Starting in the summer of 2019, the West Virginia Entrepreneurship Ecosystem began to plan for a large convening of the group in what would be the first ever WV Entrepreneurship Conference. Sponsors were engaged, speakers were found, the location was secured, and planning was going well. The organizing committee was working tirelessly to pull this event together as a part of what would be a catalyst activity for entrepreneurship start ups in West Virginia.
In addition to the Ecosystem meeting, we were working to schedule the WV high school and college business plan competitions and the WV Innovation and Business Model Showcase to be held the next day. That scheduling was going to provide a terrific two-day kick-off to building out the entrepreneurship ecosystem and raising awareness across the state to continue expansion of our emerging small business climate. We were so excited for the first week of April 2020 to get here. It was going to be the pinnacle of nearly 9 months’ work.
Three weeks before we could get there, we pulled the plug. A new variant of the Corona virus, which we would all come to know as COVID, was proving very transmissible and there were growing fears of a pandemic. There was some pushback from the group initially and some shock when we announced. Within a week, the entire country had shut down and plans for the conference were put on the shelf. We were able to plan and coordinate a successful Virtual Symposium series on entrepreneurship later that year, but the effort just didn’t provide the same effect we were hoping to receive.
Fast forward 2 years. We are now just over a month away from finally fulfilling the promise that was made in 2019 and hosting an entire week of activities that provides a focus for business ownership assistance in West Virginia. From the humble beginnings of 2019, we are set to hold a week of entrepreneurship activities in Charleston. Bridging Innovation 2022 will put a spotlight on small business, innovation, and (of course) entrepreneurship for 5 days and spread out to 10 different events.
From tech start-ups to high school students planning their future success, each of these exciting events will bring a spotlight to the emerging talent that is bringing record numbers of small businesses online in WV. This is all now occurring in the most business start-up friendly climate our state has ever enjoyed. In 2021, 16,397 businesses were registered in West Virginia (WV Secretary of State Business Statistics Database, 2022). That number exceeds any single 12-month period in our history and extends a positive year over year trend to 3 years in a row. Much of this is due to the expansion of resources available to entrepreneurs, increased exposure of students to the entrepreneurial mindset, and the forward thinking actions of the Business & Licensing Division of the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
More than ever, West Virginians are starting, financing, and growing their business enterprises. For a week in April, we will be providing the connections, knowledge, and inspiration to add to these totals in 2022! We look forward to seeing you all at Bridging Innovation!
Bridging Innovation 2022 Schedule
Monday, April 4
University of Charleston i3 Competition
Tuesday, April 5
WV Entrepreneurship Conference
Country Roads Angel Network Pitch Competition
Wednesday, April 6
WV Innovation and Business Model Showcase
WV Statewide High School Business Plan Competition
WV Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition
WV Community Business Plan Competition
Vantage Ventures Demo
Thursday, April 7
Youth Entrepreneurship in Action
West Virginia Veteran Reception
Friday, April 8
TransTech Energy Business Development Conference
Find out more about the individual events and all the registration information here: https://wvbusinesslink.com/bridging-innovation-week/
About the Authors
Bill Woodrum is the coordinator of the WV Entrepreneurship Network and manager of WVBusinessLink and Tara St. Clair is the Director of Operations for the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Chamber’s College of Business at WVU.
They serve as co-chairs of the WV Entrepreneurship Ecosystem and organizing chairs for the Bridging Innovation event.