Woman entrepreneur in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle not deterred by pandemic

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — The economy may be on the rebound from the pandemic but some West Virginia entrepreneurs haven’t missed a beat.

A pandemic isn’t about to stop Bethany Starkey, for example, a young woman entrepreneur in Jefferson County. She has always had a love of fashion and, as it turns out, a mind for business. Just from being among friends and telling them “oh, you’d look great in this” or “that blouse and those slacks are perfect on you,” she launched a business.

“It really just inspired me to push and find something for people in this area,” Starkey said. “You know, there’s really not much in this area for people who want to shop. It can be a challenge being from the eastern panhandle for women to find unique clothing that’s top quality.”

Her product line became a big hit with customers just through finding merchandise she could market from a trailer — then COVID hit and retail interaction with customers vanished. No trade shows? For Bethany, no problem! She just developed an app to fill the gap.

Kimberly Nicewarner, Starkey’s mother, said her daughter’s customers “supported her… even through the pandemic. They just kept supporting her. It’s been great.”

Starkeyeven has customers from the west coast and Florida. With pandemic restrictions lifted, she is on the road in her mobile retail store. A brick-and-mortar operation is part of her long-range thinking, but however she grows, she’ll never lose sight of her West Virginia roots.

“Okay, what can we do to create sales and keep things flowing?” Starkey asked herself when the pandemic hit. “But people were so supportive, supporting the local businesses.”

Starkey is already in expansion mode. While she has launched an online platform, she says she’ll never lose sight of how important it is to support a local business community.

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