For Immediate Release


September 21, 2023

Rural Action, Ohio University, and partners invite regional entrepreneurs to the Appalachian Social Enterprise Summit

By: Tre Spencer, Ohio University

Athens,Ohio – Rural Action, Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, Coalfield Development, and other regional partners are hosting the area’s largest gathering of social entrepreneurs this year at the Appalachian Social Enterprise Summit Oct.10-11.

The summit will feature social entrepreneurs and interested investors to network and exchange ideas. The event is an opportunity to support compassionate leaders in our communities and learn about the model of social entrepreneurship.

The event will begin on Oct. 10 with a Learning Journey that will take attendees to social enterprises and sites throughout Athens County. The tour will start in Glouster with the Athens County Land Bank and proceed to Dirty Girl Coffee, True Pigments, ACEnet and Passion Works Studio in Athens.

Following the tour, attendees are invited to enjoy a farm-to-table dinner and happy hour hosted at local Athens restaurant Casa Nueva.

The next day, Oct. 11, will kick off the official social enterprise summit at the Walter Hall Rotunda on OHIO’s campus.

Faith Knutsen, Voinovich School’s Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said the university is proud to collaborate with such renowned social enterprise innovators as Rural Action and Coalfield Development to learn together with our entire 13-state impact community.

The conference will feature a variety of speakers, breakout sessions, workshops, and a pitch competition.

Summit workshop sessions and discussions will highlight the social enterprise model and its application in numerous economic sectors including agriculture, ecological restoration, and circular economy; as well as, topics such as workforce development, business formation, access to capital, and so much more.

The summit will conclude with a pitch competition for startup and ideation-level social enterprises and innovators. Social entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to share their ideas and concepts regarding their own social enterprise in front of a panel of judges.

All entrants will receive professional mentoring, and a generous donation from Invest Appalachia will enable up to $10,000 in recoverable grants for winning enterprises. In addition, the university-affiliated winner will receive the honor of displaying the White Water Rapids Pitch Competition Trophy for an entire year.

Paul Patton, Chief Innovation Officer at Rural Action, said the organization is excited to be working with the Voinovich School, Ohio University, and partners throughout the Central Appalachian region to bring together social entrepreneurs, practitioners, and students.

“The Learning Journey on October 10th and the summit on the 11th will highlight so many local entrepreneurs like Dirty Girl Coffee, Passion Works Studios, and True Pigments.”

The registration deadline for the pitch competition is midnight Eastern Standard Time on Sept. 23. For more information and to register for the summit, visit




Social Enterprise Director