Can We Grow a Culture of Entrepreneurship in West Virginia’s Coalfields?

This story courtesy of a partnership with the great folks at The West Virginia Community Development Hub.

Entrepreneurship is the heartbeat of a small community. It defines the look and feel of downtown. In Madison, Renee’s School of Dance is a big part of that.

Since 1981, Renee Burgess Farmer (above) has been teaching dance to the people of Madison. She teaches everyone from as young as 3 years-old up to adults various forms of dance, including tap, ballet, jazz, clog theater and even workouts like Booty Barre.

Later this year The Hub will be starting a new program in coalfield communities, such as Madison, to promote a culture of entrepreneurship.

For Farmer, her dance school is about more than business.

“I’ve been fortunate, because if you can do what you love, it’s not really work, and I’ve never really felt like I had a job,” she says. “It’s just been my community and my family.”

When Farmer says it is about family, she really means it. She said she has some students that have grown and now their children are enrolled in her class. She said some of the parents even come back for her adult classes. Farmer said giving this passion of dance to her students is why what she does is so important.

“With dance, with music, with arts, that lasts you your lifetime,” Farmer said.

Later this year The Hub will be starting a new program in coalfield communities, such as Madison, to promote a culture of entrepreneurship. Farmer admits that there will be challenges with this idea.

“I think that the confidence is lacking over here,” Farmer said, “Loving what you do is the whole thing and I think over here people are scared of that because they want the security.”

With that said, Farmer has successfully run a business in the area for many years now, and that has come with its advantages. She said that she made the transition from artist to small business owner when she realized she could make as much as a school teacher by running her own school. This has allowed her a more flexible lifestyle.\
“I’ve been able to raise my kids and be my own boss,” Farmer says. “I’ve been able to enjoy their school and I’ve been able to rearrange my schedule to fit theirs.”

While she acknowledges there is still quite a bit of work to be done in Madison before it can be a thriving haven for artists, she does hope that she will one day be able to walk down a Main Street littered with performers.

And Farmer is looking to the future. At the moment she only teaches two days a week, but is open to anyone that would like to teach a class to reach out to her. She will teach anything a group of people want to take, and is open to new ideas.

The next recital for Renee’s School of Dance will be 7 p.m. on May 13th in the Madison Civic Center.

Stay tuned for more updates about our upcoming Energizing Entrepreneurial Communities program.