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Greenbrier valley targets young entrepreneurs

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Students will begin thinking about becoming entrepreneurs at a young age in Greenbrier County.

Through her new Vis Ability LLC, Katie Ickes says she wants to help students get off to a sound start in the business world. Formerly with the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, she is now the entrepreneur program coordinator with Greenbrier Valley Economic Development. The program is operating in conjunction with New River Community and Technical College. 

Ickes said establishing a mindset of successful entrepreneurship at an early age will have long-term benefits. A crucial component of the program starts with local sixth grade students and continues with the implementation of a pilot project in high schools.

Ideally, students will begin thinking in terms of career paths, inventing a product or opening a business.

"I think it's something that can really make a difference," said Ickes, who also previously worked with the Main Street White Sulphur Springs program in her hometown. "By having a vision, young people can break out of the cycle of poverty. I see that it could have a great impact on our economy."

Eventually, Ickes said would like to see the program expand statewide.

"Our middle school pilot program will be introduced this fall in partnership with Communities in the Schools," she said. "The high school pilot project will be launched at Greenbrier West second semester."

The initiation of the GVED's entrepreneur program complements expansion of the Local Foods Initiative, which involves supporting local farmers and helping to increase their profitability.

"Basically, my vision is working to promote economic growth through entrepreneurism. I will be supporting entrepreneurs we now have and helping encourage others."

Although the area is known as a center of creativity regarding the arts, artists are not the only innovators, according to Ickes. 

"Through a five-prong approach, we plan to help grow our entrepreneur base by encouraging the development of visions into business through the Entrepreneur Café programs and resource facilitation and training," she said.

The next Café event is scheduled Sept. 19 at New River Community and Technical College. For more information, contact Ickes at visability7@gmail.com or 304-667-7027.