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Collegiate Business Plan Competition finals include a surprise

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With record numbers of entries and participating schools, the 2012-13 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition will be one to remember.

And in addition to winners in each of the two categories at the April 6 finals in Morgantown, there was a third "winner": a participant whose product, it was announced at the finals, has received an investment.

The big cash awards went to two single-person West Virginia University teams: Randi Dove of Oceana, W.Va., for Randi Dove Farms in the Lifestyle & Innovation category, and Eric Watkins of Morgantown for Dub V Safe Ride in the Hospitality & Tourism category.

Dove's business plan revolves around an equestrian training tool touted as "the latest innovation to hit the horse market." The product is rubber banding for equestrian riders to help keep their feet in the stirrups while correcting improper foot placement, and it is made for women, men and children.

The business proposed by Watkins, Dub V Safe Ride, is a designated-driver service that aims to reduce drinking and driving. The service provides a company driver to go to the vehicle owned by the impaired driver, place a small scooter in the vehicle, drive the impaired driver home and then continue on using the scooter transportation.

"The business professionals that comprised our panel of judges were impressed by the comprehensive plans put together by these two teams," said Steve Cutright, director of the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. "This was the culmination of a wide field of 141 entries by 11 colleges and universities." The statewide competition is hosted by the BrickStreet Center, which operates within the WVU College of Business and Economics.

Additionally, a surprise investment was announced in EZReader, a product outlined in a business plan by Racheal Fetty and Caleb Greathouse of Glenville State College.

EZ Reader is an election ballot review reader and represents a quicker and simpler method of reading election ballots, which helps to ensure that votes are counted easily and correctly. The $10,000 investment was announced by the INNOVA Commercialization Group, the private equity investment arm of the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation in Fairmont. The investment agreement is contingent upon the company completing due diligence requirements.

Along with WVU and Glenville State, the 10 finalist teams hailed from Concord University and Marshall University. Cutright said there were 90 entries in the Lifestyle & Innovation category and 51 entries in the Hospitality & Tourism category. A total of 677 teams from 14 different West Virginia colleges and universities have participated in the seven years of statewide competition.

"There are some very fundamental goals associated with the business plan competition," Cutright said. "Any team that submits an entry should learn things they can carry with them the rest of their lives. We'd like to see students improve their business knowledge and lay the foundation for business practices. Ultimately, we'd like to see these business plans evolve into real businesses in West Virginia, and so far 22 businesses have come into existence as the result of this competition."

For the 10 finalist teams, the event spans nearly the entire academic year. Competition judges said the finalists and all teams submitting entries should be proud of their work.

"I believe the business plans we have seen in this competition can become real West Virginia businesses," said Kristina Oliver, state director of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center and a judge in the business plan competition. "That's what this competition is all about. With all of these collaborative efforts, we are creating a pipeline of entrepreneurs that will, in fact, contribute to successful economic development for West Virginia."

For further information on the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, go to www.be.wvu.edu/bpc/.