Patrick & Henry Community College student Sara Wall wins $1,000 to launch an eco-friendly products store in Martinsville, Va.

Sara Wall of Martinsville, Va. earned 1st place and a $1,000 prize at the second annual RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition hosted on Thursday, March 23, 2023 at Hampden-Sydney College’s Crawley Forum in Farmville, Va.

Wall was among seven teams, including a total of 12 student entrepreneurs, who presented a business pitch to a panel of judges and a live audience. The teams came from four different institutions of higher education in Southern Virginia, including Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC), Averett University, Hampden-Sydney College, and Longwood University. 

Sara Wall business pitch

Wall was one of three teams to earn a cash prize. Second place was a tie between Longwood University student Dusten Wood of Chatham, Va., and Longwood University student Danielle Whittington of the DC area. Wood will use his $750 prize fund winnings to continue prototype development and playtesting of his strategy board game designed to enhance social skills. Whittington will use her $750 in prize funds to continue developing her mobile application designed to be an all-in-one mental health resource for college students.

Dusten Wood business pitch<br />
Danielle Whittington Coping Buddy mental health app

Additional competitors included Jack Whelahan of Hampden-Sydney College, who pitched his jewelry brand; Longwood University students Caitlin Wiley, Jacob Poteat, and John Eddy, who pitched their food waste prevention mobile app; Longwood University student Olivia Hopkins, who pitched her non-profit catering concept; and Christopher Byrd, Andrew Rabon, Blake Frost, and Brayden Fair of Averett University, who pitched their water quality business, “What’s Up Water.” 

Jack business pitch Altevo<br />
Olivia Hopkins catering for veterans business pitch<br />
Food waste prevention app business pitch<br />
Averett University What's Up Water pitch
Judges Panel for the 2023 RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition

The panel of judges included Anne Tyler Paulek of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and High Bridge Stables (Farmville, Va.); Logan Ryan of Long & Foster Real Estate (Richmond, Va.); Ilsa Loeser of Letterpress Communications (Farmville, Va.); Steve Creedle of Benchmark Community Bank (Kenbridge, Va.); and Varun Sadana of The Launch Place (based in Danville, Va).

The RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition is open to college students of all backgrounds, skills, interests and majors. To participate, students form teams, identify the problem they want to solve, and spend six months crafting their business plan and pitch with support from faculty mentors. 

Winners of the inaugural 2022 RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition included five teams from five schools: Project Connect (Averett University), The Ville (Longwood University), Fail Harder Fitness (Hampden-Sydney College), BFX Studios (Patrick & Henry Community College) and You’re Not Alone (Danville Community College).  

The RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition is one of several programs organized by RISE Collaborative that provides access to capital through cash prizes, mentorship, and networking opportunities. The 2023 RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition Sponsors include Benchmark Community Bank, American National Bank & Trust, First Citizens Bank, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, Long & Foster Real Estate of South Boston, Va., Letterpress Communications, and the SOVA Innovation Hub. Information about sponsoring future RISE Collaborative events is online at

RISE Collaborative will continue its pitch competition series on Tuesday, March 28, with the RISE Business Pitch Competition at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s (SVHEC) Innovation Center in South Boston, Va. This event will feature 15 aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses of all ages and will award more than $15,000 in prize money. Prize categories include the start-up category for new businesses, the growth category for existing businesses, and the recently announced Female Founder’s Fund for Women-Owned Businesses. For more information, visit