The West Virginia University LaunchLab’s inaugural March Idea Challenge ended on a high note last week, when Political Science major Roark Sizemore and Economics major Courtney Pyatt were awarded first place. The two, both juniors and Honors College students, won for their pitch for Pantry Plus More, a start-up nonprofit company that provides food and personal hygiene items to K-12 students in Monongalia County public schools.
The Idea Challenge opened on March 12 with a call for a 90-second videos explaining ideas for new ventures. Student could submit in any of four categories: Creative Economies, Social Enterprises, Innovative Products and Innovative Services. Head-to-head final rounds were held on March 29, with students presenting live pitches for their start-ups to judges including WVU alumni and former Mountaineer football players Najee Goode (currently with the Philadelphia Eagles), Jonathan Ohliger, Grant Wiley and Scott Rotruck.
Students competed for $3000 in prize money provided by Huntington National Bank. Sizemore and Pyatt, who received $1750 as first-place winners, will use the funds to expand their services to other areas of the state.
“The Idea Challenge was so much more than a competition,” Sizemore said. “Answering questions from the judges helped us to think about our services with more clarity and in new directions.” He also noted that the money associated with their win would go a long way given the Pantry Plus More business model. “Since $1 equals $10 when we purchase our food from the Mountaineer Food Bank, $1,750 becomes $17,500.”
The LaunchLab has already hosted three pitch competitions in the current academic year, but Director Carrie White said that the Idea Challenge was an exciting new format. “We were very happy to encourage, not only for-profit businesses but also non-profit and social enterprises this time” she said. “The experts who served as our judges were extremely impressed with the caliber of our student’s ideas and innovation.”
The finalists for the challenge included Revercity, a social medium app; SleevRx, an innovative technology to prevent drug abuse; JKG Outdoors, an e-commerce platform for outdoor products; How2Food, an app to help solve problems of food deserts for college students; GolfTrax, a GPS tracking device for golf courses; Smart Vision, a computer vision technology that will collect, identify and store road sign inventory; and Hills Hope Performing Arts, an organization that provides performing arts programming for youth.
The LaunchLab anticipates holding its next pitch contest during the Fall 2017 semester.
CONTACT: Carrie White; Director, WVU LaunchLab;