Mountain BizWorks offers business coaching from more than 30 successful business owners and mentors. Sessions are not free, but some scholarships are available to entrepreneurs who qualify.
The organization also offers a business planning course through their partner, Birds Eye Business Planning, and a number of other classes that cover subjects from how to use QuickBooks to the basics of marketing, financial tools and business. They even host special workshops requested by clients and alumni, including classes focused on legal concerns, HR issues and how climate change can affect small business.
The organization provides scholarships to those who qualify and wish to attend with the purpose of creating a comprehensive business plan.
In addition to these tools, Mountain BizWorks also features an accelerator called ScaleUp WNC, which assists businesses in the scaling-up phase of growth. The accelerator hosts two cohorts per year, during which 15 businesses are selected through a competitive application process. Accepted businesses are given access to mentorship, a high-quality curriculum around intensive growth strategy development, capital support and a rich network of peer business owners.
But what really sets Mountain BizWorks apart is their lending program. As a CDFI, the organization provides small business loans to those who wouldn’t typically qualify for bank loans or other traditional lending methods. They do this by emphasizing cash flow analysis, considering non-traditional collateral and offering flexibility in the loan structure.
“We also work to ensure our clients’ success by offering highly customized, peer-to-peer business coaching by an extensive network of local, successful business owners,” says Cramer, “It’s this holistic formula of capital plus educational support that makes us unique, and that we believe helps entrepreneurs prosper—achieving personal and financial success and generating quality jobs.”
Mountain BizWorks is currently in the process of expanding its reach to the High Country of Western North Carolina—including Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell and Watauga counties—in partnership with the High Country Council of Governments. As a part of this effort, the next Summer cohort of ScaleUp WNC will be held in the Boone area of North Carolina.
Certified B Corporations from the Western North Carolina area and Mountain BizWorks have also recently come together to form the Asheville B Corp Network, with the goal of making WNC a B Corp hub.
“What we know about locally owned small businesses,” Cramer explains, “is that not only do they create jobs, but they create good, quality jobs—often living wage jobs. They’re rooted in their communities, and thus care about their communities. In other words, we know that business can be a force for good. Thus, we want to help local triple bottom line businesses (who care not just about financial profits but also social and environmental performance) become certified B Corporations.”
For more information about ScaleUP WNC, questions about Mountain BizWorks’ lending process or for updates on community impact, sign up for their ENewsletter.