The Times West Virginian

December 15, 2013

Finalists set for West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — The finalists are moving ahead in the annual West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

The 15 finalists in the 2013-2014 contest were announced Dec. 6 following round two of the competition, which was held Nov. 22, at Marshall University in Huntington.

The statewide contest, in its eighth year, is hosted and funded by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics’ BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The competition includes three categories: Lifestyle and Innovation, Hospitality and Tourism, and STEM/Technology, which is new this year. The new category brought the areas of energy, health care, technology and engineering into the contest for the first time.

At the end of the competition, one winner in each category will receive $10,000.

For two years, director Steve Cutright and office administrator Tara St. Clair of the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship have been involved in running the competition, which is open to any full-time students from the state’s 19 four-year colleges and universities. The competition continues to grow and becomes more popular each year.

“Now that we understand the operation, we’re able to spend more time in marketing awareness and creating the excitement for the students to get involved in an earlier stage in the process,” Cutright said.

In 2011, a total of 114 executive summaries of business concepts were received at the start of the competition, which was a record at the time, and last year the submissions went up to 141, he said.

In October of this year, 235 teams from 11 colleges and universities across the state submitted entries. This shows the largest participation in the

history of the competition, and reflects an 100 percent increase in entries over the past two years, Cutright said.

He said 30 teams — 10 in each category — were selected to advance to the semifinal round at Marshall University. During this round, the students submitted a feasibility study, gave a two-minute elevator pitch, and had a face-to-face interview with judges.

About 150 people, including the students, judges, and dignitaries and invited guests, attended the event in November. As the guest speaker, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito gave a very inspiring talk and was very well received by the participants, Cutright said.

He commented that the semifinals went great, and he was very pleased with the quality of the results and all the participation throughout the state.

Now, the 15 remaining teams — five in each category — that were chosen to continue in the competition will prepare for the final round in April. Those finalists are from WVU, Marshall, Bluefield State College, Glenville State College and Shepherd University.

In the Lifestyle and Innovation category, the top five are de Garmeaux Motors from WVU, Ears Up! from WVU, Morrow Farm Feeding from WVU, Precious Possessions Day Care from Bluefield and RenaSnacks from WVU.

The finalists in the Hospitality and Tourism category include Gil’s Pit Beef from Glenville, Innovative Commercial Cooking from WVU, Mountainstate Hydroponics from WVU, Sweet Rolls from WVU and Zombie Survival Institute from Shepherd.

The following teams are the finalists in the STEM/Technology category: Coventina Well Services from WVU, LAX Stringtech from WVU, Sandstorm Interactive Arts from Marshall, VASCULOC LLC from WVU and Weld Safe Technologies from WVU.

Next, these teams will enter into the academic portion of the competition, where they will learn all the attributes to preparing a business plan and starting a business, Cutright said.

“This is the fun part of the year when we get to work with the finalists,” he said.

All the finalists will participate in the online Entrepreneurship 489 class, and will receive three credit hours for participating in the course. The class, which is free to the students, includes five different modules: Business plan development, finance, legal, business startup and business research, Cutright said.

Then on Feb. 8, the students will attend an intensive, one-day business development workshop at WVU. Morris Morrison, a Fairmont native, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, will be the guest speaker for the seminar.

The WVU BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the process of assigning business coaches, who will work with the teams up until the final round in April. The students are matched with people in the industry who have business knowledge of their area of interest, Cutright said.

He said people across the state have volunteered to assist the students and have been wonderful.

The final round will take place on Friday, April 4, at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, St. Clair said. While the finals have traditionally taken place over two days, the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship decided to hold a one-day event this year.

She said each team will submit its 20-page business plan, and will be given 15 minutes for the final presentation and 10 minutes for a question-and-answer session with the judges. The presentations for the three categories will go on simultaneously in different rooms.

After the judges deliberate on the winners, a reunion will be held for all the past finalists of the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition. This is a chance for the previous finalists to talk about what they are doing now and how the competition has impacted them. For more information, contact St. Clair at 304-293-7221.

A dinner will then take place, followed by the announcement of this year’s three award winners, St. Clair said. Each winner will receive a $10,000 cash startup prize, plus legal assistance through the WVU College of Law and accounting assistance through Cava and Banko accounting firm in Bridgeport.

Cutright said everyone who participates in the competition benefits from their experience. It’s not just about winning; it’s also about going through the process.

They gain knowledge of how to evaluate and convert opportunities into operating businesses, he said. The business plan competition gives students an experiential learning component where they can apply what they have learned through their classes.

In the last eight years, 33 businesses have been started out of this competition. Sixteen of those businesses came out of winning teams and 17 were from teams that didn’t win, which shows there’s an equal chance for all those involved to start a business.

For more information on the competition, visit be.wvu.edu/bpc.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.