CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than a quarter of West Virginia's children live in poverty, but that shouldn't prevent them from running their own business one day, the keynote speaker at Create West Virginia's conference said Friday.
Award-winning director and 50 Eggs Films CEO Mary Mazzio said there are children who go to school hungry and others who live with parents who are high on drugs. But those kids can be self-supportive in the future and they need to know that, she said.
Being poor doesn't matter; the change starts with a shift of cultural thinking on entrepreneurship, Mazzio said.
"Thinking entrepreneurially, are they born or are they made?" Mazzio asked the group of mostly business owners. "Entrepreneurs are not born, they are made. Anybody can be an entrepreneur."
About 80 people at the Ramada Inn Downtown Charleston attended the first meeting of the fifth annual Create WV conference. Through workshops, meetings and showcases, the conference aims to inspire community leaders, educators, artists and others to effect change in West Virginia. The conference, hosted in Charleston for the first time, ends Saturday.
"The concept of entrepreneurship is so right for disenfranchised children and children who are living in poverty," Mazzio said. "Entrepreneurship is not just about risk, it's about hope. When you work for someone else, you are at a risk but when you are an entrepreneur, the only person who can fire you is you."
Mazzio -- who is a U.S. Olympian in rowing -- has worked with inner-city children.
Incorporating entrepreneurship curriculum where poor kids put on a jacket and tie and people listen to them shows those children that they do matter, Mazzio said.
"When you show a child that they can be self-supportive ... you have to know math and English ... then education becomes relevant," Mazzio said.