Appalachian Entrepreneurship: Surviving and Thriving in COVID-19

The Appalachian spirit is rooted in resilience, ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Though the economic impacts of COVID-19 put every sector to the test, that Regional spirit has persevered. Small businesses are finding ways to not only survive, but thrive, amidst rapidly changing conditions. Startups, supported by key entrepreneurial ecosystem actors, are growing operations and even meeting critical needs in national COVID response. ARC partners across Appalachia are repurposing funds for emergency loans, mobilizing to meet pressing local needs, and implementing creative solutions to help communities – that were already experiencing economic transition – emerge from this crisis more ready and resilient than ever.

Learn more about the incredible efforts of our partners and the ways ARC is investing in entrepreneurship to help grow economic opportunity in the Appalachian Region.

ARC’s Investments in Entrepreneurship

ARC has long taken a multifaceted approach to entrepreneurial investments. Over the last five years, we’ve invested approximately $89.3 million in projects and partners who strengthen local entrepreneurial ecosystems through capital access, business incubation, technical assistance, and more. We also fund research to further assist communities, including an inventory of entrepreneurial services and resources in each of Appalachia’s 420 counties. Finally, supporting tomorrow’s entrepreneurial leaders means training them today. That’s why we launched the Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy, a free learning opportunity where rising high school seniors can gain the skills, knowledge, and network needed to bring ideas to life.

invested in entrepreneurship projects from FY 2016 to FY 2020
invested to increase capital access from FY 2016 to FY 2020

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia

ARC’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia includes three research reports which outline core elements necessary for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, analyze community case studies to provide insight into the unique challenges faced by communities in Appalachia, and offer recommendations to support future economic development across the Region.

Academies and Institutes

Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy

ARC’s Appalachian Entrepreneurship Academy (AEA) prepares the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and thinkers. AEA is a free intensive summer learning experience for rising high school seniors from across the Region. This program is designed to cultivate creativity, sharpen business acumen, and develop skills essential for entrepreneurial success.

Connecting Communities as They Respond to COVID-19


Managing Food Enterprises During a Crisis

For many communities, local food is one of the most important gateways to entrepreneurship. In May 2020, ARC hosted a panel of food and ag leaders to share insights on safe and effective operation management during COVID-19. The panelists offered advice in farmers market best practices, safety updates in grocery stores, and more, a lot of which applied to Appalachia’s food entrepreneurs.