The event was co-sponsored by Bluefield College, Highlands Fellowship and Crossroads Church as part of the Crossroads Church initiative Rebuild, Revive, Thrive, “a local business owner think tank that seeks to foster innovation, cooperation and entrepreneurship for the common good.”
“The purpose of the Entrepreneurship Panel was threefold,” said Caleb Robbins, project manager for BC’s College of Professional Programs. “First, we wanted students to learn. Second, we wanted our students to engage with local business owners. Finally, we wanted to inspire our students.”
Speakers/business owners for the Entrepreneurship Panel included Travis Lowe, pastor of Crossroads Church and founder of Rebuild, Revive, Thrive, who also facilitated the event; Cody Harmon, chief executive officer of Cody Energy and Genesis Rail Systems, who discussed “The Necessity of Innovation;” Melanie Protti Lawrence, owner of Anytime Fitness, who discussed “Starting a Business While Working Full Time;” Kim Ross, owner of Beecoming Irresistible, who discussed “The Power of Social Marketing;” Jody Deel, chief executive officer of Deel Financial, who discussed finances in business; and Robbie Gains, associate pastor of Highlands Fellowship in Bluefield, who discussed “Problems as Opportunities for Social Entrepreneurship.”
“You are surrounded by a whole community that you can make a difference in with the abilities that God has instilled into you,” said Gains, who joined all the speakers and business owners in encouraging the students and sharing their own personal story of success. “So rather than focusing so hard on what is to come, take this time that you have now to focus on the opportunity that you have to create hope in the midst of hopelessness.”
Robbins said all of the speakers and panel members were “fantastic, eloquent, personable and captivating,” and that the event would not have been possible without their help, especially that of event host Travis Lowe.
“Travis is a master connector,” said Robbins. “He orchestrated the event beautifully, tying in relevant questions and applicable stories.”
According to Lowe, the goal for hosting the event was to “keep” the students in the Bluefield area by presenting the need for business-minded doers and showing the opportunity they could have in Bluefield.
“There is tremendous opportunity in Bluefield for people with your skill and talent to stay, become engaged, become involved and to really make a difference here,” Lowe told the students. “I want some of you to get a taste that says, ‘you know what, Bluefield might be my home.’’
The Entrepreneurship Panel included a reception, allowing attendees to network with entrepreneurs and business owners. Local businesses also set up information booths with representatives answering questions.
“I attended the panel out of pure curiosity,” said BC student Dagoberto De Jesus Acevedo. “I think it’s great that there are different organizations in the area that implement events like this on college campuses, as many students in the audience will be future entrepreneurs. I really do hope the college brings more events like this targeted for future leaders in business.”
Robbins added that it is always the priority of Bluefield College as a learning institution to host events that students can benefit from by experiencing real-world applications that sharpen their skills and increase their knowledge while also serving as an opportunity to build relationships between students and the community.
“This event was set up to foster networking amongst students, panel members, and individuals from the community,” said Robbins. “With all the negative press the region has received, we wanted students to see that, yes, there are thriving businesses here, yes, you can be successful in Bluefield, and yes, you should follow your dreams as an entrepreneur.”