Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses in West Virginia

Main street of a small town in West Virginia.

Supporting local businesses is crucial to the U.S. economy. Not only do these entities account for 99% of all businesses in America, but they also support numerous families and communities across the country. Born and raised in small-city Kenova, West Virginia, Brad D. Smith has long been witness to the importance of small businesses and has spent a portion of his career supporting local entrepreneurs as a means to championing his home state’s development.

The Mountain State itself boasts 113,000 small businesses. These organizations represent 98% of the state’s businesses and employ 49.1% of West Virginian workers. With so much economic impact being driven by local businesses, it’s important that West Virginia entrepreneurs are uplifted in their ideas and dreams to drive the local and regional economy forward. 

Appalachian Entrepreneurship

Small businesses are at the heart of the Appalachian economy and ecosystem — to support these businesses is to support the Appalachian people. With local businesses spanning a number of industries, they also help to diversify the economy, driving the development of communities. The Appalachian Regional Commission’s  entrepreneurial ecosystem states similar sentiments, noting that supportive environments — where local businesses can thrive — help stimulate the local and regional economy. A thriving business ecosystem equates to job creation, generating opportunities for increased flow of capital, goods and service.

Recognizing a need to further bolster the entrepreneurial interests of West Virginians, numerous organizations supporting small business ventures have been established across the state. For example, Alys and Brad D. Smith’s Wing 2 Wing Foundation supports a number of projects – providing coaching and resources to startups and small businesses in West Virginia. Visit Wing 2 Wing Ventures to learn more about the organization’s current portfolio or how to apply for investing and advising. 

Marshall University’s Role in Supporting Small Businesses

Outside of his work in supporting entrepreneurs and small Appalachian businesses as an individual, Brad also leverages his role as Marshall University’s President and dedicated alum to bolster the Mountain State.

Prior to his formal role at the university, Brad assisted in creating the Brad D. Smith Student Incubator, which assists budding entrepreneurs with turning their startup dreams into reality. Participants receive mentoring from experienced Entrepreneurs in Residence to best guide their businesses as they enter the market. Brad continues to support the student incubator in his current position, recognizing that students play a critical role in the state’s economy both prior to and following graduation. 

Additionally, one of Brad’s initiatives as Marshall University President has been the introduction and integration of design thinking into Marshall’s curriculum for both students and faculty. This thinking methodology — which served him well during his tenure as an executive leader in Silicon Valley — encourages those practicing to reframe their approach to situations by focusing on the problem rather than the solution. 

Why Buying Local Matters and How to Support Small Businesses

Of course, the significance of supporting small business extends beyond the borders of Appalachia. Across the country, small businesses are making a big impact on their communities. Forbes notes that the sales tax revenue from local businesses supports local governments, which can then be used to reinvest in communities. Buying locally can also reduce your carbon footprint as purchases made from small businesses tend to require less transportation, in turn reducing traffic, resource depletion and general habitat loss. Small businesses also create job opportunities in communities. 

Small business owners also tend to be more invested in the future of their communities, with local businesses often giving back to their communities more than big box businesses, donating 250% more to nonprofits and charities.

The good news is, a person doesn’t have to own a nonprofit organization or be a public figure to make a difference and support local businesses. Some actionable ways to show support for small businesses include:

  • Following and sharing them on social media
  • Leaving positive online reviews 
  • Signing up for outreach emails or texts
  • Buying gift cards to encourage others to try them, or for your own future use
  • Talking about your favorite small businesses with friends and family

Supporting the American Dream in West Virginia

The “American Dream” represents opportunity for everyone. In West Virginia, the dream is alive and well as people continue to take chances and start their own adventures. With guidance from nonprofit organizations — such as the Wing 2 Wing Foundation — to support from fellow community members, entrepreneurs can continue to thrive in the Mountain State, bringing value to its economy and communities. Read more on the role small businesses play in West Virginia.