2023 Hive Award Recipients

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Join us in celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation as the West Virginia Hive Network recently honored 10 outstanding entrepreneurs and partners at its annual Open House and Awards Ceremony in Beckley.

These visionary entrepreneurs and dedicated partners have not only earned recognition for their exceptional contributions but have also become the driving force behind the vibrant entrepreneurial culture in our community.

Their experiences serve as an inspiration for aspiring business leaders and a testament to the collaborative efforts shaping our thriving community.

Small Business of the Year | Southern Pillar Jeweler

The recipient of this award has grown from a hobby-style business in the owner’s home into an established business with a store front in Fayetteville. Trey was working in the heating and cooling industry and living a life that was expected of him. However, this was not the life he wanted. He decided to sell his home and create a life he could love. This led him on epic rock-climbing adventures and ultimately to buying a home in Oak Hill. When he wasn’t out rock-climbing, Trey began to explore silversmithing. He took a few classes and began operating a small business from his home. He quickly learned that his handmade jewelry was in high demand. His focus is mostly rings, often utilizing locally harvested stones, coal, and river glass. Trey was the winner of the Fall 2023 Pitch Southern WV competition in the community division in addition to the WV Hive’s small business of the year.

-Mary Legg, WV Hive Senior Business Advisor

Startup of the Year | Z&Z Beauty, LLC

This year’s recipient could not be more deserving of this award. I have had the opportunity to get to know Angela since she became a WV Hive client. Not only is she driven, but she is also prompt, professional, enthusiastic, and comes prepared to do her job. Whenever we meet, she shares a new idea or a project that she is planning or would like to start. This lady has grit, and a determination like no other and I have no doubt in my mind that we will all be seeing and hearing more great things about Angela Bryant. So, without further ado, I would like to present the 2023 Startup of the Year award to Angela Bryant, owner of Z&Z Beauty, LLC.

-Stephanie Sanders, WV Hive Regional Business Advisor

Entrepreneur of the Year | Josh Bennett

Josh Bennett has been making cider since he was 12 years old, following a local tradition of his childhood region of Pendleton County, WV. He later ended up in Austria where he fell in love with the old wine making traditions of the country and when he returned home, he started applying them to his cider making. He used this knowledge to create Hawk Knob Appalachian Hard Cider in 2014 using 100% WV grown apples that are pressed on site. Hawk Knob had been a successful business for nearly a decade when Josh heard of a local staple in the brewing community shutting down. Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company had opened the same year as Hawk knob and announced their closing in March of 2023. Josh recognized the potential of this business. The beers were already well known and sought-after throughout the state. He bought it in June and began brewing at the end of August. He created a practical and sustainable business model and continues to produce the old favorites after perfecting the recipes with high quality ingredients. He has also expanded to several new products. Josh has achieved exceptional results and demonstrated the ability to overcome adversity to save a beloved WV business. He deserves the 2023 WV Hive Entrepreneur of the Year Award!

-Mary Legg, WV Hive Senior Business Advisor

Social Enterprise of the Year | Sage & Lila Company

Sage & Lila Company started as a small side business to provide extra income for Samantha Phillip’s family but has grown into a successful business. They vend at festivals, markets and other events and work alongside WV crafters to sell their unique handmade products. They also provide educational opportunities for at-risk teens. By giving kids who have aged out of the foster care system a safe place to land, Sage & Lila Company is undoubtedly forever impacting their lives. Sam is community-minded, compassionate, and understanding. She wants to positively impact her community. Her goal is to create jobs for teens and young adults entering the workforce. She strives to provide affordable fresh, locally grown foods to restaurants, schools, living facilities, daycares and more. As a graduate of the Communities of Healing program, Sam is passionate about hiring those in recovery and committed to making an impact in her community. Examples of this include providing free monthly community meals and delivering meals to the unhoused. We are thrilled to present Sage & Lila Company as the 2023 WV Hive Social Enterprise of the Year.

-Mary Legg, WV Hive Senior Business Advisor

Survivor Bee of the Year | The Grandview Diner

As a beekeeper, I know the survivor bees are typically colonies that have survived extenuating circumstances. Perhaps they have survived a winter without any human intervention, or they are completely feral and have never had any human intervention. Either way, here at the WV Hive, we want to recognize our survivor bees—those who have thrived despite. As I was suggesting this award, one client in particular came to mind. That client is Deneena Lugar. She is certainly a survivor. She had a chemo port at our first business advising meeting. She started a business–not just any business, but a very successful one–while seeing her oncologist regularly and undergoing several major surgeries. If you’ve not been to Grandview Diner, I encourage you to go. If you go to the restroom during your visit, you may see the sign that encourages you to “check your ta-tas.” Deneena is always encouraging other folks, whether they are fellow entrepreneurs or other women to make sure they do their self-exams and have awareness of breast cancer. She is a survivor and looks to help others survive, too.

-Mary Legg, WV Hive Senior Business Advisor

Student Entrepreneur of the year | Sanctum Tor Farm

This dynamic student duo took our pitch competition by storm, winning not only the student division, but also the overall audience favorite. Ellie Groves and Jacob Odell are both students at WVU Tech and came to our Launch Lab in September. She is a business management major, and he is getting a degree in animal nutrition. They are combining their education with their love of farming to produce grass fed/grain finished lambs using both ethical and innovative methods. They are committed to completing their education while simultaneously growing their business and are looking forward to their first lambing season. We are proud to present our very first student entrepreneur award to Sanctum Tor Farm.

-Diana Woods, WVU Tech Launch Lab Director

Minority Business of the Year | The Hair Maxx Salon, LLC

The winner of this award has proven herself to be not only a successful entrepreneur but also a staple in the minority community. She puts in the long hours and the hard work to make her business a success. She owns a multi-layered business that features a successful full-service salon and a beauty supply store which she co-owns with her husband. She mentors, inspires, and motivate the women that work alongside of her in the salon. I often hear Veronica coaching the stylists on the importance of professionalism and providing good customer service. She gives back to the community that she serves because she knows without them her business would not be where it is today. She offers hairstyling clinics throughout the year for people to learn skills that can earn them money and set them on a path to entrepreneurship. One of her goals is to add a non-profit component to her business to be a greater resource within the community that supports her. She hosted a successful back to school event providing free hairstyling services for needy families who could not afford to pay for braids for their daughters or haircuts for their sons. Veronica, her team, and fellow cosmetologist will be hosting this event every year moving forward. Lastly, she is always willing to squeeze you in for an emergency appointment if she can. I am proud to present the 2023 Minority Business of the Year Award to Veronica Haskins, owner of The Hair Maxx Salon, LLC.

-Stephanie Sanders, WV Hive Regional Business Advisor

Innovative Business of the Year | Edgell Development, LLC

Last year, Zachary participated in our Co.Starters Core training class. On the first day, participants are asked to share their business or business idea with the group. As Zachary began telling us about Edge Connect, we all listened intensely as he explained each aspect of how it worked, how it would benefit his target customers, and how it addressed specific needs and solved specific problems. Of course, the technical parts went right over our heads. As the day went on, we began to understand how Edge Connect could be a game changer for the businesses that would utilize this technology. One of my first thoughts after meeting Zachary was that this young man is the smartest person in this room, and my next thought was that Edge Connect is going to be a huge success. I feel confident in saying that many of us in this room will be reading about him and his success on a larger scale one day soon. I feel so lucky that the WV Hive will be able to say that we knew him when it all began and look at him now. So, it is my pleasure and honor to present the 2023 Innovative Business of the Year Award to Zachary Edgell, owner of Edgell Development, LLC.

-Stephanie Sanders, WV Hive Regional Business Advisor

Partner of the year | The West Virginia Community Development Hub

The West Virginia Community Development Hub has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fostering community growth and economic development. Their innovative initiatives, collaborative approach, and tireless dedication have played a pivotal role in driving positive change throughout the region and the state. The Hub’s strategic partnership with the WV Hive and NRGRDA has been instrumental in empowering local communities, making them a deserving candidate for the Partner of the Year award. Their impact resonates far beyond individual projects, creating a ripple effect that enhances the overall well-being of West Virginia’s communities.

-Jina Belcher, NRGRDA Executive Director

Community Advocate of the Year | Chris Vaught

Since the inception of the WV Hive, Chris has been a steadfast supporter, mentor, and founding board member. His own experience as an entrepreneur and his success as a business owner continues to bring a unique perspective to the Hive’s ever-evolving programming. The WV Hive, NRGRDA, and the communities we work in will be eternally grateful for the advocacy and guidance Chris provides.

-Jina Belcher, NRGRDA Executive Director

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West Virginia Hive Launches Regional Culture of Service Mission

The West Virginia Hive, the entrepreneurship program of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), announced today a regional initiative to improve customer service among frontline businesses, which will kick off March 25-26 with a customized and personalized training workshop at the Tamarack Conference Center.