A little over a year ago, Deiandra Blair and Jordan Casey had ideas for small businesses they wanted to open.
Blair had worked as a nurse for more than 14 years, but when the coronavirus hit, she needed to find a job that would allow her to stay home with her children. She then started baking cakes and using Facebook to sell them and get new customers.
For Casey, collecting and caring for plants had been a hobby of hers since she was 5 years old. But wanting to help others become informed plant owners, he began to think about how he could turn his hobby into a career.
With the help of the WV Hive, a nonprofit organization that helps connect entrepreneurs with the resources and expertise they need to build successful businesses, Blair and Casey were able to turn their ideas and dreams into reality.
In January 2021, Blair opened Blair’s Sweet Treats & More in Bluewell, W.Va., which is just a few miles north of Bluefield. Located at 180 Majestic Place, Blair said it offers a number of sweet treats, from banana pudding to brown sugar pound cake, as well as a variety of items from hot dogs to salads and chicken pot pies.
Casey opened Botany Tropicals with co-owner Steven Jones in early 2022 in Hinton. Casey said he initially started selling plants from his personal collection, but after quickly selling them off, he had to find a new way to store his inventory.
During an open house and celebration Friday at the WV Hive location in downtown Beckley, Casey and Blair received awards recognizing the growth and success of their businesses in 2022.
Casey and Jones received the 2022 WV Hive Startup of the Year award, while Blair received the 2022 WV Hive Social Enterprise of the Year award.
Judy Moore, executive director of the WV Hive and deputy director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), said the startup award is given to a small business that is innovative and offers a unique product, and is also responsive to the adversity and has measurable achievements in advancing an idea or a business.
Moore said the social enterprise award is meant to highlight a small business seeking to solve specific social or environmental problems.
Casey said the award and recognition from WV Hive almost brought tears to his eyes, adding that he couldn’t believe that Botany Tropicals would soon be celebrating its one-year anniversary.
“When we started this, it was all a hobby. We had no idea what we were doing,” Casey said. “…(WV Hive) was able to help me with technical support; they built my website. They helped me find places for signs. They helped me hire an employee. He helped me with CPA needs: taxes.”
Blair said she too was honored by the recognition from the WV Hive.
From the beginning, Blair said she always wanted her business to be about more than just serving food.
“I have a heart for the community,” he said. “So from the get-go, when I got my building, I knew I was going to serve my candy, but I also wanted to help the community.”
In August, Blair hosted a back-to-school party at her business, where she invited more than 100 families to receive free food and donate school supplies. She said that she is also working on organizing a similar event for families who need help buying gifts for their children at Christmas.
Four other business and community partners were also recognized by the WV Hive during its award ceremony on Friday.
The 2022 WV Hive Small Business of the Year Award was presented to Amanda Green and Ceretha Green of Falcon Mine Service, located in Midway.
The 2022 WV Hive Entrepreneur of the Year Award was presented to Marcus Thomas of Fat Bottom Coolers, of Beckley.
The 2022 WV Hive Partner of the Year award was presented to United Bank and accepted by Zack Statler, the market president.
The 2022 Community Advocate of the Year Award was presented to Donnie Pomeroy, business services representative on the Region 1 Workforce Development Board, in Meadow Bridge.
Moore said he enjoyed seeing how businesses that come to the WV Hive for help can grow and prosper.
“Most of the businesses we’re seeing come to us with a talent or a love for something that they feel they can give to others, but have no idea of the business side of things,” Moore said. “And that’s what we do. and we don’t look at it as ‘Oh, you have to learn everything that a business owner has to have.’ We try to instill in them the fact that you don’t have to be everything. There are resources. Let us connect you with those resources.”
Since its inception in 2016, Moore said, the WV Hive has served nearly 500 businesses, been instrumental in helping 63 startups with start-ups, helped create 189.5 new jobs and retained 330 jobs. , as well as helping entrepreneurs raise more than $6 million in capital to support their businesses. .
“In addition to that, we have aspiring entrepreneurs, partners and supporters and our community in general and we are almost 1000 with whom we have worked; they’ve attended some type of training or partnered with us in some way and we’re very happy and proud of that as well,” Moore said.
WV Hive is the entrepreneurship program of the NRGRDA and the administrator of the Country Roads Angel Network. Its 13-county service area includes Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Nicholas, Webster, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Monroe, Mercer, McDowell, Wyoming, Logan, and Mingo counties. More information about WV Hive can be found at wvhive.com.