Business program inspires local girls

Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club volunteer Alease Goe, left, instructs IssaBella Giffen, right, on how to line up and pin pieces of cloth prior to sewing them together during a meeting of the Sewing Club. Giffen was one of two girls who are pursuing a project in sewing as part of the Envision Lead Grow Entrepreneurial Program. (Photo by Michael Erb)

PARKERSBURG — Nine girls from the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg were inspired to pursue their passions and develop into motivated, young female leaders at a week-long entrepreneurship immersion program for grades four through six from July 14-19.

The program, “Envision Lead Grow,” was created in 2016 by Angela D. Reddix, the president and CEO of the multi-million dollar health care and information technology consulting firm ARDX.

Reddix, as well as a team of other female business owners and leaders, traveled to seven major cities this summer to hold camps designed to uplift and encourage young women from low-income areas to follow their career dreams.

Participants were encouraged to express their creativity, meet girls from other areas with similar visions and develop their business ideas under a team of professionals. The week of the program they attended met at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

“These girls showed a lot of potential and this experience gives them amazing opportunities,” Director of Programs for the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg Cyndi Auth said. “Empowering and propelling them forward at a young age is valuable.”

Olivia Kennerly, left, watches closely as IssaBella Giffen, left, feeds fabric through a sewing machine at the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club. The two students were among nine girls who spent a week at an entrepreneurial camp in Virginia this summer. (Photo by Michael Erb)

Upon returning from camp, the girls were paired with local mentors who will meet with them twice a month to help them develop their ideas further. If the girls accumulate enough points through the fall by meeting with their mentors and making progress, they will attend a conference in Washington, D.C., next spring where they will be able to showcase their products.

Each girl that attended the camp had a unique and inspiring plan for their future, speaking with wide smiles and animated eyes as they expressed their hopes and dreams.

Olivia Kennerly, an 11-year-old incoming student at VanDevender Middle School, was taught to bake at a young age by her mother.

“I like to make cookies, cakes, pies, cake balls, and even lollipops,” Kennerly said. “I love to bake and my mom told me it’s because I like math.”

Kennerly, who was one of the attendees of the camp, hopes to one day open her own bakery in Parkersburg. During sewing class, Kennerly proudly wore her camp shirt.

Katlyn Wood, a member of the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club, prepares a sewing machine during the Sewing Club’s weekly meeting. Wood was among nine girls who were sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club to attend an entrepreneurial camp this summer in Roanoke, Va. (Photo by Michael Erb)

“The camp taught us lots of stuff about business, like math skills and how to price things,” Kennerly said. “We even got to present in front of judges and make business cards for them.”

Zoey Morris, an 11-year-old incoming student at Blennerhassett Middle School, came up with her idea to help the community after she went to the grocery store and began to notice the number of homeless individuals and families in the area.

“I know I want to help other people get food and care so I want to start some sort of business for that,” Morris said.

Morris wants to create a business with a philanthropy focus that helps her raise money to make care packages for the homeless. She plans to call the business “Zoey’s Helping Hands,” and would even like to employ the homeless in her efforts.

“My favorite part of camp was that there were lots of new girls to meet and we were always really busy,” Morris said. “It was also cool to stay in the dorms and get a feeling of what college is like.”

Nine members of the Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club attended a week- long Envision Lead Grow Entrepreneurial Program in Roanoke, Va. earlier this summer. The girls were sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club, and the students will continue with the program in the coming years. The attendees are, from left to right in the back row, Madison Byrd, Katlyn Wood, IssaBella Giffen, Lily Skinner and Zoey Morris. In the front row, from left to right, are Mya Fields, Olivia Wood, Heaven Graham and Emily Reisinger. (Photo Provided)

Katlyn Wood, an 11-year-old incoming student at VanDevender Middle School, and IssaBella Giffen, a 10-year-old student at Jefferson Elementary Center, both found their future business passion through the sewing classes offered at the Boys and Girls Club.

The sewing class at the Boys and Girls Club is currently working on creating a banner and other projects, such as small quilts.

“My grandma sews and I think it is really satisfying,” Wood said. “When I was 5, I made a skirt and I knew I wanted to do it as a job.”

Wood would like to make a business where she sews and creates clothing, such as pants, shirts and headbands.

“I knew how to sew but the Boys and Girls Club really helped,” Wood said. “My favorite part about the camp was that we learned how to become a better future business owner.”

Wood would also like to contribute to her own passionate cause with her future business. She hopes to donate half of her earnings to the Humane Society.

Giffen has a name for her future business based off of her name and her passion: Bellanimals Boutique.

“I want to use sewing to make collars and bows for dogs and cats,” Giffen said. “My mom would tell me about how she used to sew clothes for my brother and that is how I got interested.”

Giffen would also like to create candles and sprays to eliminate pet odors and bake treats.

“My plan is to create a website and maybe I would get my products into some stores,” Giffen said. “I also want to go to vet school someday and then I can sell my products in my clinic.”

Giffen truly enjoyed being surrounded by powerful female entrepreneurs and business owners.

“We got to meet with a bunch of entrepreneurs who have good businesses…my favorite was a lady who does party design,” Giffen said.

Auth hopes to host a business fair for the girls next spring after they have had time to make their dreams a reality so the public can purchase their products.

“They call these girls ‘girl bosses,'” Cyndi Auth said.

The mission of Envision Lead Grow is simple yet powerful: “We’ll show you what it takes to turn your passion into something incredible. It will require planning, dedication and heart. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.”

Jenna Pierson can be reached at editorial@newsandsentinel.com