RISE Collaborative Hosts Inaugural Collegiate Business Plan Competition Pitch Event
College students throughout Southern Virginia presented their business ideas for a chance at funding for their startups
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2022
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. – RISE Collaborative hosted the inaugural RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition (CBPC) Pitch Event on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at the SOVA Innovation Hub in South Boston, Va. The Pitch Event included presentations from five teams of entrepreneurially-minded college students from five different schools across the Southern Virginia region.
The RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition application opened in Fall 2021 and offered a series of workshops and milestones for students to complete between January and April. Students from all five schools were offered access to consulting from the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and coaching from college faculty throughout the competition. Most of the student teams had been working on their business concepts prior to the competition. Through the competition, students were challenged to find mentors, conduct customer interviews, research competitors and alternative solutions, and communicate the value of their service or product. Students also learned how to identify startup costs, variable costs, and fixed costs to understand the revenue potential of their businesses.
Their efforts culminated at the CBPC Pitch Event, where they had five minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, with time afterward for questions from both the judges and the audience. The judging panel included Steve Creedle of Benchmark Community Bank, Vandy Jones of the Longwood SBDC, Katherine Anne Beale of the Longwood SBDC, and Morgan Clark, founder of Epstein Clark Consulting. The Pitch Event began with Adam Zirkle, who founded AZ Performance Technologies in Halifax County, sharing his startup and scaleup story with the students, faculty, and staff who gathered at the SOVA Innovation Hub. The Pitch Event ended with time for networking and enjoying catering by Southern Belle Food Truck, an SBDC client that traveled from Danville to South Boston for this event.
First Place – Averett University Project Connect
First Place was awarded to Project Connect (Averett University). Project Connect is a software application that will improve communication among students at specific college campuses, designed by a group of eight Averett University students. LLeyton Barber, Cory Dellis, Gino Harris, Maleek Henderson, Lydie Kodio, Lotta Mattila, Morgan McKinney, and Kaniyah Moore comprised the Project Connect team.
Second Place – Longwood University The Ville and Hampden-Sydney College Fail Harder Fitness
Second Place was a tie between The Ville (Longwood University) and Fail Harder Fitness (Hampden-Sydney College).
The Ville is a team of three Longwood University Cormier Honors College students, Emily Harwood, Grace McCain, and Margaret Taylor, who are developing a software application to help prevent domestic abuse, especially in rural areas.
Fail Harder Fitness is a unique rewards-driven fitness application co-founded by Hampden-Sydney College (HSC) students Noah Selfe and Harrison Taylor, who are hoping to use their respective networks to find gym partners in Virginia and Tennessee to launch their app later this year.
Third Place – P&HCC BFX Studios and DCC YNA
Third Place was a tie between BFX Studios (Patrick & Henry Community College) and YNA (Danville Community College).
BFX Studios is the innovative mobile beauty business pitched by Giselle Lopez of Martinsville, Va., who is a current student at Patrick & Henry Community College. Lopez is already an experienced makeup artist who plans to open BFX Studios later this year.
YNA, which stands for “You’re Not Alone,” is a mental health support brand pitched by Gavin Jordan of Halifax County, Va, a current student at Danville Community College. Jordan has already launched the YNA brand with public speaking engagements, online content creation and first runs of YNA apparel and journals.
An announcement will be forthcoming about the prize funds that will be allocated to each of the teams.
“Given this was the first-ever RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition, I was impressed by the student teams, their business ideas, and the support demonstrated by each school. Each team clearly understood the ingredients and risks of bringing a product or service to meet market demand, and their shared experience here will serve them well in the future. I look forward to next year’s competition and witnessing the growing enthusiasm for entrepreneurship in Southern Virginia,” said Bryan David, Program Director for GO Virginia Region 3.
“These students each have unique life stories and college experiences, and they have entrepreneurship in common. We are honored to host the RISE Collegiate Business Pitch Competition,” said Lauren Mathena, Director of Economic Development and Community Engagement at Mid-Atlantic Broadband (MBC) and the SOVA Innovation Hub.
“Every one of these students and teams brought their A-game to this competition,” said Brandon Hennessey, Director of Research, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation at Longwood University in the Office of Community and Economic Development, which also houses the Longwood Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “It’s outstanding to see how much the students have learned thus far. We are here to support all of the teams as they move forward.”
Carl Bassfield, entrepreneur and owner of InDepth Productions based in Blackstone, Va., is a graduate of the RISE Collaborative CO.STARTERS Core programs. He attended the Pitch Event to provide professional photography and help welcome students to the RISE Collaborative.
“It was just a year ago I too was poised, yet nervous, and ready to give my pitch, the pitch that could change it all for my business. Being behind the lens watching the students rehearse and polish off their pitches, I knew the feeling.” said Bassfield. “Those teams, and their ideas, were beyond great and more than I expected. To watch them, from different schools and backgrounds, mingle brought me comfort and hope for the future. A future where more brilliant minds, especially those unknown in Southern Virginia, can come together, advance and use tech, and grow businesses that outperform the rest.”
About the Competition
The RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition is anticipated to be an annual event that brings together students from community colleges, four-year universities, and workforce training programs.
Planning for the inaugural RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition began in early 2021, when the SOVA Innovation Hub invited faculty and staff from Longwood University, Hampden-Sydney College, and Averett University to begin meeting on a recurring basis to uncover opportunities to link and leverage assets with the shared goal of regional collaboration.
Along the way, this workgroup became the RISE Collaborative Higher Ed Workgroup and grew to include representatives from the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and Patrick & Henry Community College.
“After a few conversations, we decided that a region-wide pitch competition could be a great way to introduce students to entrepreneurship and to each other,” said Jacob Dolence, entrepreneurship faculty at Longwood University. “Next year we are excited to have more teams, and hopefully there will be teams with students from different universities and colleges working together.”
Prize funds for this and other RISE Collaborative pitch competitions are made possible by sponsorship from Benchmark Community Bank and American National Bank & Trust. Program support for the RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition is thanks to the faculty and staff from participating schools, the SOVA Innovation Hub, and the Longwood SBDC. RISE Collaborative is a regional entrepreneurship ecosystem development initiative serving Southern Virginia, funded in part by GO Virginia.
About RISE Collaborative
RISE Collaborative is the entrepreneurship ecosystem building initiative serving Southern Virginia. The “ecosystem” refers to the complex adaptive systems that surround, support, and sometimes challenge entrepreneurs. RISE Collaborative is building a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs in Southern Virginia with starting, growing, and scaling their businesses.
RISE Collaborative offers ongoing, free access to entrepreneurship training and events. Visit https://sovarise.com or call the SOVA Innovation Hub at (434) 570-1305 for more information.
Additional information and interviews with students can be coordinated through the faculty and staff listed below. Thank you in advance for helping to celebrate the future of entrepreneurship in our region.
- SOVA Innovation Hub: Lauren Mathena – email@example.com (434) 250-1749
- Longwood University: Jacob Dolence – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Longwood University: Brandon Hennessy – email@example.com
- Longwood SBDC – Martinsville: Michael Scales – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Patrick & Henry Community College: Rhonda Hodges – email@example.com
- Hampden-Syndey College: Dr. Andrew King firstname.lastname@example.org
- Averett University: Dr. Peggy Wright email@example.com
- GO Virginia Region 3: Bryan David Bryan.firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Connect (Averett University)
Project Connect is a software application that will improve communication among students at specific college campuses. The student team was mentored by serial entrepreneur and Averett alumnus John Vigouroux, Chief Entrepreneurship & Innovation Officer, and Dr. Peggy Wright, Business Department Chair at Averett University, along with Jacob Dolence, entrepreneurship faculty at Longwood University. In anticipation of the RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition, Averett University – having recently announced its intentions to launch an Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center – decided to add a new course to its schedule for Fall 2021 that would be a year-long independent study to provide course credit and faculty support for students interested in competing in the competition. The eight students who joined formed one team, which aligns with Averett University Athletics’ signature “One Team” motto. These eight students are now developing a college campus software as service (SAAS) company, Project Connect, with plans to utilize Averett University itself as the app’s beta customer and create an internship for current students. One of the student co-founders has decided to attend graduate school at Averett and will be a graduate assistant next fall, helping to scale the entrepreneurship program at Averett. (Read more: https://www.averett.edu/about-us/news-events/team-of-averett-university-student-entrepreneurs-win-collegiate-business-pitch-competition/)
Team members include LLeyton Barber, Cory Dellis, Gino Harris, Maleek Henderson, Lydie Kodio, Lotta Mattila, Morgan McKinney, and Kaniyah Moore.
The Ville (Longwood University)
The Ville is a software application in development by a team of three students in the Longwood University Cormier Honors College who each have a different major. In Fall 2021, these students took Dolence’s Citizen 110 Honors College course that challenged them to develop a social venture. They identified the opportunity to help prevent domestic abuse, especially in rural areas. With the help of local entrepreneur Rhett Weiss, they developed the idea even further. The team plans to continue working on its software application while completing the interdisciplinary Civitae curriculum at Longwood. Faculty at Longwood and at nearby Hampden-Sydney College (HSC) have collaborated to create a unique and innovative entrepreneurship curriculum .
Team members include Emily Harwood, Grace McCain, and Margaret Taylor.
Fail Harder Fitness (Hampden-Sydney College)
Fail Harder Fitness is a unique rewards-driven fitness application co-founded by Hampden-Sydney College (HSC) students Noah Selfe of Richmond, Va., and Harrison Taylor of Nashville, Tenn., who are hoping to use their respective networks to find gym partners in both states to launch their app later this year. Taylor and Selfe have previously taken business and entrepreneurship courses at HSC, which is one of only two remaining all-male colleges in the country. At HSC, students have access to the Flemming Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, led by Dr. Andrew King, who previously was an assistant director at the UVA Darden School of Business. The Flemming Center will also host a pitch competition for HSC students in Farmville on Saturday, April 30, 2022.
Team members include Noah Selfe and Harrison Taylor.
YNA (Danville Community College)
YNA, which stands for “You’re Not Alone,” is the mental health support brand pitched by Gavin Jordan of Halifax County, Va. Jordan has already launched the YNA brand with public speaking engagements, online content creation and first runs of YNA apparel and journals. All YNA content is designed to bring encouragement to young people struggling with mental health. Jordan is set to graduate from Danville Community College in December 2022 and plans to continue his graphic design and marketing education at a four-year university.
BFX Studios (Patrick & Henry Community College)
BFX Studios is the innovative mobile beauty business pitched by Giselle Lopez of Martinsville, Va., who is a current student at Patrick & Henry Community College. Lopez is already an experienced makeup artist who plans to open BFX Studios later this year. (Read more: https://martinsvillebulletin.com/news/giselle-lopez-rises-to-the-top-p-hcc-student-has-chance-of-winning-business-competition/article_3fb9172e-b67c-11ec-b932-5fb4b2953d06.html)