Interview- Jeff Kaplan- Director, Venture Asheville

Interview with: Jeffrey Kaplan, Venture Director. Tech junkie. Media maven. Academic entrepreneur. Dog lover.

Interviewed by: Nancy Critcher-White, Leadership HR Professional and Graduate Student at WCU, studying Entrepreneurship

Website: http://ventureasheville.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffdude/

Nancy (N): Thank you for joining me today, Jeff. While I know many entrepreneurs, when it comes to the topic of , you have a different perspective that I’m interested in learning about. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed.

N: What is your business background?

Jeffrey (J): Education, Academia, and start-ups. I was a teacher; worked for non-profits, went to grad school, did some sales and marketing. Product Owner and Consultant Anthroware. Product development and consulting for product developers. For Hatch, I did program events and new venture creation. Bullet points are ok, right?

N: Yes, of course. Bullet points are great. What personal strengths have contributed to your success?

J: I build rapport very quickly. We just met, but we’ve already been bonding and chatting, right?! That trust building was especially important with my consulting and sales positions. And even now with the companies that come to Venture Asheville, I build trust so I can help people in those business cohorts. Other things: I read quickly, usually articles and finance books. I know how to leverage resources and help others leverage resources. Public Speaking is fun. And I have an ability to convey a creative vision.

N: What was your very first entrepreneurial endeavor?

J: In 8th grade, I bought a CD burner. At school, people would give me a list of songs they wanted on the CD and I would download the songs from Napster and burn their CD and deliver to them the next day. Blank CDs were cheap, and I had a good business going. Another guy entered the CD burning business and started a price war with me, plus his parents had faster internet.

N: How would you describe your current business and what you would tell someone who doesn’t know what Venture Asheville does?

J: Two things- Build Entrepreneurs and get companies funded. That’s my pitch. As the director, I direct. I meet a lot of people. Help businesses make connections. I’m usually either meeting with businesses or entities (sometimes other businesses) that can support the businesses in our cohort.

N: I know some folks might come to you with half-baked ideas, what do you look for in the businesses that are accepted into your programs?

J: We won’t take half-baked ideas. If people come to us at that stage in the process, we send them to Hatch or some other business development help. That part of the process is fun, and I still help with Hatch, but it’s not what we do at Venture Asheville. We are looking for businesses that need help scaling. We want a committed founder. I realize a lot of people have side hustles, but we are looking for founders to be all-in. As an aside, I would like to start some workshops on helping people turn their side projects into their full-time work. Other things we look for: Is there a product/market fit? Does it speak to an underserved market? I love unconventional business ideas and novel value creation. Sometimes that might look like an idea or software platform used for one purpose that a business owner wants to use for an unrelated and underserved group.

N: What types of attributes or success are your Angel investors looking for in the businesses they back?

J: Initially, they want businesses that are already making money. They are looking for 10-35% equity. They fund $100,000 to $800,000. They want companies that can grow and scale successfully. They want businesses to sell in 3-5 years of their investment and a 10X return or 7.5X return across all deals. No real estate deals.

N: This interview will be posted for other entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to view and learn from. As a serial entrepreneur or serial investor, I’m sure you have financed ventures in multiple ways. Do you mind sharing some of your tactics for funding a start-up?

J: Personally, most of what I’ve done is bootstrapping, pinching pennies, and personal savings. It is really helpful to have a working spouse. I’m familiar with all sort of financing tactics because of my work though. Customer financing through pre-sales is a good option for some businesses. Strategic partnerships are something I did a lot of with my Dogphredly guide, which was acquired. I’m thinking of doing some crowdfunding for a current project, oh and equity crowdfunding is a really interesting concept. Seems a little scary but I think we’ll start seeing a lot more of equity crowdfunding.

N: What are your thoughts on financing tactics like angel investors or using crowdfunding as a way to start a business vs. getting a traditional loan or line of credit?

J: When you are in the earlier phases of a business, it’s hard to get traditional financing. I send people to Mountain Bizworks a lot. Lines of credit are great options early on. If you still need money after angel investors have invested, it’s possible their investments will get squashed, so that’s something to be aware of.

N: What general advice do you have for someone who is starting a business?

J: I see too many founders go for the path of least resistance and they don’t stay true to their vision. It’s going to be hard but don’t compromise your vision. Be tenacious and resilient. Be prepared for a lot of shit to go wrong. It’s harder, longer, and more expensive than you think.

N: Do you have any financial advice you would be willing to share?

J: Don’t spend what you don’t have. Take care of your people. Leaders eat last.

N: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you would love for those listening to know?

J: As a founder, you can get pretty far before you need to hire a chief financial officer (CFO). That said, you need to know your basic financial documents, and you need access to your books. You need to know your balance sheets, your PNL, cash flow, income, payroll, and run rate. You’ve got to know what you are looking at.

N: I appreciative of your time today. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom for those reading. One last thing before we end…I’m working on a funding proposal for my husband, A.D. White, independent author/publisher. When I complete the draft would you mind giving your opinion on it?

J: Yes, I’d be happy to take a quick look at the funding proposal. In the meantime, have your husband come to the pitch parties at Hatch for open mic night.

N: You said you read a lot of business and finance books, what are you reading right now?

J: [pulls a book from his bag] This one is “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It” by Chris Voss. It’s non-intuitive advice on negotiating.

Book Store Pitch- A.D.White

An elevator pitch is pretty simple. It’s a matter of conveying what you do and why the person on the other end of the conversation should care. An extended pitch, however, typically has a specific purpose. You are trying to get an investor, sell your product, or are asking someone to carry your product in their retail establishment.

For today’s assignment, I developed some talking points that might help a local bookshop understand who A.D. White is, what he writes, and why they should carry it.

I also developed a price list marketing collateral piece as a “leave behind”.

Critcher-White_Nancy_ENT_645_Collateral_for_Extended_Pitch_AD_White

A.D. White- Elevator Pitch

Rarely do entrepreneurs get the chance to say their entire elevator pitch.  Most of the time, our lives are conversational. To that end, I’ve recorded two versions of A.D. White’s author elevator pitch. One that is more conversational and conducive to the way humans actually speak to one another and a second version from which the conversation is built.

It is still a great idea to write a few full sentences for your elevator pitch and use those sentences as talking points, should the opportunity be more conversational.

As a note, I am not A.D. White; I’m his business manager. This is A.D. White.

Conversational Pitch:

A.D. White is standing in line for the bar at a local event for the United Way. It’s a young professionals group called Highland Circle, and everyone is eager to network and make new professional friends. The guy standing slightly behind and to the left of A.D. says, “Hi I’m Todd, I work for Home Trust Bank, what do you do?”

A.D. extends his hand and says, “I tell stories.”

“Oh, yeah?” Todd says, “How do you make a living at that?”

A.D. replies, “Well Todd, I write urban fantasy fiction novels set right here in Asheville, and other parts of North Carolina.”

“That’s cool.” Todd says, “what exactly is urban fantasy?”

“Urban fantasy is a genre where modern cities and times collide with the monsters and mythical beings from the stories you grew up with” A.D. replies.

“You mean like vampires and werewolves?” Todd asks.

“Yeah, Todd. Those are great examples. In fact, my book series set here in Asheville is called Asheville Hustle, and the first book is a mafia vs. vampire story with plenty of gunfire and intrigue all set with the backdrop of places you know around town” A.D. replies.

By now A.D. and Todd have reached the front of the line, and it’s time to order. Todd says, “Hey before I lose you in the crowd, do you have a card? My brother-in-law loves this kind of book and just visited us here in Asheville, I’d like to get him a copy”.

A.D. says, “Sure man, here’s my card. Feel free to look me up on my Amazon seller page or follow me on Instagram. I have a couple of book signings coming up if you want to swing by, I’ll sign a copy for him”.

The two men grab their beers and go their separate ways.

 

Full Elevator Pitch:

“My name is A.D. White. I tell stories. I write urban fantasy fiction novels set right here in Asheville, and other parts of North Carolina. Urban fantasy is a genre where modern cities and times collide with the monsters and mythical beings from the stories you grew up with, like vampires and werewolves. My book series set here in Asheville is called Asheville Hustle, and the first book is a mafia vs. vampire story with plenty of gunfire and intrigue all set with the backdrop of places you know around town. Here’s my card. Feel free to look me up on my Amazon seller page or follow me on Instagram. I have a couple of book signings coming up if you want to swing by, I’ll sign a copy for you personally or can work out a wholesale price for your business to sell locally”.

https://www.amazon.com/A.D.-White/e/B07FC3H1Y3/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1532811263&sr=8-1

Come to “Pillowcases for a Cause”- Friday, August 3, 2018- FREE Event with Instruction Provided

Several times in the past, Mission Hospital’s Volunteer Engagement Team has hosted an event in support of Ryan’s Case for Smiles, Miles of Pillowcase Smiles campaign. One of our very own volunteers, Wendy Klemann, is very active in this organization. All of the pillowcases from our Western North Carolina Chapter of Ryan’s Case for Smiles, bring smiles all year long, to pediatric patients fighting serious illnesses and their siblings at Mission Children’s Hospital. On August 3rd, we will be sewing even more miles of smiles as we will be hosting a summer pillowcase sewing day!

You are invited for a drop-in sewing event:

When?: Friday, August 3, 2018, from 9:00am to 6:00pm (drop-in; 1 case takes less than 1 hour to produce)

Where?: Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC: St. Joseph’s Campus, 2nd Floor in the Quality Room (just outside the cafeteria)

Doing What?: Sewing brightly colored, child-friendly pillowcases for PEDS patients and their siblings.

Instruction: This pattern is very simple to make, and no sewing experience is required, just a desire to bring a smile to a child! Several experienced sewers will be around to help teach. Nancy Critcher-White will be presenting a brief tutorial that will be recorded for any home sewers that would like to contribute to the cause on an ongoing basis.

Multiple sewing machines will be available and ongoing assistance will be provided. If you would like to bring your own sewing machine you are more than welcome to do so.

We will have some fabric available, but if you would like to bring your own or pick out your own fabric, you will need a kid-friendly fabric, 100% cotton. Each pillowcase requires ¾ yard for the body of the case and 1/3 yard for a coordinating band at the top. Walmart and JoAnn have so many cute children’s fabrics, reasonably priced. Holiday prints, (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) are all perfectly fine.

ryan's case for smiles

To learn more about Ryan’s Case for Smiles, check out their website at www.caseforsmiles.org.  Not only does this organization provide pillowcases for children, but it provides resources and support for parents, caregivers and healthcare workers as well.

Ryan’s Case for Smiles is one of the few nonprofits helping children cope with the treatment of cancer and serious illnesses. Donate and learn how to help now!

Book Launch Party: Sun. July 15 3-5pm

Join A.D. White author of urban fantasy novel series, Asheville Hustle, for a drop-in book signing and launch party for book one. A limited number of books will be available for purchase by cash or check.

Light snacks will be served and great beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks are available for purchase at the bar.

Habitat offers free off-street parking around back.
Party is 3pm-5pm
Habitat is open 2pm-6pm on Sundays if you want to come early or leave late.

If you have already ordered your book on Amazon, bring your copy for a signature. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1983218405/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530374354&sr=8-2&keywords=Asheville+Hustle+book

Facebook Invite

Book Release Party(1)