By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition is supporting the future business leaders of the state.
The semifinal round of the 2012-13 competition, which is funded by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics, took place Nov. 13 at the Robert H. Mollohan Research Center in Fairmont’s I-79 Technology Park.
During this round, 20 teams — 10 in the Lifestyle and Innovation category and 10 in the Hospitality and Tourism category — gave two-minute elevator pitches for their business plans in front of a panel of 20 judges.
The competition was started 10 years ago within the WVU College of Business and Economics’ Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as a WVU-only initiative. In 2006, the contest went statewide and opened up to full-time students at all four-year colleges and universities across West Virginia.
The statewide competition, now in its seventh year, always kicks off in August as soon as the school year begins. Sept. 28 was the deadline to submit a business summary of no more than five pages for the first round.
A total of 141 business plans — 51 in the Hospitality and Tourism category and 90 in the Lifestyle and Innovation category — came from 11 schools, which was the largest participation in the history of the competition.
The entries were judged by 60 individuals who work in private industry and academia around the country, and the top 10 teams in each category were chosen to advance in the competition.
Teams from Concord University, Glenville State College, Marshall University, Shepherd University and West Virginia University competed last week in the second round, which was hosted by Fairmont State University.
“While we’re here to talk about business plans and details and business ideas, what we’re really here to talk about today is dreams for our future business leaders for the state of West Virginia,” said Steve Cutright, director of WVU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and faculty professor in the Department of Management and Industrial Relations.
The teams in the Lifestyle and Innovation category gave their elevator pitches first.
Casey Morgan Tibolet from WVU spoke about Crown Pointe Outfitters, which lets customers sell and purchase affordable, high-quality, pre-owned clothing for horses in shows. Rachael Fetty and Caleb Greathouse, students at Glenville State, presented their concept for EZ Reader, a new device for reading electronic voting ballots. Marshal student Stephen T. Bishop’s Temporalis Games is a new board game with a more social aspect.
Presentations were also made by Ben Clark and Joseph Tennant of WVU for C&T Heat Seeker Technologies; Thomas Clark and Codi Osborne of WVU for ConeniaCase; Janie Beale of WVU for Easy Feeder; Thomas Schenkel of WVU for Holy Cow Livestock Sales; Charles R. Cline of WVU for Precision Tools; Randi Dove of WVU for Stirrup Bands; and Kelsey Delaplaine, Hannah Plaugher and Matt Przybysz of WVU for Techquine Inc.
The teams in the Hospitality and Tourism category next offered their elevator pitches to the audience.
Concord student Robbie Parker explained his idea for Planet, a new restaurant in Charleston that uses organic and local products, is community-oriented and offers entertainment. Stephanie Crum and Joe Bender from Shepherd told the crowd about Wisteria Gardens, an event venue that provides planning, catering and transportation for special occasions.
The following teams also pitched their ideas: Joshua Ramsey and Preston L. Veal of Glenville State for Delivery 2U; Eric Watkins of WVU for Dub V Safe Ride; Ruben Delgado Powell of Shepherd for Free Range Goodness; Andrea Haymond of Shepherd for Ivory Lace; Gaylynn Johnson of WVU for Mountain State Hydroponics; Sam Frazier of Marshall for Tacos Nocturnos; Steve Neff and Corey Hinterer of WVU for Two Guys and a Pig; and Mitch Wagoner of WVU for Wagoner Shrimp Farm.
“There was a lot of good business concepts here, and it looks like the innovation level has risen tremendously over the last couple years,” Cutright said.
Following the elevator pitches, the teams went through individual interviews with the judges, who asked them about their total business concept and plans for their operations and sustainability, he said. The teams also submitted a seven-page feasibility study.
After determining the aggregate scores and checking to make sure the students meet the competition requirements, WVU will announce the 10 finalists — five in each category — on Dec. 3, Cutright said.
Between now and April, the finalists will go through workshops, classroom curricula and professional training seminars to develop a full business plan with a maximum of 20 pages. The teams receive support from coaches and mentors along the way.
The final round of judging will take place April 5-6 at the Erickson Alumni Center in Morgantown. At that time, two teams — one from each category — will be selected as the winners.
Each winning team will receive a $10,000 cash prize to help start their business. They will also get start-up accounting, legal, and media and advertising services and space in the WVU Business Incubator for one year, which is worth more than $6,000.
Andrew White, winner of the 2005 Business Plan Competition, served as the keynote speaker during the round two event.
White, guitar maker and owner of Andrew White Guitars, shared his experiences from the competition and the story of how his business has grown to produce guitars across the globe. He also provided some guidance and inspiration for the students.
Cutright thanked all the administrators, campus champions and judges from around the state who have been involved in the competition.
“We certainly appreciate everybody’s support around the community and the state for these young entrepreneurs,” he said.
Cutright said West Virginia has a great support system. In fact, WVU is trying to implement a commercialization process that it hopes to make available to finalists in the competition in years to come. The goal is to stay connected to these young entrepreneurs and past participants of the competition.
“We are committed to your development,” Cutright said.
He told the teams that the only people who don’t benefit from the competition are those who don’t participate. He urged the students to keep following their dreams and pursuing their goals.
“No matter what the outcome of the competition is, you have embarked on a process that separates you ... and I hope that your dreams and all of your endeavors for your business come true,” Cutright said.
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.