West Virginia University and, specifically, the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, won all three categories in the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, which granted $10,000 first prize awards to three students to help make a business idea come to life.

Jessica Elliot, RenaSnacks, Lifestyle & Innovation category; Gaylynn Johnson, Mountain State Hydroponics, Hospitality & Tourism category; and Harold Vass and Alan Davis, Weld Safe Technologies, STEM category (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), took home the first place for their respective categories in the competition, which lasted nearly the entire academic year and included a record field of 235 entries, on April 4.

The event culminated in a competition that saw participation from 11 West Virginia colleges and universities. The record number of entries included 123 entries in the Lifestyle & Innovation category; 88 entries in the Hospitality & Tourism category; and 24 entries in the STEM category, a new division in this year’s competition. The event is hosted by the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, located in the WVU College of Business and Economics.

“I believe this is the most competitive event to date,” said Steven Cutright, director of the BrickStreet Center. “It has been our goal to make the competition better for the participants every year, and the competitiveness demonstrated this year really showed that. We’re pleased with the progress and participation, and we’re already looking forward to an even better event next year.”

RenaSnacks is a West Virginia startup company that will produce healthy snacks for those who have special dietary requirements due to renal failure. The line of snack foods will feature ingredients low in phosphorus and sodium, meeting the nutritional requirements of a person with kidney failure.

Mountain State Hydroponics, a start-up venture located in the Mid-Ohio Valley region of West Virginia, specializes in the year-round production of high quality vegetables, herbs and fruits. This venture will utilize an innovative growing method, hydroponics, where produce is grown without soil, relying instead on mineral nutrients.

Weld Safe Technologies is designing a gas sensor device that increases worker safety in welding, with the intent of patenting, prototyping and licensing. Its first product will constantly monitor and measure lower explosive limits of volatile gasses present in the environment along with a number of different harmful gases that might be present in the air, all related to the welding process.

In addition to a $10,000 cash prize, winners will also receive a prize package worth more than $5,000, including legal, marketing and accounting services, as well as incubator space.

“There is no doubt as to the value of the Collegiate Business Plan Competition to the state of West Virginia,” said Jose “Zito” Sartarelli, Milan Puskar Dean, WVU College of Business and Economics. “We have invested in and hosted this competition for eight years because we believe it is a valuable platform for business ideas from college students statewide. These competing teams learn a great deal throughout the competition, and gather knowledge and tools they can carry with them the rest of their lives. We will continue to work hard to involve all of West Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities because the more lives we touch with this competition, the more it benefits our state.”

Each category featured five finalists who made their final presentations to the panel of judges April 4 before winners were announced that evening. Bluefield State College, Glenville State College, Marshall University, Shepherd University and West Virginia University all had teams participating in the final round.

Greg Burton, president and CEO of BrickStreet Insurance, had high praise for the competition and the competitors. The BrickStreet Foundation presented WVU’s business school with a $3 million gift last year, part of which supports the collegiate business plan competition, as well as the new high school business plan competition.

“The Collegiate Business Plan Competition showed us some fantastic business ideas, and I really think some of these will come to life,” Burton said. “This competition provides a great environment for these ideas to become reality.”

The West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, now in its eighth year, has helped create 33 businesses in seven years: 16 competition winners and 17 competition non-winners. The competition is also supported by BB&T, West Virginia SBDC, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship Clinic and the BrickStreet Center.

For further information on the West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition or the WVU College of Business and Economics, please visit be.wvu.edu/bpc.



CONTACT: Steven Cutright, WVU BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
304.293.7861, Steven.Cutright@mail.wvu.edu

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