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Create West Virginia conference aims to foster economic creativity

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Create West Virginia is bringing entrepreneurs, educators and community-minded individuals together for a two-day conference in Charleston starting Friday.

This is the first time the Create West Virginia conference has been held in the capital city.

Create West Virginia is an independent organization launched by Vision Shared five years ago. The organization attempts to foster creative entrepreneurship in the state and improve local economies through creative ways.

The manufacturing sector in the United States and West Virginia has taken severe hits through the past several decades, and Create West Virginia is hoping young entrepreneurs will step into that void, said Rebecca Kimmons, a volunteer with the organization handling media relations.

"We've been studying creative economy issues since 2007, and we've been looking at the state's challenges," she said.

The conference focuses on ways to bring creative thinkers into the economy and help them find ways to market their ideas into moneymaking ventures, she said.

The conference will begin Friday morning at the Charleston House Ramada Inn on Kanawha Boulevard across from Haddad Riverfront Park.

Registration begins in the main lobby at 7 a.m.

Numerous keynote speakers, including documentary filmmaker Mary Mazzio, will discuss their experiences in the creative entrepreneurial world.

Mazzio is a former New York City attorney who turned to her passion - documentary films - as founder and chief executive officer of 50 Eggs Inc., an independent film company.

She wrote, produced and directed "The Apple Pushers," a documentary narrated by acclaimed actor Edward Norton about five immigrant food cart vendors who sold fruits and vegetables in some of New York City's poorest communities.

Mazzio was a former Olympian rower and a successful attorney who left a lucrative career to follow her dream.

"The reason we're asking her to speak is because she (Mazzio) has a deep interest in entrepreneurship, and she documents these entrepreneurial efforts in inner cities," Kimmons said.

Mazzio will speak about her own experiences of "taking the plunge" into entrepreneurial filmmaking.

"We have a budding film community in West Virginia, and I think her story will be inspiring," Kimmons said.

Another speaker on Friday is Dr. Brian Hemphill, president of West Virginia State University. Nikki Bowman, founder and publisher of New South Media, the company that publishes "West Virginia Living" magazine, is the dinner speaker on Saturday.

"(Bowman) has created a very successful publishing company," Kimmons said.

Events will move to the Charleston Civic Center starting at noon Saturday. The Create NOW Fair, which is free and open to the public, will be held from noon to 5 p.m.

Entrepreneurs will receive mentoring and be able to discuss their ideas at the fair, Kimmons said.

Registration is $95 for one day and $189 for both.  People can register online at or at the event Friday morning.

Online registration should be completed by Wednesday, Kimmons said, but latecomers can still register at the door.  

People also may attend the Friday and Saturday dinners for $35 per night.

About 150 people have registered, but a last-minute rush is anticipated.

"We expect about 200 people at the conference," Kimmons said.

Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau President and Chief Executive Officer Alisa Bailey is very excited to see the conference in Charleston.

Bailey pointed out that the conference will coincide with FestivALL Fall and HallowEast.

"This is going to be an exciting weekend in Charleston," she said.      

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at



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