MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Entrepreneurial seeds are sprouting in West Virginia as a result of the first annual Seed WV contest.
The first of its kind in the Mountain State, the contest, brought to life by the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business and Economics, gave 20 West Virginia residents, innovators, entrepreneurs, businesses and non-profits from across the state the opportunity to win $15,000 to move innovative business ideas to market.
The contest launched Feb. 1, and any West Virginia resident was eligible to participate. The first round included 20 contestants, which was narrowed down to nine contestants in round two. Three winners were named during the third round of competition April 15:
First place ($7,500 winner): Warhead Offroad is a veteran-owned business based in Bruceton Mills. The brainchild of Joanna Reynolds, it is creating new utility terrain vehicle aftermarket products to align with West Virginia’s outdoor economy focus and the recently-launched Ascend WV remote worker program.
The $7,500 seed funding will allow them to expand their team so that they can continue to scale their business.
“We are actively seeking a recent engineering graduate from WVU to add to our design and fabricating team,” Reynolds said. “The prize money will support their pay while we are training them until they can produce products on their own.”
Second place ($5,000 winner): Parthian Battery Solutions is a Morgantown-based business developing low-cost, eco-friendly energy storage solutions for electric vehicle batteries. Samuel Chico and Kyle Seese won the 2020 WV Collegiate Statewide Business Plan Competition as Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources students, and they’ve focused on scaling their idea over the last year to the next phase of growth.
The value of the Seed WV initiative for the finalists was not only financial. The sense of community and entrepreneurial network of support gained was also empowering.
“It was refreshing to see West Virginians working to bring new life into our economy,” Chico said. “My greatest takeaway is the newfound community I built from it. Starting a new company is hard, and it can be a lonely process. Having a network of like-minded people to support one another can be the difference between a company succeeding or failing.”
Chico credited the network of entrepreneurial support resources in the Chambers College innovation ecosystem for propelling his business to new heights.
“There would be no Parthian Battery Solutions if I hadn’t participated in the Business Plan Competition; I would have accepted a job outside of the state after I graduated,” Chico said. “That experience allowed me to form the foundation of my company and gave me my first experience of pitching via a virtual platform, and going through Seed WV allowed me to apply what I had learned through that process.”
Third place ($2,500 winner): Appalachian Botanical is focused on growing lavender on reclaimed coal mine land in Foster. The business is owned by Marina Sawyer.
Crowd favorite ($500): Chia Chews is based in Wheeling. Owner Julian Figaretti created a beet root powder, honey and chia seed food product that won over the judges.
Assistant professor and James T. Coffman Fellow of Entrepreneurship Ryan Angus was the champion for these efforts to propel innovation in the state from funds generously provided through the James Clark Coffman Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies.
“West Virginia wins when we give entrepreneurs the opportunity to seed their innovative ideas and grow them. This is the catalyst for job creation and transforming our state into an innovation economy,” Angus said. “It is incredibly rewarding to drive economic impact by helping determined and dedicated entrepreneurs grow.”
Seed WV is part of Bridging Innovation week, a series of innovation competitions from across the state that is promoting and fostering entrepreneurship in West Virginia. The competitions range from supporting elementary to college students and community members in their pursuit of becoming entrepreneurs, and creating more entrepreneurial opportunities in West Virginia.