start-upRichwood, October 27th, 2016 — Richwood is the lucky location where a group of seven local high schoolers decided to invest in the revitalization of their local economy and Main Street. After the devastating floods, these students came together to open a socially responsible clothing store on Richwood’s main street. All students of Richwood High School, these entrepreneurs wanted their venture to be deeply tied to the community in which they were educated and from which they received so much support. As a result, the decided to name the non-profit store Axe Factor Boutique after the high school mascot, a lumberjack. Each co-owner shares a great love and appreciation for the town in which they grew up. The Axe Factor Boutique is just getting started and now that they’ve submitted their application for a 501(c)3 status, the group is turning their focus to supply chains. The model of the business focuses on traditional retail stores and outlets donating their overstock and seasonal floor adjustments to the Axe Factor. By doing so, those stores will receive tax deductions, and the Axe Factor will be able to offer clothes, jewelry, shoes, and other fashion items to teenagers and young women in the area. Co-Owner Caitlin Cowell says “Our motto is “dress for success”, so our goal is to help the ladies in our area have the confidence to pursue their goals.” One way these entrepreneurs plan to help make that possible is to establish an annual scholarship funded by the store’s profit. The idea being that local graduates would be able to work in, and apply for scholarships that would help low-income students access higher education systems. The group explains that starting this venture with very little business experience, they are exceptionally grateful for the support their community has provided. They identified Jimmy Weber, Joe Carlucci and the WV HIVE Network, and Trina Runner as a few people they felt they couldn’t have made it without. With foundational support from their community these ladies are able to look to a future they hope offers multiple scholarships per year, first jobs to area students, and a store that provides a positive influence on the young leaders developing in their community. If this venture proves to be a socially responsible model that achieves all they hope, they would expand the model to other struggling areas in the Mountain State. The WV HIVE Network Director, Joe Carlucci is enthusiastic about this particular entrepreneurial venture. “These women represent the best of our region. Their entrepreneurial spirit and focus on the greater good is a testament to the culture we are focused on building every day. It’s an honor to work with ventures that harness so much potential.” Says Carlucci. To get more information about what resources are available to entrepreneurs in the region, contact Joe Carlucci at JCarlucci@nrgrda.org, or by phone at 304-929-1239. Co-Owner, Lauren Lee, shared one last piece of advice to others considering establishing a business in a small town: “Pursue any opportunity you’re offered. Stay passionate about what you’re doing. Most importantly, have confidence in yourself and your vision. If you don’t, no one else will either.”

If you own, or know an owner of, a retail store that might be interested in establishing a relationship with Axe Factor Boutique, please contact the Axe Factor Board via email at axefactor01@gmail.com, or Caitlin Cowell directly at caitlincowellstudent@gmail.com.

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