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Investing in the future: West Virginia college students grow into entrepreneurs at 15th annual WV Statewide Business Plan Competition

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The 15th annual West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition left no doubt that West Virginia’s future is bright and brimming with entrepreneurial talent.

Hosted annually by the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University, the competition affords college students from around the state with the opportunity to make a business idea come to life with the support of state institutions of higher education and seasoned business professionals from around the country.

Over 200 participant teams entered this year’s competition, which was narrowed down to 10 from West Virginia State University, University of Charleston, West Virginia University, Concord University, Shepherd University and Marshall University who competed for funding as part of the finals. The final competition was held virtually on Friday, April 16.

WVU agribusiness management majors Ryan Snyder and Maddie Hendley received a private investment of $5,000 in this year’s contest to be used to grow their business, Mountain Country Farms.

Snyder and Hendley’s innovative idea was born from the pandemic. They discovered that local farmers had to send their cattle and swine to out-of-state processing plants; however, because of COVID outbreaks at multiple plants, a process that already took six months for farmers had more than doubled to over a year.

The absence of such a facility is due in large part to the startup cost, so the funding – provided by Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn’s ZinnStarter Fund—will provide a helpful boost to Mountain Country Farms.

“This funding will help us tremendously,” Snyder said. “We can use it to pay for any fees and costs we have when registering our business with state, as well as any Department of Agriculture or USDA fees. We can also use it to engage marketing groups and consultants, and increase our awareness with advertising and promotional materials.”

All 10 finalists received $1,000 towards their projects with another $20,000 of at-large money at stake in the final round.

Other teams/funding awards included: 

  • Charmco Custom Rods, a custom fishing rod startup founded by West Virginia State business management major Caleb Currence ($5,000). 
  • Still City Strings, an electric violin manufacturer founded by WVU industrial engineering major Andrew Percy ($3,000).
  • Wireless Telemetry, a brand of wireless heart monitors invented by University of Charleston pre-physician assistant major Sarah Ball ($2,250).
  • The Easy Leash, a braked dog leash invented by WVU industrial engineering major Anthony Garber ($2,250). 
  • PetRecord, a nano-chip system for tracking pet health records invented by WVU animal and nutritional sciences major Emma Adams ($1,500).
  • Joe 2 Go, a coffee concentrate invented by WVU management major Mackenzie Halliday and biochemistry major Zach Swartz ($1,000).
  • Divi, a system to address the need for small loans for short periods of time through peer-to-peer lending, invented by WVU Finance majors Alex Cappadona and Akshay Suresh ($1,000).
  • Retro Rollers, a roller skating rink with an innovative 21st century design, by Marshall University management major Reggie McIver ($1,000).
  • Wildflower, a café that will provide unique food and beverages while caring for the environment in the eastern panhandle, by Shepherd University business administration major Michelle Lemus ($1,000).

“This year the students competed 100% online through all rounds of competition,” said Tara St. Clair, director of operations for the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I’m very proud of the quality of work they produced and their ability to keep momentum going in a virtual environment.”

The finalists pitched their ideas to a panel of 10 judges – all entrepreneurs with West Virginia ties. Finalist teams had the option to utilize coaching to refine their pitches. 

While the competition has ended, the work is not complete for any of these student entrepreneurs, who will continue to have access with coaching as they look to expand their new businesses.

“This is just one stop on the trail for these students,” St. Clair said. “We want them to continue to engage with WVU and the Chambers College innovation ecosystem.”

They’ll be able to continue their entrepreneurial journeys through Vantage Ventures, a pipeline of mentors, executives and funding networks housed in the Chambers College designed to help entrepreneurs who are ready to take their idea to market.



CONTACT: Heather Richardson

Assistant Dean for Communications, Engagement and Impact
WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.