Entrepreneurship in West Virginia and Appalachia has a long history. Appalachian residents have always been resourceful and self-reliant. Appalachian communities are home to countless small businesses, family-owned enterprises, and innovative startups. Despite the region’s challenges, the spirit of entrepreneurship remains strong. We continue to forge our own path, create opportunity, and drive innovation, all while preserving the rich traditions and heritage of what it means to be “Appalachian”.

The future holds tremendous promise, especially when it comes to the potential of Appalachian youth. To unlock this potential and ensure bright prospects for the next generation, it’s crucial that we prioritize K-12 entrepreneurship education. This blog will explore the importance of entrepreneurship education and provide practical tips and available resources for educators to seamlessly integrate entrepreneurship into their classroom.

The Importance of Entrepreneurship Education:
  1. 🚀 Boosting Local Economies: Small businesses are the heart of Appalachian communities, making up almost 99% of West Virginia’s economy. By nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset in students, we empower them to become the business leaders of tomorrow, creating new businesses in their local community or taking over existing businesses as their owners age.
  2. 💼 Job Creation: Entrepreneurship is a powerful engine for job creation. By instilling an entrepreneurial spirit in our youth, we not only prepare them for self-employment, but also to create opportunities for others to stay and work in their local communities.
  3. 🧠 Problem Solving and Critical Thinking: Entrepreneurship education encourages students to think critically and creatively. Its emphasis on problem solving and solution identification are skills that are essential for success in any career, even if they have no intention of starting their own business.
  4. 🏡 Community Revitalization: Entrepreneurship education empowers students to identify and address community needs through innovative solutions. Student-led projects can have a positive impact on their communities, teach them foundational leadership skills, and contribute to community development.
  5. 💡Cultivating Innovation: Appalachia can benefit greatly from students who are trained to identify local challenges and develop creative solutions. These solutions can lead to new products, services, and businesses that drive economic growth and improve the overall quality of life throughout the region.

Here are five tangible tips (and a few EdVenture resources!) to help you integrate entrepreneurship education into your classroom, regardless of grade level or subject area.

  • Project-Based Learning (PBL): Incorporate project-based learning into your lessons. Assign projects that require students to identify real-world problems, develop innovative solutions, and create pitches or prototypes to share their ideas. PBL encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills while allowing students to apply their knowledge in practical ways.
  • Cross-Disciplinary Projects: Collaborate with your colleagues to create cross-disciplinary projects that incorporate entrepreneurship. For example, in science class students can work to develop an eco-friendly product, then develop a marketing strategy in an English Language Arts (ELA) course unit on persuasive writing.
  • Guest Speakers: Invite local entrepreneurs, business owners, and professionals to speak to your students and share their entrepreneurial journeys. Hearing firsthand experiences and seeing real-world examples can inspire and educate students about entrepreneurship.
  • Entrepreneurship Competitions: Organize your own or advocate for your students to participate in entrepreneurship competitions. These encourage students to come up with business ideas, create a plan, and pitch their concepts. They foster creativity, teamwork, and public speaking skills while simulating the entrepreneurial experience. There’s no better teacher than experience!
    • Looking for available opportunities? Check out SparkWV – a middle and high school idea and business generation competition.
      • Key Dates:
        • ❗️November 10: Intent to Apply
        • 💡 November 30: Round 1 Open Call for Ideas
        • 📢 Semi-finalists notified by December 15.

The enduring spirit of entrepreneurship in West Virginia and Appalachia reflects our ability to adapt and innovate, even in the face of challenges. We believe in our future, especially the potential of our young people. Prioritizing K-12 entrepreneurship education is investing in a brighter tomorrow for our region. By teaching our students the skills and mindset they need to succeed, we’re paving the way for a future where Appalachian innovation and entrepreneurship continues to thrive. Together, we’re empowering the next generation of leaders and problem solvers, ensuring a better future for all of Appalachia.

Meet the Author

Amber Ravenscroft is the Director of Innovation at The EdVenture Group. Amber serves as the Project Director for the West Virginia Entrepreneurship Pathway, a collaborative effort between the Marshall University, the WV Department of Education, and West Virginia University to develop and pilot the state (and nation’s) first formal career and technical education (CTE) entrepreneurship program, supported through funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). 

Amber serves as Co-Chair of the West Virginia Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, Co-Chair of National Entrepreneurship Week, and Special Interest Group Chair for the K-12 SIG of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE). She is an avid volunteer and mentor and has judged and mentored students within several national and state-based entrepreneurship competitions and programs.