The West Virginia University LaunchLab Network hosted its second annual Women’s Pitch Competition to encourage students to push the limits of their innovative ideas, products or business ventures and showcase their concepts in a tightly-timed presentation to a panel of judges.
Ali Jeney, a graduate student studying in the College of Education and Human Services, secured first place for pitching the idea to bring the first hostel to Morgantown. The ANT Hill Hostel would open doors to bring more untapped populations, specifically international and adventure travelers, to Morgantown. She and her partner, David Billups, a graduate student in Aerospace Engineering, will use the funding toward building inspections and final business plans for securing WV Small Business Development Center funding.
WVU College of Business & Economics freshman, Cameron Keefe, secured second place for her idea, Cold Roller, which would combine the benefits of heat and ice into a massage roller. Her funding will go toward working on a new prototype, testing different materials and looking into beta and market research.
Jessica Mannering, a masters’ students majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications in the WVU Reed College of Media, won third place for pitching her idea, Mountain Momma, for prototyping customizable stomp pads for snowboards to help boarders better balance their snowboard.
“Since our inaugural Women’s Pitch Competition, the LaunchLab’s female clientele has increased from 17 to 34 percent, and we hope and expect that number to grow every year,” said Assistant Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Carrie White. “We continue to encourage all students to visit the LaunchLab, meet our staff and use our tools and resources to meet their goals and achieve success. We hold themed pitch competitions each semester in an effort to inspire all student groups to showcase their ideas, prepare for future investor and venture opportunities!”
After presenting a five-minute pitch and question and answer session, the participants were chosen by a panel of prestigious judges, including: Anna Carrier, Co-Owner of The Cupcakerie; Arria Hines, President & CEO of Allegheny Science & Technology; Maryanne Reed, Dean of WVU Reed College of Media; and Mindy Walls, W. Robert Stover Chair for Entrepreneurial Leadership. The top three contenders were awarded monetary prizes to fund their business and product development, receiving $1,500, $750, and $500.
The fifth and final pitch competition was hosted by the LaunchLab Network this semester. In addition to helping develop ideas, inventions and business strategies, these on-campus competitions help prepare students for national competitions hosted by prominent business schools and corporations in which the judges are real potential investors.
Operating since 2014, West Virginia University’s LaunchLab Network serves as a comprehensive, one-stop shop to help students develop and commercialize their ideas, innovations, inventions or business models. In a motivating and supportive environment, the LaunchLab Network is an applied innovation center offers hands-on idea development support, education, mentorship, prototyping facilities, resources and connections to empower entrepreneurs across West Virginia.
The LaunchLab Network of applied innovation centers for students is part of the WVU Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Applied Ecosystem, a university-wide web of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community.
Other areas include IDEA Faculty Fellows, WVU Women’s Business Center, Davis Young Innovators program, WVU Extension Service, Brickstreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Patent and Trademark Resource Center, Health Sciences Innovation Center, Legal Clinics, Media Innovation Center, Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the MakerLab and Technology Transfer.