Beckley, W.Va. (April 3, 2023) – Six regional entrepreneurs and two teams of West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) students shared and enthusiastically promoted their business ideas March 30 with a panel of judges and a live audience at the Pitch Southern West Virginia Business Idea Competition on the WVU Tech campus. The judges and attendees selected the winners, who received strategic feedback and encouragement, as well as prize money from the event sponsors to boost their success.
The West Virginia Hive, in partnership with the WVU Tech Launch Lab, coordinated the competition and organized the event.
Diana Woods, director of the WVU Tech Launch Lab and coordinator of the event, said the following entrepreneurs/business owners and student entrepreneurs were determined to have the best business ideas:
First Place – $2,250 to Hinton Outfitters, pitched by Lee Ann Goins of Hinton
Second Place – $1,250 to Paws N Pals, pitched by Corey Lacy of Beckley
Third Place – $750 to Vinyl Tracks LLC, pitched by Clint Blunt of Beckley
Student Winner – $1,000 to WVU Tech Entrepreneurship Club for Cultural Lounge, pitched by Zack Reid and Leonor Ferreira
Prize winnings provided by private contributors to the West Virginia Hive will be used to advance the winners’ businesses or ideas. Planned spending by the four winners includes purchases of furnishings and equipment, lease and opening costs, signage, marketing and production.
Judy Moore, executive director of the West Virginia Hive and deputy director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, said “the presenters were outstanding and learned a great deal through this experience — from formulating their business idea to fleshing it out for a pitch before a live audience and our expert judges. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to our community sponsors for providing the generous cash prizes. They came out in full force – so much so we were able to increase the planned amounts for entrepreneurs by $250 for each award level.”
Sponsors supporting the business idea pitch competition and providing all funding for the awards include:
- Gold Level sponsor: United Bank
- Silver Level sponsor: Chase and Ashley Barton of Stephens Auto and WV Auto Buyers
- Bronze Level sponsors: City National Bank, Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce Special Student Award sponsor: Fayette County National Bank
Judges who heard the pitches and offered questions included:
- Ryan Thorn, State Director for West Virginia, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
- Chris Vaught, President and CEO, Vaught, Inc.; entrepreneur and founder of six innovative West Virginia companies, and Vice Chairman of the WV Hive Board
- Kyung Moon Kim, D.B.A., Associate Professor, Department of Accounting and Management, WVU Tech
- Teresa Cook, Sales and Service Representative, United Bank
Those in attendance also had the opportunity to vote for their favorite pitch in each group.
Judges in the first round who selected the entrepreneurs and student groups who would pitch their business ideas March 30 included:
- Peyton Ballard, Founder and CEO, Ballard Consulting Group
- Zack Statler, Market President, United Bank
- Mike Fulton, Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy, Asher Agency
Woods said the business idea competition was limited to entrepreneurs of new start-ups and businesses in operation for less than three years. Eligibility was limited to residents or businesses located in Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Monroe, Mercer, Wyoming, McDowell, Logan, and Mingo Counties, along with WVU Tech students, faculty and staff.
The WV Hive is the entrepreneurship program of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and the administrator of the Country Roads Angel Network. Its 13-county service area includes Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Nicholas, Webster, Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Monroe, Mercer, Wyoming, McDowell, Logan, and Mingo counties. More information about the WV Hive can be found at https://wvhive.com/
WVU Tech has been training leaders for more than 125 years and offers 30 academic programs, including 9 ABET-accredited engineering programs. Ranked in the top 15% of earning potential in the country by PayScale and among the best undergraduate engineering programs in the nation by US News and World Report, WVU Tech has a rich history of academic excellence.