In the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, a community of collaborators has formed. One made up of photographers, painters, writers, musicians, hikers, entrepreneurs, and foodies, to name a few. Collectively, this group is known as Asheville Folk, the brainchild of the husband and wife team, Blaise and Christina Foret. Initially an Instagram account, Asheville Folk has since evolved into a multitude of social events, including brunches and dinners, monthly entrepreneurial talks, creative workshops, and a podcast.
Of course, it wasn’t created with such events in mind. To use their own words, Blaise and Christina were just hoping to make some friends. The couple had arrived to Asheville in January of 2015. The city itself had been their go-to point for coffee breaks during drives from Nashville, Tennessee (where the two had met), to Greenville, South Carolina (where Christina’s family resides). Three months after they wed, they settled on Asheville as their new home. “It felt just as cool and artsy as Nashville, but more homey,” Blaise says.
Travel, however, kept the couple out of Asheville for the early part of the 2015. Christina, who had spent two years in Hawaii as a wedding photographer, found herself back on the Island, flown in for a number of March weddings. Meanwhile, Blaise traveled throughout the south to preach—a major component of his life since the age of fourteen. When the two reconvened in their strange new hometown, Christina settled on two things: one, if they were to live in Asheville, they needed to actually live in Asheville, and two, if they were to do that, they needed to make friends.
Christina’s approach proved simple and successful enough. She found people through Instagram, messaging them to see about meeting for coffee. The meetings themselves had no set itinerary other than to chat with fellow creatives in order to learn more about the city. By the end of April, however, the idea struck. Many of the people she met were photographers. Why not create an Instagram account that not only highlighted these photographers’ talents, but also showcased Asheville for folks as unfamiliar with the place as she and Blaise had been?
By May, Asheville Folk was up and running. Within a month they launched Asheville Folk Local Takeover, handing over the keys of the Instagram account to a new person each week. In this way more restaurants, cafes, bookstores, bars, hiking trails, and riverbanks could be captured and shared. Within three months, they had amassed over 2,000 followers. All the while, very few people actually knew who was running the whole thing.
Until, that is, Christina had another coffee date. This time, she met up with Sarajane Case—blogger, photographer, and early supporter of Asheville Folk. Christina mentioned an idea she and Blaise had discussed: the possibility of a monthly business talk that would allow local entrepreneurs the chance to share their stories with an audience, addressing not only the steps taken toward their successes, but also the trials they faced along the way. The idea, however, was just that. In part, because Christina enjoyed working behind the scenes. “I wanted Asheville Folk to represent a community of people, rather than one single person,” she says. Case, however, thought otherwise. “Just do it,” she told Christina. “And do it now.”
They reserved thirty chairs on the outside deck of Social Lounge on Broadway in downtown Asheville. Case connected Christina and Blaise with Jael Rattigan, owner and operator of the Chocolate Lounge. Rattigan agreed to be the event’s key speaker. They called it Business N Brews. “We wanted to create something where people could socialize, but also learn from each other and become encouraged to follow their dreams,” Christina says. They had hoped for thirty; to their surprise, sixty-four people came.
Since that time, Business N Brews has continued to grow. The most recent talk, hosted at Catawba, had over ninety people in attendance. Similarly, their online presence has grown as well, with over 13,000 followers and counting. “Everything is expanding, but our desire is to maintain our authenticity,” Christina says.
Still, the couple has big plans for the upcoming year. “Be on the lookout for more workshops and Business N Brews, as well as a larger retreat style gathering for creatives and entrepreneurs, alike,” Blaise says.
A year since their arrival to Asheville, Blaise and Christina Foret, along with their fellow Asheville Folk, now call the mountains their home.
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