Haley Feaster’s entrepreneurial spirit can’t be dampened by loss

By George Berkheimer

In February, Haley Feaster was one of the victims of a fire that destroyed the Collective MKT space in downtown Bedford. She lost her Deep Rooted home decor boutique store and ultimately decided to sell her share of the Next Door restaurant to move on to the next phase of her life.

“I’m in transition now, in an exploratory phase,” Feaster said. “My goal is to stay local and look for opportunities to highlight outdoor recreation and tourism in Bedford County and the Appalachian Region of Pennsylvania, something that has brought me a lot of joy in my adult life.”

Feaster thinks a closer collaboration between stakeholders could improve the way these assets are marketed to tourists and visitors.

“My loss was a humbling experience, and now I’d love to find a career that incorporates my natural ability to connect people,” she said. “I think it’s why local people have felt comfortable approaching me for advice and recommendations for their own businesses. It’s been a natural fit for me, and I love helping people.”

Feaster’s background has been steeped in public relations and political science and includes seven years in fundraising and policy in the nation’s capital.

Local Potential

Feaster left Bedford County to attend college and start a career after high school, and returned to the area with an interest in business that enabled her to become a serial entrepreneur.

“I found such a place of community and belonging and met good quality people, things that I didn’t necessarily recognize before I left but now appreciate and value,” she said. “I’m interested in staying in the area and using my skillsets to help other people expand on whatever dreams they may have, because I know how rewarding that is.”

Having owned several small businesses in Bedford County, Feaster said she has had time to hear and understand the gaps here that can offer opportunity to attract other young entrepreneurs.

“I was fortunate enough to be able to partner with my friends when I opened my businesses,” she said, reflecting on the different advantages that Bedford County offers.

“We have a lot of potential with visitors who are brought here by the Omni Bedford Springs Resort, hotels and overnight accommodations, and we have important highway corridors that connect Bedford with major transportation routes,” Feaster observed. “I recommend Bedford to friends and acquaintances because I see a lot of business potential here.”

Access to finance is equally important to entrepreneurs, she said.

“I’ve had great relationships that I hope to continue with local institutions,” Feaster said, among them Hometown Bank, First National Bank, the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, and the Reed Wertz and Roadman Insurance Agency, to name just a few.

“There are a lot of resources locally that small business owners getting started have access to, and all of the individuals I’ve worked with are serious in their support of business owners,” she said.

Learning Experience

Over the past four years, Feaster has watched the business community in downtown Bedford expand.

“Seeing the changes in businesses that opened has been eye opening and very rewarding,” she said. “It’s also been a rewarding experience to be able to play a concierge to people who want to open a business or who come here and are looking for things to do. I’m humbled that people look to me as that figure, especially in a time when I’m not really sure what I’m going to do next.”

For Feaster, the love and support of her family and friends has been overwhelming, and she also considers it humbling that others look to her as a role model for her entrepreneurial spirit.

Community and quality of life are important for any business to thrive, Feaster said, and it seems to be part of the bedrock in Bedford County.

“Access to four seasons of wild outdoors in a beautiful part of the country that’s so underrated is one of the benefits of this area that sometimes goes overlooked or taken for granted,” she said.

When it comes down to what makes a difference in business success, Feaster said it comes down to priorities.

“My priorities were different when I was younger,” she said. “I experienced loss professionally and personally in the Collective MKT fire, and the business was a huge creative expression of individuality and doing something on my own.”

But it was also a learning experience.

“It taught me that if you’re going to go into something, you have to go all in as a passion project,” Feaster said. “The biggest thing is you’ve got to believe in it first, then others around you will want to support you, and I attribute anything anyone would consider success to the support of my immediate and very supportive family. Whatever’s next, I want to devote all of me to that.”