White Horse Black Mountain transitions to nonprofit business model

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Bob Hinkle (left) and his son Zach Hinkle (right) have worked to transition White Horse Black Mountain from a for-profit music venue to a nonprofit.

For the Hinkle family, White Horse Black Mountain has never been just a music venue.

Opened in 2008 in the “jaws of recession,” as owner Bob Hinkle put it, the venue has survived economic recessions and a pandemic.

“It became kind of an institution around here after a while, and it was an awful lot of fun and an awful lot of work,” Hinkle said. “It had its high points and its low points, but one thing became very clear, and that was that nobody’s going to get rich doing this.”

Bob Hinkle’s son, Zach Hinkle, said his father had, since the beginning of White Horse Black Mountain, prioritized things that are “good for the community and good for music and creativity, but bad for the bottom line.”

Zach Hinkle said these include putting the customer first and serving as a community center. He said operating in this way impacts the bottom line and that his father was “essentially running it as a nonprofit.”

Now, Bob Hinkle and White Horse Black Mountain are starting a new chapter, one that he said feels like “the right thing.”

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Following a launch party April 21, the venue is now officially a nonprofit.

Bob Hinkle said he was often asked if he was a nonprofit in the past, and his answer would always be “not on purpose.” He said he is looking forward to doing things as a nonprofit.

“There are some things you can do with a nonprofit that you can’t do with a for-profit company,” Bob Hinkle said. “We can apply for grants, for instance, which you can’t usually if you’re a for-profit company. We can accept donations, and that’s also something else you can’t do, and you can have a completely different kind of relationship with other nonprofits.”

Along with this, White Horse Black Mountain has also introduced membership tiers. Starting as a $60 per year Appaloosa student membership and ending at a $4,800 or more a year Arabian level, members receive a wide-ranging array of perks. These perks include lapel pins, T-shirts, discounts and tickets to White Horse events.

White Horse Black Mountain is now officially a nonprofit.

Zach Hinkle said the nonprofit onboarded more than 60 members the night of the launch party alone.

“It was an incredibly meaningful moment because it highlighted what we kind of knew, but you never really know until it actually happens,” Zach Hinkle said. “When the community says, ‘This place isn’t just a music venue to us. This place has real meaning for us as a community. We think of it as our living room and we want it to stay.’ They all showed up.”

In the past, Bob Hinkle said the venue has hosted more than 50 benefits, including for local entities like a recent event for the Black Mountain Counseling Center to events for a global impact like a benefit show for Haiti.

The Hinkles said White Horse Black Mountain will feel the same to anyone who comes in for a show, but Zach Hinkle said the goal of becoming a nonprofit is to become sustainable, both as a business and for his father who has been “carrying the water for 14 years on his own.”

With becoming a nonprofit comes a board of directors that Bob Hinkle said he is “pleased” with and is looking forward to working with.

Zach Hinkle said White Horse Black Mountain is his “dad’s heart” and that he has put everything he has into it. Both Hinkles said they are looking forward to the future of the venue as a nonprofit and to continue serving the community.

“You only become a nonprofit if you believe that the thing that you have really benefits the community in which you live,” Zach Hinkle said. “If they don’t believe in you, then it’s never going to work.”