It’s the inaugural year of the Governor’s Entrepreneurial Academy at Marshall University. The hope is to influence high school students to be entrepreneurs. Irene Jonathan will be a 10th grader at Charleston Catholic in the fall.
“We were put into groups and we’re each supposed to be designing a product, so my group is making all-natural sunglasses from repurposed wood and the company is called montes and it’s Latin for Mountains because we wanted to keep our roots in West Virginia,” Jonathan said.
Her group is just one of many that’s working on unique ideas that could turn into businesses. For the past three weeks they’ve worked in teams on different ideas while also attending sessions where administrators working with the academy interview entrepreneurs from all over the state of West Virginia.
Some of the ideas include, Jonathan’s repurposed wooden sunglasses, silicon bracelets that hold medicine and cookie dough popsicles.
We can train artists and train math, scientists and all that, but if they don't have a place to go for a job it's useless. –Jonathan Butler, Director of Marshall's Entrepreneurship Program
Jonathan Butler is the Director of Marshall’s Entrepreneurship Program and an assistant professor in the School of Business. He said as industries and jobs become harder to come by, being able to start your own business gains importance.
“We can train artists and train math, scientists and all that, but if they don’t have a place to go for a job it’s useless,” Butler said. “So the economy of West Virginia is dependent on entrepreneurs and I think this is the key.”
Butler said the hope is that by giving these students the basics on coming up with an idea and starting their own business, they’ll know how hard it can be to be an entrepreneur and the rewards of starting and owning their business.
He said throughout the three-week session one of the main messages was that it’s possible for someone, even students, from the state to start their own business.
“We’re trying to give them as much exposure as possible to real life entrepreneurs from this area who have done well that can show them that this isn’t set for a few lucky people or few rich people,” Butler said.
The Governor’s School of Entrepreneurship joins three other similar programs. The Governor’s Honors Academy, Governor’s School for the Arts and Governor’s School for Math and Science.
Students will present their products during the West Virginia Made Festival in Huntington this weekend, July 22nd through 24th.