Why We Exist
The Appalachian region is known for tough, blue-collar people who, for generations, have beaten the odds to overcome unforgiving landscapes and harsh conditions with grit, determination, and ingenuity. As it looks to reinvent itself for the next chapter of the region, Appalachia is collectively harnessing the power of the entrepreneurial mindset to reimagine the future while paying homage to its rich history. The new Appalachian economy is being built one business and one community at a time, and the Appalachian Investors Alliance (AIA) is here to act as a catalyst by coming alongside those who are actively working on the front lines of the Appalachian entrepreneurial revolution.
AIA empowers those with a desire to challenge the status quo and a yearning to shape the future of the Appalachian region. In working with communities, entrepreneurs, and investors, AIA is applying a new set of best practices for venture funding in the heartland of Appalachia that is transforming how Appalachian startups are being planned, launched, and funded.
April Russell Perry
April Russell Perry, a native of Ashland Kentucky, is Chairman of the Board and CEO of Kentucky Farmers Bank (KFB), a community bank headquartered in Boyd County KY, offering banking and wealth management services. She earned her BBA and MBA from Eastern Kentucky University, where she serves as Finance Chair for the EKU Foundation Board. April is a member of the Tri State Angel Investment Group and lead judge for the Glockner Dare to Dream Pitch Competition for high school students. She supports financial literacy and empowerment through her involvement with Bank On NEKY and the Kentucky Financial Empowerment Commission. April and her husband Don have two adult children, Connor and Kendall. In her free time, April enjoys cooking, gardening and hiking.
Mark Poss hails from beautiful Red Wing, Minnesota, where he is a member of the Golden Triangle Angel Fund. He spent his career in media and digital transformation leading a family-owned publishing company. Currently he is focused on helping startup companies focus their strategies, raising cows and goats, and trying to keep up with his wife and children.
John Davis is Executive Vice President and Deputy Trust and Asset Management Executive of Cadence Bank. Davis has more than 42 years in the Trust and Financial Management services industry. John is a graduate of the University of the South (Sewanee) and earned his MBA at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).
He is very involved within his community, having held or holding leadership and volunteer positions with the following charities and non-profit organizations: Phillips Foundation, Good Samaritan Free Medical Clinic, Loaves and Fishes Community Soup Kitchen, Lowndes County Homeless Coalition, United Way, Rotary Club of Columbus, Mississippi Bankers Association, Columbus Educational Foundation, Columbus Country Club, Golden Triangle Development LINK, Columbus Art Council, Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau, Columbus Chamber of Commerce, S. D. Lee Foundation, and St Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Michael I. Green
Mike serves as AIA’s Chairman, Chairman of the West Virginia Growth Investment Fund, and Managing Director of Mountain State Capital SBIC, providing mentorship and funding to entrepreneurs and early stage companies. He began his career in 1969 as a mathematician, cryptanalyst and software developer at the National Security Agency. In 1979, Green moved to the private sector and held senior executive positions with a number of successful technology companies.
Green served on the West Virginia state Board of Education beginning in 2009, and served as the Board President from 2015 to 2017. He is a director in several organizations, including the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation and the Appalachian Investors Alliance. Michael Green holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Boston University and a master’s degree in numerical science from Johns Hopkins University.
Perri Richman is the Black and Latino Investment Fund of NJ administrator in addition to her work as a corporate strategist, ESG advisor and technology founder. Perri is the co-founder of Inspire Global Ventures, a firm advancing early-stage investment and entrepreneurship, and bringing institutional market intelligence and management technology to small and mid-sized organizations. As part of her work, Perri advises middle market PE firms and their portfolio companies on leading change, branding, growth and ESG strategies; and serves as an ESG subject matter expert at Real Chemistry, a leading biopharmaceutical advisory firm.
Perri invests, advises and serves on the Boards of women, minority-owned and social impact growth companies and participates on non-profit Boards centered on entrepreneurship and economic development including Accendus and Empower the Village. She previously led corporate marketing, communications, ESG positioning efforts and the corporate foundations for industrial technology giants, Ingersoll Rand, Trane Technologies and American Standard, and consulted prior with B2B and B2C blue chip public companies.
Perri earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from New York University and a master’s degree in industrial / organizational psychology from the University of Hartford. She is a certified executive coach, change leadership professional, and reputation and crisis manager with advanced credentials in social impact design thinking and impact investing.
President & CEO
Jim Hart is based in Knoxville, TN and serves at the Executive Director of the Appalachian Investors Alliance and President/CEO of HBS Group, Inc.
Hart previously served as the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of World Marketing Company, providing contracting and supply chain solutions to Fortune 500 consumer food product manufacturers to serve their Department of Defense clients. His experience in business operations, supply chain management, financial modeling and data management systems in a high-growth environment are leveraged in his HBS Group, Inc. management consulting business. His clients include angel groups and venture funds seeking active portfolio management, M&A advisement, and diligence services for private equity transactions.
Hart holds a B.S. in logistics and transportation and Master of Business Administration from University of Tennessee. He has traveled and done business in over 25 countries. He is an early stage investor and mentor to startup companies, and believes entrepreneurship drives the economic diversity that promotes sustainable communities.
Fund Management and Formation
Steve Mercil is widely recognized as “the most prolific angel group founder in the nation.” He oversees creating new angel funds for the Appalachian Investors Alliance network of micro-venture funds. He’s founder and CEO of RAIN Source Management, LLC, and since 1998 has created over 35 seed- and early-stage investing funds capitalized between $1 and $3 million, across 14 states, involving over 600 accredited investor members. Collectively, these funds have invested in excess of $40 million in over 100 companies, creating over 4,500 jobs and prompting $750 million in follow-on investment by other funds.
Mercil is also a principal in the $15 million InvestAmerica NW venture group, and General Partner in Invest Northwest fund focused on middle-market and later-stage companies. Earlier in his career, Mercil was an equity fund manager for the not-for-profit Minnesota Technology, Inc. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds, and as a director and Treasurer in the Angel Capital Association. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in statistics and measurements from the University of North Dakota.
Business Development Officer
Jeremy Turner is a Business Development Officer and Entrepreneurship Education Project Manager for AIA, and he is the Founder and President of the business consultancy, EPIC Mission, Inc. Mr. Turner holds a BA in Psychology from Marshall University and an MBA with a focus on Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise from Louisiana State University at Shreveport. He is continuing his education by pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration degree with a focus on Management and Entrepreneurship from Marshall University’s Brad D. Smith Graduate School of Business. Jeremy is a DISC-Certified Behavioral Consultant and holds additional certifications in a variety of entrepreneurial methods and platforms, including the Entrepreneurship Management Certificate from InBIA and Ash Maurya’s LEANSTACK Certified Mentor designation. Mr. Turner is a sought-after coach, consultant, and instructional content producer, and he has created customized curriculums and delivered trainings on a variety of topics including board development, business and nonprofit operations, business model development, creativity and innovation, strategic planning, organizational development, and social enterprise development.
Beyond his work with AIA and EPIC, Jeremy has served as a Business Coach, Curriculum Advisor, and Faculty member for the West Virginia Governor’s School of Entrepreneurship since the school’s inception in 2016. In addition, Jeremy has served as an Executive-in-Residence and an entrepreneurship instructor within the Lewis College of Business at Marshall University, and as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Marietta College. He has also operated as Co-Founder at Huntington, WV’s first coworking space, CoWorks, and has assisted Marshall University in the launch and annual refresh of the West Virginia Innovation and Business Model Competition (WVIBMC). Jeremy serves on the Board of Advisors for the Marshall University Lewis College of Business Division of Marketing, MIS and Entrepreneurship, the Marshall University Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (iCenter), and the Board of Advisors for the Entrepreneurship Program at Marietta College.
Business Development Officer
Eric Fischer serves as Business Development Officer and Analyst for the Appalachian Investors Alliance. He is President of ENF Advisors. Eric has more than 16 years of financial services experience. He invested 14 years as a Commercial Lender in the South-Central PA market, including two years in economic development with the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & Capital Region Economic Development Corporation. He works with small community Banks to structure SBA lending programs and has advised small business owners to best prepare them for the process of applying for a commercial loan. Eric has also worked with small business owners to structure retirement plans and supplemental health benefits to help owners attract and retain talent.
Eric began his career as a Material Scientist with a multi-national electrical connector and cable manufacturer, responsible for failure analysis on finished product and quality control of raw materials. He then transitioned to sales within the company, calling on customers in the networking and telecommunications sectors in Silicon Valley. Eric has a wide array of experiences including financial analysis, lending, insurance, employee benefits, failure analysis, engineering, and sales. Mr. Fischer holds Series 7/66 licenses, as well as producer licenses for life and health insurance. He graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Metals Science and Engineering and from Saint Mary’s College of California with a master’s degree in Business Administration.
“WVJIT has had the opportunity to work with AIA over the past several years. Their expertise and knowledge of the funding opportunities in the region have been invaluable in growing access to capital to our current and potential portfolio companies. With a similar investment strategy, they are able to work with a best fit solution. Additionally, they offer extensive knowledge and assist WVJIT with due diligence on potential deals. Their insight and professional services give our portfolio the ability to scale and invest in opportunities we previously may have missed in the past.”
“No one else is doing what the Appalachian Investors Alliance is doing. They have a dedicated staff of professionals that truly understand the unique challenges of access to capital programs in this region. And, they have documented success to prove it.”
Appalachian Investor’s Alliance
234 MORRELL ROAD, SUITE 328
KNOXVILLE, TN 37919