WV Hive, WVU Tech Launch Lab Foster Expanding Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Beckley, W.Va. (October 13, 2023) – Five community entrepreneurs and three teams of West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) students presented their business ideas last night before an expert 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, consulting and technical assistance, and prize money to help bring their ideas into reality.
The West Virginia Hive, in partnership with the WVU Tech Launch Lab, conducted the competition.
Diana Woods, director of the WVU Tech Launch Lab and coordinator of the event, said the following entrepreneurs/business owners and student entrepreneurs were selected as having the best business ideas of the competition:
1st place Community Division award of $2,250 cash and $2,500 in Technical Assistance funds: Trey Swartz – Southern Pillar Jeweler from Fayette County
2nd place Community Division award of $1,000 cash and $1,500 in Technical Assistance funds: Peter S. Corum – SEE Appalachia LLC from McDowell County
3rd place Community Division award of $500 cash and $750 in Technical Assistance funds: Matthew Moore – Regions, LLC from Raleigh County
1st place Student Division award of $1,000 Cash, $2,500 in Technical Assistance funds, and Audience Favorite for another $250: Ellen Groves & Jacob Odell – Sanctum Tor Farm
2nd place Student Division award of $1,500 in Technical Assistance funds: WVU Tech Entrepreneurship Club
3rd place Student Division award of $750 in Technical Assistance funds: Ana Noguera and Juan Martinez
Cash prizes provided by private donations from sponsors to the West Virginia Hive will be used to advance the winners’ business ideas. United Bank and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) — gold sponsors — and Stephens Auto and WV Auto Buyers — silver sponsor — donated the cash prizes. Additional awards of technical assistance funds are provided by the WV Hive and are made possible through U.S. Small Business Administration grant funding.
Judy Moore, executive director of the West Virginia Hive and deputy director of NRGRDA, said, “The presenters were outstanding and learned a great deal through this experience — from formulating their business ideas to building them out for a pitch before a live audience and our expert judges. We’d like to thank our community sponsors for providing the generous cash prizes, which are deeply appreciated by our winners. Our Pitch Southern West Virginia Business Idea competition encourages innovation and is a big part of our efforts to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in southern West Virginia.”
Judges for the evening’s competition included:
· Ryan Thorn, State Director, West Virginia, Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
· Dr. Scott Fleming, Dean, College of Business, Humanities and Social Sciences, WVU Tech
· Connor Golden, Business Banking Portfolio Manager, United Bank
· Christopher R. Vaught, President and CEO, Vaught, Inc.
Those in attendance also had the opportunity to vote for their favorite pitch.
Judges in the first round who selected the entrepreneurs and student groups who would pitch their business ideas at the competition included:
· Dr. Jo Harris, President Emeritus of BridgeValley Community and Technical College
· Peyton Ballard, Founder and CEO, Ballard Consulting Group
· 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.
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The WV Hive is the entrepreneurship program of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. More information about the WV Hive can be found at wvhive.com.
WVU Tech has been training leaders for more than 125 years. Ranked in the top 15% of earning potential in the country by PayScale and #1 in West Virginia for return on investment, WVU Tech has a reputation for producing career-ready leaders in the engineering, humanities, business and health care industries. More information is available at wvutech.edu.