In October 2023, we proudly received an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER Grant for our initiative to Develop a Technology-Focused Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Project in Eastern Kentucky. Since then, we’ve been diligently assembling the team tasked with overseeing this project, and we’re thrilled to introduce them to you!
Empowering the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow
The Innovation POWER Team will be working to grow dreams of entrepreneurship within the halls of colleges and universities across Eastern Kentucky. This team is committed to cultivating a robust technology-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem within our higher education institutions. By concentrating our efforts here, our aim is to inspire and equip the next generation of innovative founders!
What to Expect:
- Collaboration and Partnerships: The team will actively seek collaborations with educational institutions, local businesses, and community organizations to build a network that nurtures innovation.
- Educational Initiatives: From workshops to mentorship programs, the Innovation POWER Team will roll out various initiatives to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a technology-driven world.
- Startup Support: Aspiring entrepreneurs will benefit from resources, guidance, and funding opportunities as we work to catalyze the growth of technology-focused startups in Eastern Kentucky.
Meet the Team
Barbara Gay, a native of Eastern Kentucky now based in Jackson County, serves as the Program Manager with the Business and Innovation Team at SOAR. Her pivotal role involves administering the ARC Power Grant, a key initiative to develop a technology-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem in Eastern Kentucky, driving significant economic development in the region. Barbara is a Certified Global Career Development Facilitator and holds certifications as a Re-Entry Support Services Specialist and Supportive Employment Specialist.
In her career journey, Barbara has significantly contributed to several non-profit organizations in the Appalachian region. Her versatile roles have spanned career coaching, data management, support services auditing, and assistant grant management. Notably, she also played a key role in admissions at Frontier Nursing University, enhancing the institution’s reach and impact. Barbara’s objective is to improve the prospects for the younger generation living in Appalachia, ensuring a brighter, more innovative future.
Outside of her professional endeavors, Barbara finds joy in her role as a wife and mother of two, cherishing every moment spent with her family.
Deveney Redwine is a proud Eastern Kentuckian. Growing up in Morehead, Kentucky, and attending Morehead State University, her passion lies in the people of that community. After graduating from Morehead State University with a bachelor’s in strategic communication with a minor in Marketing and Sport Management, she began working for her alma mater for 2 years. In 2022, she completed her master’s in business administration also from Morehead State. Deveney has spent the majority of her career in Community Relations and Outreach, specifically in Appalachia.
In her spare time, Deveney enjoys being an aunt to the best kiddos – a nephew William and nieces Masyn and Maddyn. She also loves spending time with her beloved aussie-doodle, Albert, and serving in various volunteer roles in her community.
Startup Program Coordinator
Danna Barnett is the Startup Program Coordinator at SOAR, working with the Business and Innovation Team in support of the ARC Power Grant to stimulate economic growth in Appalachia. Danna is a first-generation college graduate from Tomahawk, KY. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and a minor in Communication from the University of Kentucky, as well as a Harvard Business School Online Credential of Readiness in Business Analytics, Economics for Managers, and Financial Accounting. Danna’s professional journey has included business consulting for startups and small businesses, as well as administrative roles at UK’s Office of Undergraduate Research and UCLA’s Graduate Division. As a Robinson Scholar and Chellgren Fellow, she understands the importance of supportive environments in fostering success.
At SOAR, Danna is dedicated to further developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem that bridges the gap between education and business innovation, thereby driving entrepreneurial growth and economic revitalization in Eastern Kentucky.
The Partners that Will Help Make This Happen
Our partners will provide outreach to participants, business space, and access to resources.
Those partners include:
- The Appalachian Investor’s Alliance (AIA)
- Center on Rural Innovation (CORI)
- Invest 606
- KY Innovation
- University of Pikeville
- Morehead State University
- Union College
- Ashland Community & Technical College
- Hazard Community & Technical College
- Paintsville Independent School District
A Note From Director of Business and Innovation, Sabrina McWhorter:
We are beyond excited for this next step and the addition it will add to our existing work around business and innovation. SOAR continues to invest in the entrepreneurs in our region and understands that we have to meet them wherever they are. The ability to engage with universities, colleges, and local students will introduce innovation and opportunity to them, and allow new career paths to form. This program is designed to create learning opportunities for ALL in the region. Whether you’ve got an idea keeping you up late at night, or you’re two years into a business and needing support, there is something here to support you.
Learn more about SOAR Innovation
Download our Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky today for a step-by-step roadmap on starting or growing your business! Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or a budding visionary, this comprehensive guide is your key to navigating the unique landscape of small business ownership in Appalachia and turning your business dreams into reality.
Stay tuned to our blog for more updates from the SOAR Business and Innovation POWER Team! Have additional questions? Contact Sabrina McWhorter, Director of Business and Innovation at firstname.lastname@example.org.