BECKLEY — The West Virginia Hive is looking for a few more worker bees to assist with its first pre-incubation course beginning in September.
The business incubator is launching Co.Starters, a nine-week course to assist entrepreneurs and “wantrepreneurs” with the skills they need to begin their own business. Using a nationally acclaimed curriculum designed for rural communities, current business owners and community leaders are invited to teach the region’s next generation of business leaders, as well as mentor those students one-on-one.
Joe Carlucci, business coach with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, told The West Virginia Record they are looking for a wide range of backgrounds for the volunteer positions including attorneys, accountants, property owners and anyone else who would be willing to nurture blossoming entrepreneurs with their knowledge on topics such as business structures, licenses, intellectual property, marketing, goal setting and more.
“Everyone has a unique skill set,” Carlucci said.
Courses begin meeting Sept. 2 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and continue each Friday until Nov. 4 at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology campus. WVU is one of many organizations partnering with NRGRDA, the parent organization, to build the Hive into a hub for new businesses. Together, the organizations are providing $2.3 million to local entrepreneurship.
“We are trying to act as a catalyst for entrepreneurship in the region,” Carlucci said.
While The Hive is financially stable through its partners, it is still dependent on mentors, guest speakers and facilitators in the community to help build the economy around it. Business incubators have existed since the 1950s but have taken off in the last 10 years. In 2013, New York University released a report that the incubator at its Polytechnic Institute generated $251 million into the economy in four years, created over 900 jobs and added $31.4 million in local, state and federal taxes.
In addition to boosting the economy and providing classes and mentors for entrepreneurs, the Hive also provides resources on its website including financial documents, tips on marketing and business management.
For new business owners who do not need a large office space but want to work away from their home, the Hive offers co-working spaces which allow for a creative atmosphere among entrepreneurs from different backgrounds.
The Hive also provides non-traditional networking events each month such as morning coffee and evening pizza parties.
Many participants will also qualify for financing from the Hive and its partnered banks. Entrepreneurs who graduate from the Smart Start program, which helps them execute market strategies, may qualify for up to $30,000 in loan funding.
The Hive has had a great response to its programs so far.
“I am super excited to see this site!” Larry Cox wrote on the Hive’s Facebook page. “I have a product I am wanting to start selling. I need you guys!”
While there is currently only one location in Beckley, there are plans for more Hive locations throughout the state. For information on registering for the Co.Starters class or to become a mentor or vacillator, visit the Hive’s website at www.wvhive.com/application.