Sustaining our communities and maintaining connections with our neighbors has become more important than ever during the COVID-19 outbreak. Explore Asheville saw the need in their community and chose to donate a substantial sum to a fund dedicated to supporting small businesses to tide them over.
Destination Travel Network (DTN) has been a partner of Explore Asheville since 2015, selling sponsored content to small- and medium-sized businesses on ExploreAsheville.com. The content is placed strategically across the site to deliver contextually relevant content to the visitor audience and to help convert highly qualified visitors into paying customers for Explore Asheville partners. Explore Asheville earns a portion of the advertising revenue to be used at their discretion.
As COVID-19 spread through the Asheville area in March 2020, community fund One Buncombe was created by the Buncombe County Service Foundation to address the growing needs of individuals and businesses in the area. Money donated to One Buncombe has been used to help small businesses reopen, rehire, and retain employees. With very rapid impact, businesses in the Asheville area were able to use One Buncombe funds to keep their businesses afloat.
How One Buncombe Helped
Using advertising revenue earned through their DTN partnership, Explore Asheville contributed $50,000 in March 2020 and One Buncombe grew to more than $1 million from local contributions by August 2020 and more than $1.6 million by August 2021. During Phase 1, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees were eligible to apply for low-interest loans of up to $10,000 with no payments due for six months.
These loans were considered bridge funding intended to help businesses stay open until the pandemic subsided or until they could apply for larger-scale funding. A total of 92 small businesses were helped during Phase 1, 29% of which were minority-owned businesses and 65% of loans were for women-owned businesses.
Phase 2 allowed businesses to apply for loans up to $5,000, to allow them to reopen or rehire employees. Female-owned businesses, businesses owned by people of color, and sole proprietorships were given priority during this phase. A total of 116 local businesses received funding during Phase 2.
In January 2021, Explore Asheville made a second contribution to One Buncombe, for $40,000. Like the first donation, the funds came from DTN advertising revenue.
Grants helped more than 100 small businesses retain more than 400 living-wage jobs in Phase 2, with 80% of grants going to historically underutilized businesses, which includes both women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
The impact from One Buncombe’s funding is impressive. Hundreds of local jobs have been supported by allowing for the retention or rehiring of employees across many businesses. Thanks to the ongoing generosity of the Asheville community, donations continue to support local businesses in need of a helping hand as we all navigate the pandemic.
One Buncombe serves as an example of how a community banded together to address its own immediate and serious needs, with strong support from large organizations who generously chose to share their resources for the greater good.
“Small businesses are the heart and soul of Asheville and essential to the visitor experience and our community’s vitality,” Isley said. “We were grateful for the opportunity to use our DTN revenue-sharing funds to partner with other contributors in helping our community begin to thrive again.”
In addition to contributions to One Buncombe, the Buncombe County TDA also distributed $5 million in grants through the Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund to nearly 400 local small businesses to help them safely reopen and save jobs. The initiative was made possible when one-time state legislation allowed the BCTDA to reallocate occupancy tax revenue designated for product development to create the emergency relief fund.