MADE Festival Showcases Student Entrepreneurship

7/24/2016

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HUNTINGTON - Showcasing West Virginia's newest crop of entrepreneurship products and services is what the Music, Art, Dining & Entrepreneurship (MADE) Festival is all about.

"The festival gives these student entrepreneurs a chance to execute their visions with the businesses they created," said Ben Eng, assistant professor of marketing at Marshall University. "We wanted a community thing to go along with the student businesses."

For the last three weeks, 54 students from 32 counties in West Virginia, along with a group of students from China, have been working hard in the inaugural Governor's School of Entrepreneurship. The three-week educational session geared toward entrepreneurial-minded high school students in the Mountain State began July 5 and will conclude July 26.

"They came in not really knowing anything about business and to come so far to create real and unique businesses is quite an accomplishment for them," Eng said.

Free and open to the public, the MADE Festival also featured local artisans and entrepreneurs, a number of local food trucks, and a steady flow of live music in the lot between the former Glenn's Sporting Goods and Redemption Church in the 1000 block of 4th Avenue in Huntington. The festival began Friday, continued Saturday and will continue from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 24. It is hosted by Marshall University.

Christina Guirguis, 16, a junior at Bridgeport High School, created a business called "Stix" with a team of three other students.

"We created specialty French fries," she said. "They are gourmet fries that can be topped with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, ranch, green onions as well as ones with mayo and ground beef. We have spice stix and stix with shakes. Our fries come with lots of various combinations and toppings."

Guirguis said her team has received nothing but positive feedback.

"People really like them," she said.

Karl Scheiv, 15, a sophomore at Hedgesville High School, serves as a salesman for the company.

"Business is booming," Scheiv said.

Nathaniel Friend, 17, a senior at Buckhannon-Upsher High School, said the experience was worth missing a few weeks of summer vacation.

"It has been a great experience. I really want to start my own business now," he said. "I don't think I thought about that before taking this three-week session. They really teach you and let you feel and understand what it is like and what it takes to own your own business."

Governor's Schools are provided at no cost to students or parents, said one of the camp's business coaches Jeremy Turner, managing director of Epic Mission, a coaching and consulting firm that helps individuals, nonprofits and small businesses.

"When I got the chance to be a part of this and work with these student entrepreneurs, I jumped on it," Turner said. "To see how far they have come in three weeks is amazing."

The academy is one of four such Governor's Schools facilitated through the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, including the Governor's Honors Academy, Governor's School for the Arts and the Governor's School for Math and Science.

"Part of building a strong business climate in West Virginia is providing our state's residents with the resources they need to create new products and use those skills to build a small business that supports our local economies," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement announcing the creation of the program.

Turner said he hoped the MADE Festival would become an annual event.

"It's a good opportunity to support these students and it's a fun event for the community at the same time," he said. "Getting young people excited about starting their own business is one way West Virginia can solve some of its economic problems from inside the state. We want to plant the seeds of hope in young people and this program helps accomplish that mission. They are the future and we want them to have the skills and confidence to go out and change the world."

For more information about GSE, visit www.wvgse.org.


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Fred Pace Herald-Dispatch news@herald-dispatch.com