By Nathan Ham
A new business startup created by an Appalachian State alumnus hopes to boost technology careers and help start businesses right here in the High Country.
Robert Huddleston, a member of Appalachian State’s graduating class of 2000, moved back to Boone about two and a half years ago and brought along with him his own IT consulting company, Avoda Group, from Raleigh.
“We moved it here because we wanted to see if we could chase App State students and bring them on board, train them up in Cloud Technology and get them in our consulting group,” Huddleston explained.
Not long after this came the idea of Boone Underground, a 4,000-square-foot facility on State Farm Road with modern technological upgrades to offer clients meeting spaces, high-speed internet, private desks, and numerous valuable resources to develop business plans and ideas.
“We did an internship with App State, brought some students on, and got them certified in different Cloud Technologies, and then we thought what would be the next natural progression of this,” Huddleston said. “Back in January is when I had this vision for Boone Underground with the idea of creating more jobs and creating more technology up here in the High Country.”
As Robert pointed out, many students interested in a career in technology are leaving the High Country to take jobs in Charlotte and Raleigh.
“Boone Underground is designed as a co-working space and technology hub where we can teach some of these skills and help them grow their business,” said Huddleston.
Right now, Boone Underground offers shared and dedicated desks as part of its membership program. Part of the next phase of the business will be adding individual offices for businesses that need a dedicated office atmosphere. Community tables are the entry membership level, followed by personal desks with the client’s name on it as the next membership tier. Currently, the open floor space has enough room for 30-40 people to meet all COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
The premises is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has a CCTV security system and each client has a card to scan to have access to the building.
Huddleston explained the types of clients that are most likely to be a good fit for Boone Underground.
“The county wants us to chase after people that want to start a business. We are here to do that, we are here to help mentor them through developing a business plan or growing their business,” he said. “We are also chasing after people that might have a corporate job but due to COVID, they might be working from home now and need to get out to have a place they can call their office to get back into that environment.”
Additional plans for Boone Underground will feature business development events and technology boot camps both during the normal 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. business hours and also after-hours events and boot camps. This will all help promote the community idea that Robert hopes to see become a major benefit of Boone Underground.
“We don’t want anyone to come into this space and feel isolated or alone. We definitely want to grow this idea of community and working together,” Huddleston said.
Currently, there are three membership plans with prices of $99, $149, and $249 per month. Details on these plans and additional information can be found on the Boone Underground website.