Watch out, America! The mountaineer state has a long history of entrepreneurship. After all, with such mountainous terrain, it took great perseverance and gumption to live, explore and develop the area.
In the past several years, the state has looked at entrepreneurship with a renewed interest to make an intentional effort to drive entrepreneurship and new business startup activity.
A couple of years ago, I along with some ardent leaders convened at a community college to increase collaboration across the state. There had been a lot of great work, by a lot of great people and organizations focusing on providing skills, resources, and funding to entrepreneurs within their region.
The missing link was a central catalyst to help pull these all together. Thus the West Virginia Entrepreneurship Ecosystem was born.
Oh, don’t get me wrong it wasn’t always easy. There was the expected gnashing of teeth with the all too familiar refrain of “we’ve tried this before.”
But what was different this time was the breaking down of barriers. We asked people to leave their egos at the door. West Virginia needed to take a new tactic and everyone knew it. No longer could the state rely on coal. Things had to change. Without fail, the group met consistently, addressing issues of collaboration, identifying challenges, and seeking out new opportunities.
As the meeting progressed, people began to let down their guard and began to recognize the greater opportunity not just to the non-profits doing this important work but more importantly to the entrepreneurs starting businesses.
The collaboration proved prescient. With the onset of the pandemic, there was an urgent need to coordinate activities and communicate new programs so that entrepreneurs and business owners could stay in business.
With the hard work of assembling and collaboration already done, the Ecosystem was able to take the lead in jointly communicating new federal and state programs coupled with local responses. In addition, the group was quickly able to assess what the additional training and resource needs of entrepreneurs and businesses, springing into action with new training and resources.
West Virginia has always held big promise for an entrepreneur. Now with the new WV Businesslink initiative to provide resources to entrepreneurs in a more intentional way, that promise can be met more quickly and more efficiently. In the not too distant future, the state can return to its early pioneering days but with a focus on entrepreneurship, technology, and other emerging industries. America, watch out!
About the Author
Joe Kapp is the President and cofounder of the National Center for Resource Development (NCRD), a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps foundations, nonprofits, higher education institutions and others achieve greater impact by developing resources to more effectively execute their missions. Mr. Kapp, a serial entrepreneur, started and sold his first business in college and has over 10 years of experience working in the technology industry, having advised companies like GE, Johnson and Johnson, and other Fortune 500 corporations on the use and implementation of new and emerging sales force and CRM technologies.
Mr. Kapp has also written extensively on resource development, entrepreneurship, and financial planning for a variety of national media outlets including the Journal of Financial Planning, the Advocate magazine and the Huffington Post. He holds a Master’s degree in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Florida State University. When not working, Kapp enjoys traveling, scuba diving and photography.