When Christina Entenmann-Edwards moved to southern West Virginia in 2008, she didn’t know what to expect.
Back then, she was going through a few changes in her life and felt trapped and like she had nothing to offer in the state she now calls home.
“It was really tough living here at first,” said Edwards, 39, from Connecticut. “I felt like I didn’t have a real skill to offer. I was not a nurse, doctor or engineer.
However, what Edwards had was a love for the arts, especially photography.
Through this love, Edwards got to know her new home in Greenbrier County, an exploration that eventually led her to create an entertainment newspaper known as Hashtag West Virginia, a free monthly newspaper distributed in 13 counties. from southern West Virginia.
“Living here, after a few years, I realized there was no entertainment diary here,” she said. “I saw a lot of flyers all over the doors for open mics and other events and thought a free city entertainment newspaper would be really nice.”
Initially, Edwards called her creation Hashtag Lewisburg which came to life thanks to a Facebook page in 2012 where she would post information from the flyers she saw in downtown Lewisburg.
Edwards said she ran this page for about a year before deciding to turn her online creation into a print edition.
“I did a lot of promotional stuff for almost a year before I started the newspaper,” she said. “I would go to restaurants and bars, take pictures and upload them, get a lot of good grace and build pretty strong relationships doing that. And people, even though they hadn’t known me all my life, they knew I had good intentions.
For her first published edition, Edwards said she prepaid all of this herself and then went to businesses to ask for help through advertisements for future editions.
Edwards thanks his parents for giving him the inspiration to start his own journal.
His parents, both from Hungary, arrived in the United States in the 1970s with nothing, Edwards said.
“They fled a communist country where you are not allowed to have anything and we talked about it a lot at the dinner table growing up,” she said. “Just the hardships they went through, and I really respected that they got to come here and learn a new language and start a new business.”
Growing up, Edwards said his father owned a repair shop in Norwalk, Connecticut.
“I just saw them do it, so I guess growing up I thought you could do anything,” she said.
For most of his life, Edwards lived by this motto “I can do anything”.
As a child, she had to learn English, her second language into Hungarian. Then, after some family health issues, Edwards dropped out of high school and sold his car artwork to help his family financially.
After a few odd jobs that included delivering papers in the morning, Edwards decided that if she wanted anything out of life, she should go to college.
So she got her GED at age 17 and after a brief stint at community college, Edwards continued her education at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in history.
While living in West Virginia, Edwards earned a master’s degree in commerce from Liberty Univeristy by taking online courses.
Although she never took a journalism course, Edwards said she learned how to write and research from universities, which was extremely helpful in getting Hashtag West Virginia off the ground.
“There was also a lot of trial and error,” she said. “If I interviewed someone and missed something, people were so nice and allowed me to follow up with them and ask a few more questions.”
When it came to designing the document, Edwards said she researched remedies online to teach him everything she needed to know.
“It was largely self-discipline,” she said. “It really interested me and I took the time to do it right. “
Edwards said she couldn’t believe she would be celebrating her 10th birthday with Hashtag West Virginia in February.
“I never thought I would do it for this long,” she said. “I can’t keep doing this forever, but the happiness and joy it brings to people makes all the time I’ve invested worth it.”
Edwards has also pursued other passions since launching Hashtag West Virginia, including an apprenticeship program she started around 2016 that connected hundreds of young people from across West Virginia with companies that offer career paths they might wish to pursue.
She said the start of this program was a turning point, as if she was reaching her cruising speed on what she was supposed to do for a living.
Until COVID suspended the program, Edwards said the mentorship program was thriving and had even spread to Virginia.
“I think it’s so important to be a leader towards kids and just expose them to the workforce and what’s available to them,” she said. “I think the hardest thing as a kid is not knowing what’s going on and being overwhelmed. Lots of kids, they default to nursing school for jobs like this, but there are so many different areas that they might not be familiar with.
Edwards said she also offers internships at her newspaper where she can help teach students about journalism as well as graphic design, web design and all newspaper stuff.
While she enjoys mentoring the younger generation, Edwards said she enjoys being the mentee as much as the mentor. This year, she is part of the 2021 West Virginia Leadership Class. She said the goal of the class is to bring together leaders from across the state.
Edwards said the program, now in its 30th year, was a way for her to get to know West Virginia better.
“With the newspaper and now with (Leadership West Virginia) I’m always learning new things about the state,” she said.
Edwards said in his mind that this is the key to success – having an open mind, being ready to learn new things or skills, and not being afraid to seek out a wide range of resources.
“I really think it’s a state of mind,” she said. “If you really believe that you can be something or be someone, go for it. I think a lot of it is about self-confidence so if you are passionate about something you should pursue that passion.
For the latest issue of Hashtag West Virginia, visit hashtagwv.com. Printed copies can also be found at some visitor centers, gas stations, and businesses in southern West Virginia.