Asheville's Outdoorsy Entrepreneurs 31

If there are two types of folks drawn to our mountain town, it’s outdoorsmen and entrepreneurs. Enterprise seems to grow as fertilely here as the woods we love to explore. From water shoes to hammocks, Asheville’s outdoors scene is sprinkled with products designed right here in our hills.

Ever wonder who’s behind these innovative enterprises, and how they got their start on such bucolic businesses? We explored Asheville Glamping with two such innovators on a sweet summer day and learned their stories.

Mount Inspiration

Evans Prater, the mind behind this quirky, on-trend apparel company, was inspired to begin screen printing his designs following a trip on the Appalachian Trail. One and a half years later, he’s selling at 52 retailers from Maine to Florida, including the four largest in our region (Mast General, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Diamond Brand Outdoors, and Half Moon Outfitters).

Q: Why is Asheville a great town to begin an outdoors-centric business?

Evans: Because Asheville has so much to do outdoors, and so many people who love to participate in outdoor activities, as well as a stellar entrepreneurial and support community.

Q: What inspired you to begin your business?

Evans: I wanted to share the joy and inspiration I felt during my 2014 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike.

Q: What makes Mount Inspiration uniquely Ashevillian?

Evans: Every time we do an event outside of Asheville, customers comment, “The recycled and organic apparel company would be from Asheville!” That and I just feel so uplifted and supported just living and being here, that it really is the one place I could see a brand like Mount Inspiration arising from.

Q: Why is it important to develop businesses that center on the outdoors?

Evans: We evolved in the outdoors and that’s where our brains are happiest (i.e.: their natural state). Businesses that emphasize the respect and enjoyment of the outdoors not only work to create happier lives and communities, but preserve the outdoor places we love for posterity.

Bellyak, Inc.

Bellyak—the world’s only lay-on-top kayak—was developed and founded by Adam Masters. Today Jamie MacLeod oversees Sales & Instruction of the now nationally-recognized sport and helps grow the cool culture around it through classes.

Q: Why is Asheville a great town to begin an outdoors-centric business?

Adam: I moved here to be close to the rivers and mountains… Asheville just happens to be a great city in the center of the paddling universe!

Jamie: Second to beer, the nature and the outdoor lifestyle is what attracts so many people to this area. There is no shortage of water or people eager to get out and try something new and exciting here in Asheville.

Q: What inspired you to begin your business?

Adam: As a lifelong kayaker, I was always looking for ways to make familiar rivers new again. It began with hand paddling, which then led to the obvious: hand paddling my kayak while prone. Immediately the name ‘Bellyak’ came to me, and I began building prototypes for my friends and I to paddle. After seeing how much fun other people were having, I decided to start a business to bring this sport to the world.

Q: What makes Bellyak unique/special and Ashevillian?

Jamie: Bellyak is certainly an out-of-the-box concept which is what tokens most Ashevillians. It’s making itself known, and in the meantime it just wants to be understood.

Adam: It is the only ‘lay on top’ kayak in the world, and opens up paddlesports to everyone. It represents the free thinking and out of the box independence that Asheville is known for.

Q: Why is it important to develop businesses that center on the outdoors?

Adam: Human powered outdoor recreation increases awareness of the need to protect our wild lands, and at the end of the day, it’s just pure fun to share our passion for outdoor recreation, specifically prone paddling rivers, with the world!

Jamie: The outdoors are where people go to escape and recharge from our computers and technology that we are surrounded by every second of the day. The Bellyak and other outdoor ventures are a vehicle to get people there.