Parween Mascari, a native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, is an entrepreneur, attorney, adjunct professor at West Virginia University and is an administrative law judge for the state of West Virginia board of review for unemployment compensation appeals. During her time as a lobbyist, she worked closely with the legislature to help shape policy for the state of West Virginia. She also owns three retail stores; West Virginia Market that sell West Virginia made products, in Vienna and Charleston, West Virginia.
Mascari talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about how she got into the business, what’s the best thing about being in business in West Virginia and her advice to young entrepreneurs.
How did you get into this business?
“Where it came from is watching them [her parents] do what they did with the hardware store, and now opening a wine bar and coffee shop and things like that. But, I also remember having a conversation with a gentleman in Morgantown, probably 15-years ago, and I said ‘I think I am an entrepreneur, but I really didn’t like taking risks.’”
“He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, honey, then you’re not really an entrepreneur.’ and I think it made me really think that if you’re not willing to sleep on the floor of your store or eat a bunch of ramen noodles every once in a while then you’re really not able to create a business or have the impact that you really want to have.”
“I had to personally overcome some things about myself where I started to learn to take risks,” Mascari said. “In law school, you’re really taught to mitigate risks, and here I was trying to teach myself to take more risks.”
“I was friends with some really amazing entrepreneurs, and I watched and learned from them. What I’ve done is just start up some retail companies. What they’ve done is start companies that have changed West Virginia.”
What has been your worst business moment so far?
“Mine probably happened on the Senate floor. I have for years tried to help Snowshoe get wine on the mountain. When people come to my shop which is located in the village, they always ask for wine. But we’re in a dry county and we can’t opt out.”
“When people come to me, I tell them ‘you can go to a restaurant’ because you become a member of their private club. But as far as buying a bottle and taking it back to your room, you’re going to have to drive 25 miles down the mountain.”
“For being one of the top 10 ski resorts on the east coast, and being one of the places that people from out-of-state come to enjoy themselves, that’s really testing.”
“I’d love to get West Virginia wineries represented in the shop. We were trying to do that, and there was a certain senator who gave a speech about how I was trying to get a monopoly on booze on Snowshoe mountain.”
“It was humiliating and it made me question why I was trying so hard to showcase West Virginia products when we were just so stuck in this old mentality. We’re still working on trying to make progress in that area.”
“As an entrepreneur, you have to keep coming back.”
What is the best thing about being in business in West Virginia?
“I think it’s that ability to be plugged in everywhere and know people everywhere,” Mascari said. “You [Jim] and I were talking before the podcast about mutual acquaintances.”
What is one piece of advice you would give a young entrepreneur?
“I would say have a thick skin,” Mascari said. “And from a more practical point, there are so many resources out there, you just might not know what they are.”
“We have free business coaches that West Virginia offers through the Small Business Development Center. We have the WVU College of Law entrepreneurship clinic that can help people file their papers to get started. We have the one-stop shop with the secretary of the state office that has a couple of locations where you can go in and work with the tax folks and several different agencies.”
“There are people out there who are willing to help you.”
Mascari was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to her full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS | Representing West Virginia Businesses
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- PERSON MASCARI WOULD LIKE TO MEET: There are artists that I don’t know and I really like when people come to me and tell me about new artists getting started, and I would like to talk to the people at the Greenbrier.