Six local business owners and entrepreneurs in the creative and technical fields participated in a two-hour event dubbed the “Panel of Experts Forum” at Mountwest Community & Technical College earlier this month. The panelists took turns talking about their education, career paths, role models, lessons learned and advice for students entering the workforce. They concluded by answering questions from the audience, and several panelists brought samples of their recent projects to pass around for students to review.
Activities began with Natalie Mills, Director of Mountwest’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness, sharing results from a recent employer survey about local business leaders’ largely favorable perceptions of Mountwest graduates’ workforce readiness. The remainder of the event showcased stories and wisdom from the six guest speakers.
Panelists included: Meagan Barnes, vice president of marketing and development at Superior Marine, Inc., South Point; Teresa Compton, a Mountwest graduate who has launched her own Huntington-based marketing and web development company called Urba; Chris Michael, founder and owner of Bulldog Creative Services in Huntington; Robbie Pugh, owner of Rocket VII Interactive, Silver Screen VII and Pip & Hud’s frozen yogurt and gourmet popcorn shop in Gallipolis; Angela Smith, owner of Graphic Solutions in Huntington; and Beau Smith of Kenova who has achieved success writing and producing comic books and graphic novels, as well as having two television series in production based off of his works.
More than 50 students from the graphic design, web development, animation and game development, marketing, and business programs at Mountwest, as well as some administrators, faculty and staff attended the event. Julie Terry, assistant professor of graphic design at Mountwest, helped orchestrate the event and said she was very pleased with the range of expertise represented by the guest speakers.
“The panelists included people who are originally from this region, as well as one who is not and chose to launch a business and settle in Huntington,” Terry said. “Some started their careers in different industries and lived in different cities before starting businesses here or continuing their careers in this region.”
Terry said several significant points were made by the speakers, including the importance of work ethic, professional appearance and soft skills. They also noted that technical skills, critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship are driving the new economic model. Lastly, the panelists emphasized that the Tri-state region can be a great place to launch a new business because of the personal relationships and support available, as well as customers’ desire for locally-produced, specialty products and services.
“We organized this event so students could hear directly from entrepreneurs and business leaders about life outside of school,” Terry said. “We have the students for a short time in college, so we’re constantly trying to prepare them for life and career options after graduation.”