Does innovation, entrepreneurship matter to you?


The Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet is transforming the way it supports innovation-driven entrepreneurship across the commonwealth. Some have asked how that applies to their business.

Innovation and entrepreneurship can apply to your business in a variety of ways.

Innovation is all about being creative or original in your work and thinking. According to Merriam-Webster, to be innovative means to have new ideas about something that can be done or introducing new ideas or methods. Innovation is about bringing fresh perspectives to ideas and topics that may be old. When I think about innovation, four keywords stick out: new, original, improvement and creative.

 In the business world, and even in west Kentucky, innovators are creating new products, modifying existing processes, developing new methods, solving problems that others cannot, and coming up with ideas that could change the world. When you think about that, you may think that your business isn’t innovative or doesn’t need to be innovative. That is probably not the case.

Paducah-based English’s Sew & Vac started more than 57 years ago as a family-owned sewing store. Through the years, technology has changed and competition has increased forcing English’s to innovate and adapt to stay competitive. The company started as a fabric shop, transformed into a sewing machine company, added classes, incorporated embroidery machines and added vacuums to their inventory.

While English’s Sew & Vac has prided itself on great customer service, competition and technology has forced it to be creative and innovative in how it delivers that service.

Recently, I asked what a group of college students thought about when they heard the word entrepreneur. Most thought of someone going door to door selling something. While that may be an example of an entrepreneur, it certainly doesn’t encompass all that an entrepreneur is. A dictionary definition of entrepreneur is a “person who organizes and operates a business and takes a greater than normal financial risk in order to do so.”

Entrepreneurship is a word that is not just hard to say but also hard to understand. One may highlight how they are blazing new trails. Someone else may describe how it is about imagining new problems that can also create value. It includes a vision and a willingness to embrace change. An entrepreneur has to have courage to take a calculated risk on something even if it fails.

One of my favorite definitions of an entrepreneur comes from the founder and CEO of Kids Go Go, Justine Smith, who described entrepreneurs in Business News Daily as being “driven by an innate need to create, build and grow.”

For me, John Williams Sr., the founder of Computer Services, Inc. is as excellent an example of the description of an entrepreneur as exists. Williams was told “no” more than once. He was told that it wouldn’t work and wouldn’t succeed, but he never stopped or slowed down.

Starting with six employees and three customers, CSI incorporated in 1965. Today, CSI is a technology leader in Paducah, in Kentucky and across the country and globe. CSI now employs 1,100 people, all because of John Williams’ perseverance in fulfilling his vision while no one thought he could be successful.

Some people think that it doesn’t apply to them. You may be thinking that you are just a small business owner and entrepreneurship doesn’t apply. You would be wrong. Every small business owner/operator that I know is an entrepreneur. You took the risk. You followed your vision. You are working to create, build and grow your business. That is what an entrepreneur is.

 Innovation and entrepreneurship are not equal. Innovation and entrepreneurship are not required to have one or the other. However, if one considers national and global trends, it is clear that innovation is driving entrepreneurship. As described above, innovation is about being creative, solving problems, and developing new ideas. In the majority of cases, those innovations can lead to business opportunities that can be exploited by entrepreneurs.

The reality is that we can’t succeed without both entrepreneurs and innovators. Today and in the future, the communities and states that are most successful will be the ones that can bolster and foster the mindsets of both, while encouraging both. The commonwealth of Kentucky is seeking to do just that in the new Regional Innovation for Startup & Entrepreneurs through the Office of Entrepreneurship in the Cabinet for Economic Development.

While efforts are just starting, west Kentucky is home to the resources, collaborations and assets necessary to be a leader in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

With the help of education, business and government leaders, the next five to 10 years will be exciting with amazing opportunities for the region. Help west Kentucky create, build and grow by learning more and getting involved. Visit or contact me.

Michael Ramage is the director of the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management at Murray State University. CTSM conducts research in the various areas of technology and serves as a liaison between the academic and private sectors to see that a sufficient technology workforce is available. He can be reached at [email protected] or 270-809-3987 for questions or more information.

Originally published in the Four Rivers Business Journal and available at

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