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For six weeks in September and October, local entrepreneurs in the High Country region of Appalachia participated in Ascent Business Network’s Birds Eye Business Planning Course, an intense business development course for aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs. The course’s curriculum was co-developed by Heifer International.

Heifer USA’s work in Appalachia is based in Boone, North Carolina, and seeks to build local, resilient economies by leveraging the power of local food and food entrepreneurs. Ascent Business Network provides a dynamic platform for connecting High Country entrepreneurs, support entities, and the local community while creating new and effective channels of communication to share, learn and grow. The mission is to form a competent and supportive entrepreneurship community.

According to Jeffrey Scott, social entrepreneur and director of programming for Heifer in Appalachia, “The Ascent Business Network fills a need in the High Country region for innovative entrepreneurship support. Like the communities that Heifer serves all over the world, our goal in Appalachia is the same—support vibrant communities to reach their own goals and promote self-reliance.  Although we focus on food and farm entrepreneurs, there is a beauty in providing a space for bakers, retail store owners, outdoor recreation outfits, construction companies, farmers, and restaurant owners to come together to meet a common goal, to keep wealth in our area by allowing our independent businesses to thrive. Our work with Ascent is a critical component in accomplishing this.” 

Jeffrey Scott, social entrepreneur and director of programming for Heifer in Appalachia, gives a presentation at the Ascent course.
Jeffrey Scott, social entrepreneur and director of programming for Heifer in Appalachia, gives a presentation at the Ascent course.

During the six-week course, participants gathered to share their business plans and gain understanding of start-up and overhead costs, break-even points, cash flow and the difference between the mission and the vision of their businesses. For some participants, many of these were relatively new concepts. The course also sought to empower participants to build up their personal and professional community, paving the way for clients to become mentors.

In Boone, bakers, craftspeople and shopkeepers regularly interact with farmers and recreational-tourism entrepreneurs. Ascent’s course reflected the diversity of the Boone community. It featured entrepreneurs from multiple sectors and varied levels of experience, stimulating innovative ideas over the course of the training.

“I have been contemplating starting this business for the past eight months,” shared Nicole Chappel of Women’s Health Consulting. “After this course I had the information and confidence to do it.”

Thanks to Heifer USA’s support, Ascent’s Birds Eye Business Planning Course showed participants the benefit of contributing to the community and supporting entrepreneurs. Regarding Ascent’s work in the community, local builder Erich Rosenbusch said, “Thank you for your interest and drive to contribute to everyone’s growth and success.”

The course helped to further Heifer USA’s goal of empowering entrepreneurs and giving them the tools they need to be successful. The Heifer USA program is seeking to replicate this successful course across its work in Arkansas and Appalachia.

Learn more about our work in the USA through Heifer’s work in Appalachia and Arkansas. 

Story courtesy of Dave Walker, Ascent Business Network and Sara Brown, Heifer International
Edited by Jessica Ford, Heifer International

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.

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