When Jimmy Hunt gets an idea, look out.
A business class project in 2007 wasn't hypothetical in this student's mind. When his professor assigned the task of coming up with a business plan, Hunt decided to take it a step further. Together with his friend Nick Barringer, he put the plan into action.
The result was Boone's first large-scale music festival, Music on the Mountain, held in August 2008. The event raised funds for three non-profit agencies—NC Green Power, Appalachian State University's Energy Center and the High Country Conservancy—and gained the attention of an Atlanta businessman who wants the students to replicate the festival in Georgia.
The festival's line-up featured Sam Bush, Perpetual Groove, Acoustic Syndicate, Jerry Douglas, The Afromotive, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, The Firecracker Jazz Band, Do it to Julia, the Lost Ridge Band, Uncle Mountain and Bafoodus.
Underscoring its theme of green power and conservation, the Boone festival included a solar-powered music stage and a "green village" with environmental organizations, interactive exhibits and consumer information.
"We hoped to educate while entertaining," said Hunt, a senior management major in Appalachian's Walker College of Business. The event drew 2,500 people. Hunt and Barringer believe they can double that attendance at next year's event.
This summer's event was so successful that an Atlanta businessman has contracted Hunt's start-up company, Black Paw Entertainment LLC, to produce a "sister" event in Atlanta next year.
"The whole thing is on a level I didn't dream of right now, that I didn't think could happen for another three, four, five years—and it happened a week after the festival," said Hunt, who is from Raleigh.
Hunt got help for implementing his business plan from Appalachian's Center for Entrepreneurship. Its staff advised him on the issues of incorporation, taxes, marketing and research, and put him in touch with other resources.
"His enthusiasm won me over," recalls Assistant Director Julia Rowland. "He was serious about this festival. Very few adult entrepreneurs go out and pursue something this large, so truly his drive and determination and the fact that he's done it is incredibly impressive."