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Field of 10 finalists named in state’s collegiate business plan competition

Two categories of five teams still have their eyes on the prize

The field of 10 finalists in two categories of competition has been named, as the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition has entered its final stage. A panel of judges comprised of members of the statewide business community has chosen five finalists in each of two categories, as the 10 teams look to capture two $10,000 prizes.

While the new Hospitality & Tourism category is dominated by teams from West Virginia University, the Lifestyle & Innovation category is comprised of five finalist teams from four different colleges and universities in West Virginia. Those finalists hail from the University of Charleston, Potomac State College of West Virginia University, Shepherd University and West Virginia University. All five Hospitality & Tourism finalists are from WVU, a category that saw 65 percent of its entries from that school.

This year's competition saw a record 115 entries, an increase of 17 percent over last year and the most since the competition went statewide in 2006.

"The statewide panel of judges narrowed the field from 20 to 10 on November 17 at the I-79 Technology Park Research Center in Fairmont," said Mindy Walls, Director of the West Virginia University Entrepreneurship Center, which hosts the competition. "The feedback from the judges tells us two things: that the business plans submitted are very good and that the competition is very tight."

Each of the 10 finalists will receive a $1,000 stipend in February to help defray costs they incur in the development of their business plans. The competition awards a $10,000 prize for the winner in each category, as well as a prize package that includes legal services, accounting services, and either virtual or physical office space in the West Virginia University Business Incubator. The overall value of the services package is $6,600. The two winners will be announced in April.

Teams were judged last month in an "elevator pitch" and interview competition, and had opportunities to network with business leaders from across the region. Walls said opportunities teams get, such as those during the last phase of judging, continue to breed enthusiasm in entrepreneurship and for the competition.

"There is a very noticeable and growing groundswell of support in the Business Plan Competition," said Walls. "Student teams are taking advantage of opportunities to put their best ideas down on paper. As the competition progresses, these teams realize their ideas have a real shot at becoming viable businesses in West Virginia. That breeds a lot of excitement."

Go to www.be.wvu.edu/bpc for further information on the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition.