CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)—Last year, more than 12,000 new businesses registered with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. Many of them were small businesses launched by people who decided to take the leap and follow their dreams.
Inside a former dental office on Virginia Street in Charleston, West Virginia dreams are coming to life. The building will be home to Tabitha Justice’s two businesses. On one side of the building is Bringing Back the Village, an organization that pulls together businesses and programs that help senior citizens. On the other side is her insurance company called Just Us Retirement Solutions.
“I think I always, my dad was an entrepreneur, so I grew up in it. I have always felt comfortable in it, but I never saw it for myself,” Justice said, while giving a tour of the building that is still in the process of being renovated.
Justice was getting ready to go to graduate school and planned to do international humanitarian work. But when her daughter got sick with a brain infection all of her plans changed. While caring for her daughter she worked from home for a friend’s insurance company. During that time, she realized an opportunity to work for herself.
“Just for my own notes I kept kind of building out what I thought would work better,” Justice said. “Before I knew it, I had an entire business plan, and I was like well, why not.” She said friends and mentors were her most valuable resource. “Both of the businesses I kind of initially did the leg work which wow, that is really complicated,” she said.
But much like when she first started, many new businesses are launched by one or two people navigating their way through the process in order to bring their ideas to life. Entrepreneur Bill White says he took the leap after a heart-to-heart with his wife following a long day at work.
“I just told her, I said I’m done. She said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said I’m done. I’m not going back. And she said ‘what are you going to do?’ and I said I’m going to train horses full time. When I said that I felt it. It wasn’t just me blowing off steam. When I said I’m going to train horses full time, I meant it,” White said. He said after making that decision he stayed up for several nights making things official through the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. He eventually founded Equine Tactics, LLC. He was giving up a lucrative job, earning sometimes $8,000 every two weeks. By choosing to do what he loves and train horses full-time, he was sacrificing the comfort of a predictable paycheck.
“I wear a lot of hats every day and I work more hours for less money now than I ever have. You are your marketing, you are the guy sending emails, you are your own CPA I mean you are everything starting out and it is a lot of hours put into it for sure.”
One of the first steps once you decide to put your business idea in motion is registering that business. In many cases, you can do everything without leaving home.
“You can now go 24-7 online. You can use your cell phone. It is user-friendly,” said West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner.
The state also has three Business Centers located in Charleston, Martinsburg and Clarksburg that you can visit in person.
There is an online resource called the New Business Startup Wizard that can help even the most beginner businessperson know more about the process. At each turn, there are links to more information. Once you have done the homework the online One Stop Business Portal walks you through the rest of the steps. The state also has programs aimed at encouraging people to launch a startup.
“On the fee schedules we also encourage veterans with the Boots to Business program. We give them no-cost filing; they get the first 4 years of annual reports for free. They get essentially 5 years with the Secretary of State and we also offer an initial registration fee waiver for young entrepreneurs, people under 30,” explained Chris Alder, Director Business and Licensing Division.
Warner said during the pandemic his office continued to see an increase in new businesses due in part to the resources being available online. He said when 8th grade students stop by his office throughout the year for tours he takes time to talk to them about the opportunities to bring their ideas to life.
“We say has anyone ever babysat for money or cut grass for money and all of a sudden their hands start going up. You are an entrepreneur. Okay, if you want to take that and move it into a landscaping business then you can register that business through our office. And if you are under 30 you can start that for free and that sort of thing. So, we are encouraging entrepreneurship and I’m excited that teachers in our classrooms are talking about entrepreneurship,” Warner said.
BridgeValley Community and Technical College recently rewrote the Entrepreneurship Certificate Program. It can be completed in two semesters and entirely online. It is an option that could be a game changer for someone still working while getting their business plan together.
“You can be the best at what you do and still not be able to balance your money,” explained Liesa Kyer, BridgeValley Community and Technical College. “You can spend too much and buy too many cups. If you are going to open a coffee shop you can buy all the supplies you need and realize in 3 weeks that you have no money left to buy the coffee that you are going to put in those cups.”
They have put together classes covering the most crucial topics students need to know about to be successful. The last step is presenting a business plan and getting feedback.
“Our faculty, all of us get together and listen to those business plans. Everyone who teaches in business they present it in front of us and they have their PowerPoint presentation,” Kyer said.
Whether you go to school to learn about business, get coaching from another business owner or walk yourself through the steps, people like Bill White and Tabitha Justice say it is worth it in the long run.
“If you don’t have butterflies, there’s probably something wrong,” Justice said. “But you should also have confidence. Like when I say I couldn’t sleep at night it was more the responsibility of it. I never doubted it. I mean I knew. I had done the planning and I had done the groundwork for it. I knew I had the vision. I knew I had friends that supported me. Never did I doubt it was going to go well.”
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