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The lifeblood of a strong economy

Print“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

Throughout Global Entrepreneurship Week, we’ve highlighted the efforts of three entrepreneurs working to make their dreams a reality in West Virginia.

After countless hours of hard work, these three – Jill Watkins, owner of Watkins Design Works; Nikki Bowman, owner of New South Media, and Alice Ruhnke, owner of The Grant Advantage, – took a leap of faith to launch a business that encompasses their passions and utilizes their skill set.

And it’s worked.

We understand that not all entrepreneurial endeavors will experience extreme success. The path of an entrepreneur is a tough one filled with risks and high costs. But that’s why we are here.

The Charleston Area Alliance is dedicated to serving the needs of businesses – both large and small – working in the Kanawha Valley region. Not only are we working to attract large employers to the area, but we’re also working to give our small businesses the tools they need to achieve a high level of success.

The Charleston Area Alliance’s small business programs include:

Small Business Incubator Program – This program is the perfect fit for start-ups and entrepreneurs in the Kanawha Valley region looking for affordable office or warehouse work space. Located on Smith Street in Charleston, the 70,000-square-foot-converted warehouse offers offices for rent in varying sizes as well as office amenities and business consulting.

To provide a one-stop shop for success in the incubator program, other helpful organizations located in the building include: the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, the Charleston chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Office and the Regional Contracting Assistance Center.

GROW – Designed to enhance the skills of entrepreneurs while simultaneously building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, GROW takes up to 20 entrepreneurs through a six month program to grow their businesses and build their networks. GROW participants receive a structured, stimulating environment founded in entrepreneur education, coaching and peer feedback.

SAGE – Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurs (SAGE) is a year-long program designed to teach participants how to grow sustainable produce in urban spaces and how to develop those growing efforts into household income. It takes growing to a new level by giving participants the knowledge and skills they need to make urban farming a viable entrepreneurial endeavor.

THRIVE – This crowd-funding initiative supports local entrepreneurs by giving them an infusion of seed capital in a fresh, inventive way. Held annually, THRIVE brings community members and business leaders together to act as investors for one night. Every attendee has the opportunity to hear the business pitch of the selected entrepreneurs who are chosen in a prior screening process. At the end of the night, one business will be chosen to receive the seed capital that will help them grow their business.

West Virginia Regional Technology Park – The Charleston Area Alliance continues its involvement at the “Tech Park” where unique equipment and facilities provide the type of entrepreneurial environment necessary for new start-up companies to commercialize their new technologies. Tenants  the park such as MATRIC, which also got its start at the Alliance, as well as the new “Chem-Ception” chemistry based incubator and the Advantage Valley Advanced Training Center, are pushing the Tech Park into the future.

Innovation is the driver of any strong economy and entrepreneurs are its lifeblood. At the Charleston Area Alliance, we are working to create an ecosystem that supports a community of innovative entrepreneurial pursuits through our programs, partners, and resources.

To learn more about these programs visit www.charlestonareaalliance.org or to speak with a representative contact us 304-340-4253.

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admin in Announcements,Events on November 21 2014 » 0 comments

Storytelling the key to success for The Grant Advantage

IMG_7956If Alice Ruhnke had to pick one word to describe the essence of her small business, the choice would be simple: storytelling.

Not to be confused with the fictional form of writing, The Grant Advantage assists nonprofit organizations working to make real change in their communities by identifying an organization’s strengths, clarifying its goals and effectively telling its story in the form of grant writing.

Since 2006, The Grant Advantage has raised over $5 million from federal, state, corporate and foundation sources to help nonprofit organizations working in West Virginia and surrounding states have a greater impact on the communities they serve.

In addition to grant writing, The Grant Advantage assists clients by locating funding sources, developing programs, completing qualitative evaluations and much more.

During the business’ initial years of operation, Ruhnke ran the business from her home in Charleston.

“Really ever since I started, there’s been work out there to do, but it wasn’t until I worked with Terry Cyfers at the Small Business Development Center that I considered expanding,” she said.

After learning about the Charleston Area Alliance’s small business incubator program, which provides small start-ups affordable office space, Ruhnke began the expansion process.

With the help of Mike Aeiker, vice president of real estate service for the Charleston Area Alliance, The Grant Advantage moved to an office on the fourth floor of the Alliance building located on Smith Street in September 2013.

“I think this has really increased my profile,” Ruhnke said. “I’ve actually gotten one client simply because they walked by. I feel like I’m a little more productive. It separates my work from my home and helps it to look and feel like a real business.”

Ruhnke was also able to hire a second employee, Elizabeth Hardy, to assist with grant writing and project development. With the added help, Ruhnke has been able to expand The Grant Advantage’s services.

After completing lengthy trainings, Ruhnke recently added the service of appreciative inquiry facilitation, which helps organizations manage the process of change. Ruhnke explained that the method seeks out the best of “what is” in an organization to help ignite the collective imagination of “what might be,” rather than focusing on the negative side of an organization’s situation.

In addition to helping organizations manage and achieve positive change and develop new programs, Ruhnke said she’s happy that The Grant Advantage can help organizations of all sizes secure funding sources.

“The little guys are really important to me. Being able to work and keep my prices at a place where a little, new nonprofit can afford my services is very important,” she said.

With over 15 years of experience in the field, Ruhnke said she doesn’t plan on leaving the field of grant writing, or storytelling, any time soon.

“I always wanted to be a grant writer. I started this because I love the work,” Ruhnke said. “What I have is a dream.”

Since 1986, the Charleston Area Alliance has supported local entrepreneurs and small start-ups in the Kanawha Valley region by providing affordable office and warehouse work locations, along with the guidance, consulting and office amenities needed to ensure success.

Click HERE to learn more about the program.

To learn more about The Grant Advantage and the services it provides, visit www.thegrantadvantage.net or call 304-400-4894.

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admin in Announcements,In the News on November 20 2014 » 0 comments

Showcasing the beauty of West Virginia and its people

PrintWhen Nikki Bowman founded “WV Living” magazine in 2008, her mission was to celebrate life in the mountain state.

Six years later with four publications in regular circulation, New South Media is continuing to pursue its original goals as it grows in size and reach.

Under Bowman’s leadership, the company recently expanded to a second office in Charleston and hired three employees to support the site. With the help of the Charleston Area Alliance’s small business incubator program, New South Media was able to locate its second office in the Alliance’s convenient and affordable office building located just minutes away from the State Capitol.

Christa Hamra, New South Media advertising specialist, said the February 2014 expansion occurred in conjunction with the company’s launch of “WV Focus,” a publication dedicated to covering news in business and government across the state.

The small start-up, now with 14 employees, is headquartered in Morgantown and regularly publishes “WV Living,” “WV Weddings,” “WV Focus” and “Morgantown Magazine.”

“We’ve got a lot of things going on all of the time,” Hamra said.

In addition to its regular publications, New South Media works with various groups across the state to produce specialty, travel and/or trade magazines.

Shay Maunz, a New South Media staff writer based in Charleston, said she was originally hired to cover government and business news for “Focus,” but thanks to the company’s diverse publications, she’s been able to cover a wide variety of stories for all publications.

“I really, really like my job,” Maunz said. “It’s exactly the kind of work that I want to be doing now in my career. I really do think that what we work on matters.”

From showcasing beautiful weddings held in West Virginia’s picturesque mountain landscape, highlighting a neat coffee shop making waves in Tucker County and covering the January water crisis, New South Media’s publications cover a range of stories across the Mountain State.

Amanda Eskew, New South Media advertising specialist, is the third member of the Charleston team. Always a fan of the magazines, Eskew said a copy of “WV Living” could always be found lying around her house and when the new position was listed in Charleston, she jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s a blessing. It’s kind of like a dream come true to be a part of it,” Eskew said.

Hamra, Maunz and Eskew are all West Virginia natives and agree that it’s a great place to work and live.

“The beauty that we have here and the people that we have here, you can’t beat,” Hamra said.

The team agreed that part of New South Media’s aim is to find unique, creative ways to showcase West Virginia’s beauty and its people.

“The goal of all of our magazines is to build a better state from the inside out. So we have to change perceptions of West Virginians and change perceptions of those outside the state, as well,” Hamra said. “We have a lot of subscribers who are from West Virginia, but have moved outside of the state and ‘WV Living’ is how they keep in touch with what’s happening here.”

The Charleston team said its new location will put them much closer to following political events during the legislative session as well as events happening across southern West Virginia. Also, locating in the incubator kept their costs for their expansion manageable.

“I’m thrilled that I have an office space to go to that is so convenient,” Hamra said. “The Alliance takes great care of the building. Anything you need, you just ask and it’s taken care of. It’s quiet, but there’s always people around. Everybody knows where you are. All you have to do is say that I’m in the Alliance building. The visibility of being in this building is a perk.”

Hamra said the Alliance’s incubator program really allows small businesses to put their best foot forward by supplying the materials and professional space they need.

Since 1986, the Charleston Area Alliance has supported local entrepreneurs and small start-ups in the Kanawha Valley region by providing affordable office and warehouse work locations, along with the guidance, consulting and office amenities needed to ensure success.

Click HERE to learn more about the program.

Check out New South Media’s coverage across the Mountain State by visiting www.wvliving.com.

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admin in Announcements,In the News on November 19 2014 » 0 comments

A passion for her profession

PrintSpend five minutes talking to Jill Watkins about her profession and you’ll quickly see why she chose commercial interior design.

Whether discussing the utilization of space, lighting, or green building techniques, Watkins’ passion for her profession is clear and her excitement to be working as an entrepreneur in West Virginia even more apparent.

After more than 20 years working for interior design and architectural firms, Watkins founded her own design and consulting firm, Watkins Design Works, LLC, in Charleston in January.

Thanks to the Charleston Area Alliance’s small business incubator program, the commercial interior design and green building consulting firm was able to locate in a work space on the fourth floor of the Alliance’s convenient and affordable office building located on Smith Street.

“I really wanted to have an office space that was separate from my home. I wanted have a space to meet clients and sort of differentiate myself from residential designers,” Watkins, who is the sole owner, said. “I thought it was important to be in an office because that’s the kind of spaces I’m designing.”

Unlike the common perception that interior designers simply select the furniture and color scheme of a space, Watkins explained that her role in a commercial project, whether new construction or renovation, is much greater.

“Commercial interior designers see things three dimensionally. We know how people will feel when they walk through a space. We know that a functional layout and a healthy indoor environment are going to make an organization’s staff more productive and happier,” Watkins explained.

Watkins Design Works offers all facets of interior design services including conceptual design, design development, material selections, lighting design and much more.

“It’s a professional service, just like anything else, that is designed to help make that company more profitable and meet their business needs and marketing goals,” Watkins said. “My goal is to design functional and beautiful interiors that support a business’ needs, brand and vision.”

After earning a bachelor of science in interior design from the University of Tennessee, Watkins became a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional with a certification in building design and construction.

With every project she undertakes, Watkins uses her education and LEED training to incorporate green building methods to meet a client’s desired sustainability outcomes.

Whether concerned with indoor air quality or energy cost savings, Watkins said she can help clients meet their goals and LEED certification by serving in a facilitator role to bring architects, engineers and designers together to ensure that sustainability goals are successfully incorporated into a project from the start.

“To me it’s all about the big picture,” Watkins said. “What I think I bring to the table is a broad overview of sustainability, while knowing a lot of the nitty gritty details about green building,” Watkins said.

“We spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Not only should our spaces be designed well, but they should make us healthier, they should make us feel good and we should want to be there.”

Since 1986, the Charleston Area Alliance has supported local entrepreneurs and small start-ups in the Kanawha Valley region by providing affordable office and warehouse work locations, along with the guidance, consulting and office amenities needed to ensure success.

Click HERE to learn more about the business incubator.

To learn more about Watkins Design Works visit www.watkinsdesignworks.com or contact Jill Watkins at 304-553-7002.

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admin in Announcements,In the News on November 18 2014 » 0 comments

Alliance celebrates Entrepreneurship Week

PrintWhen you hear the word “entrepreneur,” what image comes to mind?

Is it the mad scientist working night after night in his garage, or the woman who applies her cooking skills to, finally, open the bakery that she’s always wanted?

Entrepreneurship comes in many shapes and sizes. Some entrepreneurs might become the next Steve Jobs, while others could never make it out of their garage.

But no matter the size or level of success, we, at the Charleston Area Alliance, know that every small start-up counts.

They really do.

Entrepreneurial pursuits are vital to job and economic growth throughout the United States. The Charleston Area Alliance is excited to join organizations across the globe in celebrating the movers and shakers, the innovators, and the free thinkers who have applied their passions to pursue entrepreneurial dreams with Global Entrepreneurship Week held this week, November 17-23.

Throughout the Alliance’s Entrepreneurship Week, we’ll bring stories of local entrepreneurs that are turning their dreams into a reality by launching small start-ups in the Kanawha Valley to better serve the needs of people, businesses and nonprofits living and working throughout West Virginia.

Tuesday, Nov. 18 – Learn how Watkins Design Works is making sustainable commercial design a viable option in West Virginia.

Wednesday, Nov. 19 – We’ll share how New South Media’s reach is growing with the launch of its fourth magazine “WV Focus.”

Thursday, Nov. 20 – Discover how one woman is applying her writing skills to assist nonprofits in the form of grant writing with The Grant Advantage.

Friday, Nov. 21 – We’ll share how the Charleston Area Alliance is working with local entrepreneurs (including the three featured) through a variety of programs to provide support and guidance in order to mitigate the risks often associated with starting a new business.

In the spirit of Entrepreneurship Week, we ask you all to reflect on the entrepreneur living inside all of us.

Have you always wanted to own your own business?

Do you have an idea that you can’t seem to shake?

Ever create new gadgets as a kid?

For one week, let’s embrace the creativity and innovative ability inside all of us.

If you ever want to turn those dreams into a reality, you know where to go for support: the Charleston Area Alliance. Our economic development partners have the knowledge, experience and tools to make your dreams come true.

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admin in Announcements,In the News on November 17 2014 » 0 comments

Member Market: Celebrate the holiday season with “The Joy of Music”

Member Market:
By Alliance Members for Alliance Members

This “Member Market” is a paid announcement sent by the Alliance on behalf of a member to business and community leaders and young professionals.

Poster for concert advertising

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Appalachian Children’s Chorus kicks off the Holiday season with a special treat for its friends, fans and family on  Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 3 pm at the Clay Center.

Using song as a vehicle to lift the spirits of the audience, ACC’s children will share their voices in the gift of song. Selections will include special Christmas tunes, Winter favorites and a few special songs from the Sound of Music.

Several of the ACC choirs will combine voices to perform a few of the Sound of Music selections. The finale will bring all of the choirs together to perform a special presentation of So Long Farewell and Climb Every Mountain from the Sound of Music.

Special guests, the Martin Luther King Jr. Male Chorus will also be on hand to help celebrate the Joy of Music! Besides performing their own set of uplifting and magical tunes, they will combine voices with ACC’s Concert Choir for the perennial and amazing favorite, “Total Praise”.

To be a part of this event visit the Clay Center box office, call them at 304.561.3570 or visit www.theclaycenter.org.

We thank our wonderful sponsors Huntington, Thornhill Automotive Group and Fort Hill Child Development Center.

If you are unable to see this Member Market announcement, please visit www.AllianceBlog.org to view it.

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admin in Announcements,Member Market on November 17 2014 » 0 comments

Resolve to create a great 2015

ALLIANCE_color~verticalHow does your garden grow? Your downtown thrive? Your city blossom?

With business, government and individuals coming together through the Charleston Area Alliance to plant the seeds for a brighter and more prosperous future. We invite you to support our efforts in the year ahead to cultivate jobs and opportunity for our region with a tax-deductible contribution to the CADCO Foundation.

The Foundation provides much-needed financial support for a wide range of programs and services that help individuals, businesses and our neighborhoods reach their potential, including:

  • SAGE, our sustainable urban agricultural initiative on Charleston’s West Side, which gives local residents the opportunity to become “agri-preneurs” and generate a new source of income – and healthy food. It is sold “hyper-local” at area farmers markets and eateries.
  • The Alliance Small Business Incubator, which provides a professional and supportive environment for start-up businesses during those challenging first years of business.
  • GROW, a “boot camp” for new businesses during which they receive one-on-one coaching, mentoring from successful entrepreneurs, educational sessions with faculty from the University of Charleston MBA Program and networking opportunities.
  • The monthly ArtWalk, which brings hundreds to downtown Charleston to experience art and cultural amenities and support local businesses.
  • Advancing “Imagine Charleston,” the city’s comprehensive plan and blueprint for downtown revitalization.
  • Free music and lunch specials from local restaurants at the Alliance’s Brown Bag Concerts in Davis Park.
  • Generation Charleston, the Alliance’s young professionals program.
  • “Thrive,” the area’s premier crowdfunding event for budding entrepreneurs.

These are just a few of the visionary CADCO Foundation-supported programs that promote quality of life and quality of place to attract jobs and opportunity for our families and businesses. Less than 15 percent of the Alliance’s annual budget is supported by government sources. It is up to the private sector, both businesses and individuals, to carry the torch forward.

Your year-end tax-deductible contribution will help sustain the tremendous progress the Alliance has made in the past year and ensure that we realize the promises of a brighter tomorrow.

Donations will be acknowledged in our Annual Celebration program and in reports to our Board of Directors and community at large. You may also elect to donate anonymously.

To donate by credit card (at suggested payment levels), please click HERE.

If you would like to donate by check, please direct your check, payable to “CADCO Foundation,” to: Charleston Area Alliance, 1116 Smith Street, Charleston, WV, 25301.

For more information, contact Alliance CFO Debbie James at DJames@charlestonareaalliance.org

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admin in Announcements on November 13 2014 » 0 comments

Don’t miss Business After Hours on Nov. 20

ALLIANCE_color~verticalAppalachian Children’s Chorus
Business After Hours
Thursday, Nov. 20
5-7 p.m.
601 Morris Street, Suite 301

Don’t miss the next Business After Hours on Thursday, Nov. 20 from 5-7 p.m.

Appalachian Children’s Chorus will host the event, which will feature delicious catering and networking in a festive atmosphere.

The early bird rate is $15 for Alliance members and $25 for future members.

Register here

Online advance registration ends at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Prices at the door are $25 for Alliance members and $35 for future members.

Business After Hours offer fantastic opportunities to meet the region’s leaders in a relaxed setting, all while enjoying food, drinks and entertainment.

The Alliance will be able to invoice only for groups of 10 or more. The Alliance cannot issue cancelation refunds within 48 hours of the event. Thank you.

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admin in Announcements,Events on November 13 2014 » 0 comments

2014 Minority Business Expo on Dec. 3 at Beni Kedem

HHenderson Minority Affairs Save the Date FLYER

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admin in Announcements,Events on November 12 2014 » 0 comments

Member Market: Our legacy is protecting your legacy

Member Market:
By Alliance Members for Alliance Members

This “Member Market” is a paid announcement sent by the Alliance on behalf of a member to business and community leaders and young professionals.

chamber_legacy_1014

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admin in Announcements,Member Market on November 10 2014 » 0 comments
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