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Supporting small businesses, creating jobs

July 27, 2017 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
With the fiscal year ending June 30, the Pikeville office of the Kentucky Innovation Network recently received its annual performance review. The purpose of the office is to assist people in starting new businesses and help small businesses grow.

The office is operated by Director David Snow, DM and associate professor of business at the University of Pikeville, and Assistant Director Justin Prater, MBA.

The Kentucky Innovation Network was created in 2001 and is comprised of business leaders and mentors who are passionate about entrepreneurism and committed to the success of small business in Kentucky. Twelve offices have been established throughout Kentucky to ensure that anyone with an idea and the determination to turn the idea into a viable business has a nearby resource where they can receive assistance.

The Pikeville office opened in May of 2014 and serves nine eastern Kentucky counties including Breathitt, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Perry and Pike. Since opening, the Pikeville office has assisted 119 businesses. Sixteen of these are new companies that remain in operation. Over the past year, companies receiving assistance from the Pikeville office have created 94 full-time jobs and 31 part-time jobs.

“Justin Prater and the Kentucky Innovation Network have been a great asset to Eastern Air Flow LLC,” stated Justin Trout, president and founder of Eastern Air Flow LLC. “They are always there for us and have helped us promptly when asked as we continue to grow our business.”

Along with free individualized business counseling to clients, the Pikeville office of the Kentucky Innovation Network conducts workshops on subjects such as starting a business, social media marketing and website building. The office has helped several regional small businesses build their own websites at no cost. These websites have the design and functionality for which website companies charge thousands of dollars in addition to required maintenance fees.

“Small businesses simply cannot afford this expense,” said Snow, “even though in today’s world, they desperately need the online presence.”

“I have attended several trainings hosted by the Kentucky Innovation Network and requested their service in designing a website for my company,” said Denise Preece, owner and CEO of Ground Solutions LLC. “Their one-on-one training was easy to follow and my website looks amazing. For someone who struggles with technology, I am confident I will be able to update and add information as needed in the future. I highly recommend the Kentucky Innovation Network for all technology needs.”

The Pikeville office of the Kentucky Innovation Network also provides entrepreneurship education for regional K-12 schools. Since 2014, the office has taught a 10-week program for teachers and students that culminates in a regional business pitch competition held at the Coleman College of Business on the University of Pikeville campus. In addition to organizing and sponsoring the competition, the office provides $1,000 in prize money to the winning students. Last November, Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton attended the event and announced the winners.

“The entrepreneurship program that Dr. Snow and Mr. Prater facilitated for our students in Johnson County has provided a whole new outlook on business,” said Jarred Gibson, business teacher at Johnson Central High School. “Multiple students have found themselves changing their major to business after taking part in this program. It has truly provided opportunities for students who were very introverted to become very outspoken and confident. Their hard work and dedication has truly been a great asset to our students and staff.”

Snow says the network is a valuable ally for small businesses.

“For the business owner, we focus on assessment, business development, capitalization and networking,” he said. “The Pikeville office of the Kentucky Innovation Network is eager to work with eastern Kentuckians in pursuit of succeeding in their business venture. We also provide a variety of services to business owners, schools, colleges, other service organizations and the community.”

In conjunction with the other activities, Snow and Prater conduct research pertaining to eastern Kentucky. Their recent paper, “Entrepreneurship Elsewhere,” is a study of the low entrepreneurial attitudes of eastern Kentucky high school students. This research earned them a Best Paper Award from the Small Business Institute in February and it is scheduled for publication later this year.

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