It might surprise you to find the Appalachian region home to a thriving entrepreneurial networking hub. After all, the area is often perceived as economically depressed.
In 1985, Athens, Ohio, resident June Holley resolved to help the local economy and launched the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, or ACEnet, with some colleagues. This nonprofit organization's three incubators for men- and women-owned companies help more than 100 food businesses become mature ventures.
In the kitchen incubator, for instance, dozens of food concerns share ideas and experience as they mix up salsas, bake cookies and test various concoctions using commercial equipment. Space in the incubator is financed either upfront or with a percentage of royalties; in return, the businesses receive experience and advice. "We encourage small groups of people to do things together," says Holley. "People know if they share things with others, they're going to get back 10 times more."
This cooperative atmosphere has fostered countless successes in the food, computer and furniture industries, and Holley is achieving her goal: The regional economy is improving, and unemployment rates are down. Says Holley, "We're [helping to] build an entrepreneurial community."
ACEnet, 94 N. Columbus Rd., Athens, OH 45701, (740) 592-3854