North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2015

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Outdoor-gear companies can't thrive on trails or whitewater alone. "We've got tremendous resources in the region to help companies get started," Raker says. "We're predominantly a rural region, so we really punch above our weight in terms of access to capital, being connected, prototyping and reaching a broad range of resources." AdvantageWest's Advantage Opportunity Fund, for example, provides entrepreneurs with up to $75,000 in early-stage fnanc- ing. The more economic milestones they meet, the more money that's available. "By that point, we hope that through the early seed funding we've given them, they're able to establish business operations and cash fow or become able to go out and raise the next round of fnancing they need. They might transition to a traditional bank or another kind of lender that does larger amounts. But we also help manage a network of angel investors and work closely with them to raise capital." Angel investors are private capitalists who provide high-risk fnancing for young companies, taking a stake in them as repayment. Asheville-based Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina was founded in 2013. It represents local companies that are small when compared with outdoor-gear giants such as VF Corp. subsidiary The Northface Inc. The Alameda, Calif.-based company had sales of $1.9 billion — 17% of its Greensboro-based parent company's revenue — in 2012. "One reason we banded together is that we wanted to say to the outdoor industry, 'As you expand, this is the area in the East you want to look to,'" says Kyle Mundt, director of marketing and new-product development at Brevard- based SylvanSport LLC, an Advantage Opportunity Fund recipient. It manufac- tures camping trailers that small cars and motorcycles can tow. Outdoor Gear Builders strengthens member businesses through networking, in and out of the industry. When SylvanSport needed webbing stitched for some of the more than 700 trailers it has sold since its 2006 start, it frst asked industrial suppliers. "With big companies, we were either too small to interest them, or the stuff they made for us was junk and unusable," Mundt says. Enter Judy Gross, a former dressmaker and seamstress who is a backpacker and Outdoor Gear Builders member. She and her husband, Marc Penansky, own Asheville-based LightHeart Gear, which makes tents used by hikers. She also owns Arden-based Excelsior Sewing Co., whose four employees sew those tents and other gear. "[Her company] made 50 pieces quicker and far better than the national suppliers and at a better price," Mundt says. After OGB members ap- proached Asheville-based Prestige Subaru Inc., it repurposed a building at its dealer- ship into the Prestige Adventure Center. The site is an example of mutual market- ing with locally made outdoor gear and four-wheel-drive Subarus for hauling bikers, campers and others to the next adventure. nternet connects A agles Nest Outftters I w top $1 million. provided by eagles Nest outfitters 37 N o rt h C a r o l i N a E Co N o m i C D E v E lo p m E N t G u i D E

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