Mountain BizWorks: Supporting Local Entrepreneurial Women

Mountain BizWorks ( is a non-profit that helps local small businesses start, grow, and create jobs through loans, classes, and coaching. They provide the resources needed to make small business, ownership dreams a reality. Mountain BizWorks is a U.S. Treasury certified non-profit community development financial institution (CDFI). For 25 years, they have been making business loans ranging from $1,000 to $150,000 to small businesses in Western North Carolina who may find it difficult to secure funding from banks and other traditional sources. What makes Mountain BizWorks unique is that all loan decisions and relationships are managed locally, and they work to ensure clients’ success by offering highly customized, peer-to-peer business coaching by an extensive network of local and successful business owners. This innovative blend of lending and learning helps entrepreneurs overcome obstacles, grow strategically, and create jobs.

As a business coach, I have seen a variety of enterprising women take advantage of the unique opportunity to examine their businesses at various stages – from an idea to startup to up-leveling and expansion or re-branding. Many need to assess the viability of a concept or product in the marketplace, while others are looking for specialized skills such as website creation, accounting or Quick Books knowledge, business plan development, social media or marketing expertise. Mountain BizWorks offers a smart, guiding force through its network of coaches and staff, providing a careful match of personality and skill for each student. Unlike a teacher who educates by imparting her knowledge about a subject, a coach’s job is to produce results in others. It’s a subtle but important distinction.

Mountain BizWorks has a track record demonstrating its support of women in business:
• 58% of MBW’s loans closed in 2017 were to businesses owned, or part owned, by women.
• 19 out of 49 business coaches are women
• New Student Enrollments since April 2017: 139 Females/ 97 Males/ 4 Unknown or Not Stated
• Executive Director, Patrick Fitzsimmons, was honored by the SBA this year as the North Carolina Women in Business Advocate of the Year

Here are some of the unique entrepreneurs I work with and what drives them to do what they do.

Carol D. Motley, co-owner of Mourning Dove Studios, manufactures biodegradable coffins and shrouds suitable for a burial or cremation. Carol is a working mom with school age children who is driven by the art and practical aspects of death. She believes that death, the most natural thing that will happen to you, should have a natural ending. It is an idea whose time has come as the population becomes more eco-intelligent, spiritual rather than religious, and less artificial. Her love of art, literature, and poetry are themes that run through her approach to death. There’s nothing morbid about her or her perspective. She’s witty and lively.

Arica Haro, owner of H.A. Productions, produces events for corporate play days called Asheville Plays! as well as an annual Halloween event for young children called ‘The Haunted Trail.’ A young mother of a three-year-old, Arica and her husband create lasting memories through serious play. They specialize in corporate team building for adults, and unique interactive play villages for special events for children. Previous experience in the luxury resort hospitality business translated to a meaningful, more community-minded experience for Asheville locals. Arica believes we should all have fun.

Carrie Wagner and Elaine Beattie own Cultural Intelligence Works and produce workshops addressing understanding of cultural differences beyond diversity. Both come from corporate backgrounds and juggle many professional and personal endeavors. Their message is simple yet the application is complex. Companies go to great lengths to craft mission statements representing their principles that too often do not match their actions. Businesses and consumers need to realize the distinction among diversity, compliance, inclusion, and cultural intelligence. It’s way beyond “why can’t we all just get along.” It’s about understanding. And understanding matters. Their reach is regional and their message is universal.

Mary Carol Koester, owner of Azalea Bindery, is a producer of finely crafted books and accessories. She opened her bookbinding studio after a career in forestry. She trained with professional bookbinders and book conservators, mastering the skills of professional book binding, and is passionate about her handmade bookbinding. She has been an entrepreneur since 2003 and has amassed an impressive number of awards for quality and distinction, yet she recognizes that marketing and a serious business plan are essential for her growth. Mary Carol has a rare combination of creative excellence and a strong understanding of business. She knows what she doesn’t know and is not afraid to learn.

Diana Stone, Deborah Raven Kelly, and Deborah La Fon are licensed instructors of ‘Secrets of Natural Walking’ and produce workshops that transform the simple act of walking into better health and well-being. You would be hard-pressed to find a more dedicated team of professionals who are passionate about their work. Each has a personal story that brought them to their discipline. They are driven by their commitment to share Natural Walking and be part of a revolution in how people relate to their bodies and to their movement, where body, mind, and heart come together. You feel good just being around this trio.

Like all women, each of these entrepreneurs is extraordinary and individual. They have different backgrounds, ages, skill sets, and stories that influenced them to become entrepreneurs. What they have in common is a sense of purpose, ambition, passion, persistence, hard work, and bravery.

These women are awesome.

Diane Sparks has more than 35 years in advertising, marketing, and public relations experience. She co-owns The DM shop Inc with partner, Bob Perlstein. Together, they take big business experience and fundamental marketing principles and apply them to small business marketing in the real world. Diane is a business coach for Mountain BizWorks.

These women are awesome.

Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx: “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”

Eileen Fisher, fashion designer: “Life-fulfilling work is never about the money — when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.”

Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post: “We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes — understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics: “Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway.”

Anna Wintour, editor-in-Chief, American Vogue: “People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.”

Written by Diane Sparks