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Aspiring Entrepreneur? Find Your Advantage Here

New businesses enjoy success in Advantage Valley, West Virginia, thanks to an excellent network of incubators and coaches.

By Kim Madlom on November 19, 2021

iStock.com/MONKEYBUSINESSIMAGES

Nuri Mitchell is an entrepreneurial success story, thanks to his own initiative and help from Unlimited Future, one of the partners in the FASTER WV Initiative, an entrepreneurship program in West Virginia’s Advantage Valley.

Mitchell worked as a grounds person for a property management company, but he always wanted to be in business for himself. He now owns Earth Air Recycling and has a contract with his former employer and other clients. He also has plans to create a recycling pick-up service in the region.

Jules Bills of Unlimited Future coached Mitchell as he established his business. “Using some savvy money management skills, Nuri did not need to get a loan for this first transition from employee to business owner, but he knows the second phase may require additional funding,” Bills says. “If so, Advantage Valley’s FASTER WV loan program is there to help.”

Meet FASTER WV

FASTER WV is an entrepreneurial program of the Advantage Valley economic development organization that helps build a strong culture of entrepreneurship. The program provides access to informational webinars, free one-on-one business coaching, free basic business entrepreneurship classes and access to capital.

“The training provides a well-rounded approach to the business startup process and business plan writing,” Bills says. “The coaching allows the business owner and coach to work specifically on that individual’s business idea, which includes market research, calculating startup costs, cash-flow projections, business plan completion and application for the loan fund.”

These services could cost the entrepreneur thousands of dollars, but FASTER WV covers these costs, allowing them to save their resources for business growth and job creation.

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ChemCeption

Exceptional Chemistry

South Charleston’s West Virginia Regional Technology Park is home to ChemCeption, the only incubator in the nation focused solely on commercializing chemistry-based technology. “We also oversee a program called ChemAssist to help chemical-related startups and entrepreneurs across all of West Virginia,” says Kevin DiGregorio, executive director of the Chemical Alliance Zone (CAZ), a nonprofit that works to create chemistry-based jobs. He says CAZ has helped attract more than $7 million in funding.

Incubating Success in Advantage Valley

The Brad D. Smith Business Incubator affiliated with Marshall University is also an essential asset in the Advantage Valley entrepreneurship ecosystem. Smith is a West Virginia native and Marshall graduate who served for several years as CEO of Intuit.

“The incubator supports the development and growth of startups and small businesses,” says Tricia Ball, interim associate administrator. “The incubator provides low-cost office spaces with access to shared spaces, including a conference room and kitchenette, and utilities. This provides entrepreneurs with the advantages of having a physical address and location while keeping their operating costs low so they can focus on growing their business.”

Ball says the incubator also offers networking and technical assistance in marketing, sales and access to capital. As a part of Marshall University, incubator clients have a direct line to the expertise of the university’s faculty.

One of its clients, North American Consulting Services Inc., partnered on a research study with Dr. Monica Wei, an assistant professor of marketing and director of the Transformative Sales and Service Excellence Center in Marshall’s Lewis College of Business, and Kane Morrone, sales development manager, on a market research study.

Through the study, Wei and Morrone uncovered prospects’ cognitive and emotional incentives toward cybersecurity services and the needs of companies when it comes to data protection and cybersecurity services.

Did You Know?

Entrepreneurs have access to capital through avenues such as West Virginia Growth Investment, an investment fund that pools and invests capital resources of investors for startup and early-stage companies in the state.

Incubator clients are also provided with educational programming and professional development opportunities, which have included training on corporate innovation and design thinking and virtual sales. Last fall, incubator clients had exclusive access to a coaching session with Kipp Bodnar, HubSpot’s chief marketing officer, after a public webinar he hosted on cutting-edge digital marketing strategies.

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APH Huntington

Success Story: APH Huntington

American Printing House for the Blind (APH), a Brad D. Smith Business Incubator client, develops and produces accessible learning tools and independent living solutions to address the lifelong needs of people with vision loss.

As a nonprofit new to the region, APH Huntington relies on grants to organize, grow and sustain its efforts, says Lee Huffman, community development strategist.

“The Brad D. Smith Business Incubator has provided APH Huntington the opportunity to have a modern office space and conference room from which to conduct our work and host constituents,” Huffman says. “As a new organization, we could have never afforded facilities like this.”

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