An Idea is Born: Local Entrepreneurs Receive an Opportunity for Innovation

January 28, 2014


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By Jill K. Holliday

In this world, innovators should be celebrated: those who were not afraid to take a chance and those who looked the doubters in the face and said, “Yes, I can.” Even when failure hits, as it all too often does, these people seize the opportunity to show others how far they can rise after falling. Here’s to these innovators, who make remarkable connections that give birth to ideas. These are the people who choose to live this day this way so they can live tomorrow like none other can.

Throughout the ages, innovators and entrepreneurs have been known by many names. They were the founding fathers that took a leap of faith to begin a new life; they were our grandparents who ran local stores; they were those who made the friendship bracelets in school so that they could sell them. These people set their own rule, did things their way and became the building blocks of this country.

New River Community & Technical College, located in southern West Virginia, was selected as one of only five schools in the nation to host a regional summit on entrepreneurship education entitled Entrepreneurial Rural Community Colleges: Growing Entrepreneurs and Igniting Economic Vitality. It will take place on Thursday, February 20, 2014. The goal of the summit is to learn the best practices in entrepreneurship education from funders, educators, artisans and innovators in order to ensure that our local artisans are successful business owners who are part of a thriving ecotourism economy.

West Virginia represents a very important sector of entrepreneurs, artists and tourism-driven businesses. According to William Howarth’s “The Value of Rural Life in American Culture,” 84 percent of the United States’ inhabitants live in suburban and urban areas, but cities occupy only 10 percent of the country. Rural areas occupy the remaining 90 percent, but face challenges with a limited number of patrons.

The event will feature keynote speakers, including David Hughes, business development analyst with the Appalachian Regional Commission; Darrell Akins, founder and CEO of Akins Public Strategies and Todd Christensen, executive director of Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation. Additionally, there will also be a panel discussion around the topic of best practices to support artisanal small businesses.

The lunch will be catered by a local entrepreneur, Tammy Jordan, owner of Fruits of Labor. Jordan initially had a vision at the age of five to have a show farm; she was formally educated in science and worked for over a decade in agricultural research with the USDA, while she grew her company simultaneously. Fruits of Labor is a corporation she designed to marry her passion for agriculture and her love of the culinary industry. She grows much of the food herself for a true farm-to-table experience. She is located in Dawson, WV.

There will also be a multi-media presentation featuring the music of Option 22, a band out of Princeton, WV, as well as visual projections and a compelling exchange about how the arts and creativity can transform a community into a dynamic place to live and how this can positively impact the local economy. Lori McKinney, Option 22 singer, arts entrepreneur and community organizer, will tell the story of The RiffRaff Arts Collective’s revitalization of their neighborhood in downtown Princeton, in addition to Option 22’s performance.

There will also be a panel of artisan entrepreneurs discussing what they need to succeed. Merideth Young and Lori Midkiff, both artisans from Tamarack will be part of the panel, along with husband and wife artisan team, Brad & Jordie Veneri. Midkiff uses hemp accompanied by wood, stone, bone and natural materials to create macramé jewelry, woven and crocheted handbags and small accessories. Young has developed a collection of jewelry made from ultra-colorful, soda pop cans. Brad Veneri uses welding to create unique and creative pieces, and his wife, Jordie, creates stained glass.

Northeast State Community College will present about community mapping, and there will also be a panel for an economic outlook for tourism in our state. Todd Christensen, executive director of the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation; Leslie Baker, director of Operations for the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine Complex and Campground; the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia and Mountain Homestead and Wildwood House Museum will both be participating in the discussion. Ron Magruder, previous chairman of the National Restaurant Association and the previous president and COO of Cracker Barrel, as well as Jackie Whitley, a Shared Vision Project Awardee with Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, will both be participating on the panel.

The day will conclude with a multi-media presentation from Kid in the Background, a recent Raleigh County entrepreneurship café winner. The company, formed in late 2012 by founding partners Jamie Smith and Jason Lockart, assists businesses in the Beckley, WV area with marketing and promotion via graphic design and web design skill. With the addition of Sean Udy, a video producer, cinematographer and photographer, in early 2013, ‘The Kid’ has proved to be a multi-media powerhouse throughout not only the state of West Virginia but the entire nation. Kid in the Background is trusted by major corporations, government agencies, nationally syndicated television producers and world-famous artists to create artfully designed material across all forms of digital media.

Through opportunities like the business summit, West Virginia’s visionaries have opportunities to participate in the business community on every level, whether they are conceptualizing, beginning or expanding their business ideas. The full agenda can be found on the NACCE website, along with registration information. For more information on the agenda, email Jill Holliday at or for registration questions email at Guin Griswold at


About the Author

Jill K. Holliday is the instructional specialist for hospitality, tourism and entrepreneurship for New River Community and Technical College. Holliday joined their faculty in April 2011, after returning to West Virginia from Raleigh, North Carolina.

While in Raleigh, Holliday was a principal for the financial planning firm, LifeTime Asset Management, where she handled a variety of business development matters. She also taught entrepreneurship for the Women’s Business Center division of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development. She participated in the Women’s Business Center First Signature Event and instructed at the Triangle Women and Money Conference sponsored by the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer.

Holliday has taught other educators creative ways of teaching entrepreneurship at the Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education in Atlanta, GA. She serves on the Beckley-Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Ambassador Committee and the WV Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee. She received her B.A. from Concord University in Interdisciplinary Studies. She also holds a Master’s in Education for Assessment and Evaluation.

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