Athens Creative Leaders Visit Asheville & Greensboro, North Carolina to Research Entrepreneur Ecosystems

Leaders from the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, non-profit and creative class sectors spent two days in North Carolina on August 2 - 3 researching innovation districtsmakerspaces, and co-working spaces. The organizers of the trip were the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development DepartmentFour Athens, and Athensmade with the following representatives in attendance:

Blaine Williams, Manager, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government

Ryan Moore, Director, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Economic Development Department

Mary Charles Howard, Executive Director, Athensmade

Michael Ripps, Board Member, Athensmade & Co-Owner, Jittery Joe’s

Matt & Shayna Hobbs, Ambassadors, Athensmade & Co-Owners, Sons of Sawdust

Jordan Burke, Executive Director, Four Athens

Hulet Smith, Board Member, Four Athens & Co-Owner, Rehabmart

Mike Price, Member, Four Athens & Co-Owner, Rehabmart

James Preston, Member, Four Athens & Founder, LiveSyphon

As part of this reconnaissance trip, the group met with executive directors, founders, and investors in successful innovation markets to gather information on establishing, managing, and growing infrastructure and communities around creative entrepreneurs. Site visits included:

The Forge, Makerspace, Greensboro, NC

H/Q Headquarters, Co-Working Center, Greensboro, NC

Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, Multi-Purpose Center, Asheville, NC

Hatch, Co-Working Center, Asheville, NC

River Arts District, Asheville, NC

Collider, Co-Working Center, Asheville, NC


Josh Dorfman, Director of Entrepreneurship at Venture Asheville, also met with the Athens leaders to share his agency’s success in delivering a mission much like that of Athensmade; advocating for Asheville’s high-growth entrepreneurial ecosystem and the pursuit of connecting the city’s entrepreneurs with startup funding, mentors, and talent.

"Meeting with economic development and entrepreneurial leaders in Asheville and Greensboro gave us great ideas to bring back to Athens,” said Jordan Burke, Executive Director of Four Athens. “Athens has many resources for the purpose of supporting artists, startups, and small businesses, and it was exciting to talk about how we can connect and promote them."

Attendees of this Asheville visit are in agreement that the Classic City has a kindred spirit in its neighbor to the north – and in more ways than one. Not only do our towns each act as home to large numbers of the higher-education community who enjoy food, beer and music scenes, but both also boast a “Broad” River, similarly sized populations, similar median household incomes and so much more. These similarities have encouraged the Athens group to continue gathering information so as to gain momentum in evaluating innovation districts, makerspaces, and co-working centers in and around the Athens community.

Ryan Moore, Director, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government Economic Development Department commented, “This trip was an opportunity to interact with impassioned people executing on their belief in innovation and entrepreneurship; it was a refreshing reminder that Athens has much to be proud of, but also a stark reminder of what’s left to accomplish. Athens is the preeminent destination for the southern entrepreneur, and this trip will be the first of many to give us perspective on how to best move this community forward.”

If you would like to be involved in gathering information or participating in conversations about entrepreneur needs such as affordable maker/office space, entrepreneur mentoring, and start-up funding, please contact Mary Charles, Executive Director of Athensmade at

About Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Department: Unlimited opportunity for an innovative community.  The Economic Development Department is the first stop for any business, idea, or venture wanting to take shape in Athens, GA.Visit to find out more.

About Four Athens: Dream. Plan. Grow. We’ll help you get there. For all your startup needs, Four Athens is here to help you discover ideas, launch concepts, and build your customer base. We connect you to the people you need to hire, learn from, and raise money in order to see your business dreams become reality. Visit to find out more.

Press Contact: Mary Charles Howard
Executive Director, Athensmade


Download Press Release Here

Additional photos and descriptions available upon request or on Athensmade's Facebook page