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Anne Barth: Local, state programs encourage entrepreneurship

Jan. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The Huntington Entrepreneur Café, which meets monthly, is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and those who are considering starting a business to network, learn, and maybe take home some funding to help get started or grow. I recently had the opportunity to address this group and was impressed with the "pitches" made by four local entrepreneurs.

The ideas for new businesses were well thought out and ran the gamut: an internet splash page idea, a health-centered massage spa, a specialty gift product aimed at hospitalized patients and their families, and an artist duo interested in offering their unique experience to a larger population.

One of our objectives at TechConnectWV is to build the culture of entrepreneurship in West Virginia. While West Virginia's rankings in entrepreneurship and new startups are generally among the lowest in the nation, it isn't hard to understand why, and it doesn't have to stay that way.

For decades, many of us went to work for someone else: the plant, the mill, the mine. So even though our hard-working men and women are known for the ability to make anything and solve any problem, we've generally done it on someone else's time. The idea of assuming the risk and taking the chance individually is not that ingrained in our culture. But it can become more common here, if we collectively support entrepreneurs, accept that there will be failures as well as successes, and engage it for the long haul.

I commend the Huntington Entrepreneur Café, and the two groups that helped to start and sustain this effort -- Vision Shared and Unlimited Future -- for working to promote entrepreneurship. Other cities and towns have also sprouted entrepreneur cafes, which bodes well for the Mountain State's entrepreneurial spirit.

All of us will benefit if we grow more jobs right here at home. TechConnectWV will continue to work toward this goal in the months to come.

Anne Barth is executive director of TechConnect West Virginia (www.techconnectwv.org), a statewide economic development organization based in South Charleston.

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