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Shepherd hosting small business competition

By Staff | Nov 21, 2014

West Virginia’s version of the business reality show “Shark Tank,” where wannabe entrepreneurs try to convince established business people to invest in their ideas, comes to Shepherd University on Friday, Nov. 21. Five of the 31 teams that will compete in the semifinals of the ninth annual West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition are from Shepherd University.

Students who are registered full-time in a West Virginia four- or two-year college, including co-op programs, are eligible to compete. This is the first time students from two-year colleges are allowed to participate. The students formed teams of 1-3 members that formulated plans to create a business that will operate in West Virginia. By Oct. 13 the teams submitted a maximum three-page executive summary for the initial round. The categories in the competition are:

Lifestyle and Innovation: products or services that are part of daily life, or new innovations

Hospitality and Tourism: products or services in hospitality, restaurants, hotels, tourism, or related fields

STEM/Technology: engineering, technology, energy, and healthcare

Ten students from each category advanced to the semifinals at Shepherd. Five from each category will be chosen to go to the finals April 10, 2015, at West Virginia University.

A total of 26 teams from Shepherd entered the competition, qualifying the university for a $2,500 prize for having more than 25 entries. The teams that made it to the semifinals are:

Lifestyle and Innovation Category

Raphael Capelli-Chameleon Kids, a children’s language learning system.

Rita Batres-RJT Digital, specialized technology for use with game cameras.

Jill Upson and Trish Sanderson-World Wide Wines, a wine sampling club.

STEM Category

Alex Whalton-No Drift Reality, a virtual reality game development company.

Austin Cunningham-SeeScreen, projection technology for mobile phones.

“This competition is to encourage the undergraduate and graduate students who are in West Virginia to stay in West Virginia and create businesses here, to grow our economy, to support our development and to retain them rather than losing them to other areas,” said Dr. Caroline Glackin, Edward L. Snyder Chair in business administration.

Students who compete in the semifinal round have to create a 5-7 page feasibility analysis of their proposed business by Nov. 14. On Nov. 21 they will present a two-minute pitch and must be prepared for an interview by the judges.

The 15 winners at the semifinals will receive a business coach and $1,000 toward preparing a business plan for the finals. They will also have the opportunity to take an online business course and attend a business bootcamp in early February at WVU.

Glackin said the annual competition has encouraged students to come up with some pretty innovative ideas.

“The businesses will range anywhere from an invention to keep your feet in the stirrups for horseback riders, to hydroponic growing, to new patentable technologies,” she said. “They’re really all over the place. The key is that the judges need to see that the student has the commitment and capacity and will actually start the business because the $10,000 is issued once you meet certain milestones.

“I think it’s an awesome program,” Glackin said. “I would love to see the prizes get bigger because for some of these companies $10,000 is great, but it’s not enough to get them where they want to be. But it is an opportunity to try something out and present it to an audience. Even the competitors who don’t win get in front of funders and a lot of times that’s more important than winning.”

Shepherd has not had a grand prize winner so far, but Glackin said in the past four years four teams from the university have made it to the finals. And whether they take the grand prize or not, Glackin believes any student who participates comes away a winner.

“Some of the students who competed are starting businesses and they aren’t necessarily the ones they competed with,” she said. “There is something about making presentations in front of 150 people and needing the poise to sit down in front of 10 different judges, anywhere from the director of the Small Business Administration for the state, to the director of small business development, to investors, that just brings maturity to the students. So I think the competition really builds self-confidence.”

The guest speaker at the luncheon is Isabella Yosuico, founding president of MightyTykes, based in Berkeley Springs. MightyTykes designs and sells gear for special needs children.

The West Virginia Collegiate Business Plan Competition is hosted by the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics and is managed by the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For more information, contact Glackin at cglackin@shepherd.edu or visit www.be.wvu.edu/bpc.