Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary...
Whether you're the kind of person who dreams up new business ventures on the daily, or if you've had an idea or a passion project for many years that has yet to manifest in reality, there's an opportunity you should know about. Over the first weekend in November (11/3-5), you can be part of Hatch This!, Asheville's entrepreneurial competition that is also a weekend of envisioning, problem-solving, and team-building. One winning venture will receive $15,000 in seed money, along with a space in Hatch Asheville (45 S. French Broad), legal counsel, and more. Registration is happening now for the weekend, which will take place in the Hatchworks Coworking Space.
Hatch This! emerges out of Hatch Asheville, a non-profit dedicated to "fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem" in Asheville, according to Hatch This! organizer Ryan Naylor. Within the Hatch building on South French Broad, which houses the Coworking Space, Anthroware, Grail Moviehouse, and others, small businesses born and raised in Asheville work side by side in an environment that fosters cooperation and support. Next month, Hatch will invite another lucky business into the fold.
Participants in Hatch This! will arrive Friday evening and pitch their ideas in about a minute. The top ideas will be selected by all participants, and teams will be formed. Teams have the weekend to come up with and present their fleshed-out business pitches to a panel of judges from a variety of backgrounds and with expertise in some area of investing, business, or entrepreneurship. Unlike a more traditional conference weekend filled with presentations and workshops, Hatch This! is designed to be a dynamic event defined by both spontaneity and deep focus.
From the Top
Initial ideas, according to organizer Dominic Taverniti, can be very raw. "We'll have some people who might have had a team trying to get idea going but haven't formed a company or product, or some with a prototype of a product, but others might just have the idea, roughly formed. And we'll provide mentorship over the weekend. We ask participants to come with an idea, and an idea is a solution. We're going to take that back a phase and ask, 'What's the problem?' Teams will help answer that question."
The organizers are open to all kinds of pitches, from scalable business ideas that can expand beyond Asheville to products that will be made and sold in the area. "The ideas that come forward won't necessarily be what would come out of a weekend event like this in San Francisco," says Taverniti. "It won't all be apps, for example. We may have some farm-to-table ideas, some more artistic pitches. There's no limit. It could be a chair design. That company getting off the ground means people are getting hired and the economy grows. We're not limited to tech. Tech tends to be a pretty self-contained, scalable startup idea, but we have full representation of ideas and talents in Asheville, which is really cool."
Even if your idea doesn't get picked (or if you haven't got an idea this year but still want to participate and get insight into the process), your presence on one of the teams will be vital. Taverniti notes that the skills needed for the weekend are wide open. "A lot of brainpower is needed," he says, "and a lot of collaboration, documentation...Everyone from a designer or artist to a coder, a developer, a project manager—or a previous entrepreneur who can lend his or her thought process while working the idea.
"As we created this enormous list of possible skills and people and backgrounds, we couldn't find anyone that wouldn't be able to contribute," he continues. "Anyone can help, though the participants will naturally lean towards those in the mindset of creating, because they'll have an idea or want to create a business in the future."
Hatch This!, ultimately, is about supporting the community more broadly. "There's this really interesting discussion happening in Asheville right now about affordability," says Taverniti. "It's a situation with unique drivers: a lot of retirees are coming in and driving up the cost of housing, there's a sense that jobs don't pay enough or there aren't enough places to work, companies say there isn't enough talent pool for them to grow. It's a Catch-22."
In one way, then, Hatch This! is a solution to Asheville's particular problem. "It's essential to start more businesses here and provide resources," he continues. "It takes creating a culture of taking risks. That's the engine to get the economy going. When an individual does it on their own, not as much happens, but when the community comes together, it improves the failure rate and durability."
Hatch This! addresses failure rate early in the process, by having judges and mentors on hand to critique pitches and their development throughout the weekend. "If you can help someone figure out that an idea isn't marketable, they'll find another idea and learn how to find an addressable market, because they're already entrepreneurial in nature," says Taverniti. "They'll create, and sell, and make money. If you sell, you hire. If you hire, you grow."
Asheville, many believe, is poised for this kind of shift into an environment of creative growth and collaboration. Naylor sees Hatch This! as fertile ground for future developments that will give back to the community. "It is a competition, but the focus is collaboration," he says. "Asheville is a city where people help each other and lend a hand when needed. That's the economy we want to support in this city. We want to come up with great ideas together to support Asheville."
Want to pitch your idea or offer your skills at Hatch This!? Registration is limited to 100 participants and is open now. The price for the entire weekend is $75, including food. There is no age restriction for participants. Participants will also be invited to a Thursday pre-party, the location of which will be disclosed closer to the event.