Elisha Taylor and Tyriek Crutchfield

WVWC business students advance to 2024 Business Model Competition finals

BUCKHANNON, West Virginia – Two West Virginia Wesleyan College students Tyriek Crutchfield ‘25, of Lanham, Maryland, and Elisha Taylor ‘26, of Ridgeley, West Virginia, advanced to the finals of the West Virginia Innovation and Business Model Competition held on Tuesday, April 9.

The Encova Auditorium in the Brad D. Smith Center for Business and Innovation played host to the Finals of the sixth installment of the West Virginia Innovation and Business Model Competition (WVIBMC) on Tuesday, April 9.  Four West Virginia colleges and universities were represented by the nine teams that participated in the Finals, including West Virginia Wesleyan College, Shepherd University, West Virginia University, and host Marshall University.  Each institution and its teams walked away with at least $1,000.00 in funding for the proposed new ventures.

West Virginia Wesleyan College is a valuable partner with the Marshall University organizers and overseers of the WVIBMC event, having participated in each of the non-COVID iterations of the event.  In particular, through the strong guidance of Dr. Tracie Dodson, WVWC was well-represented by Crutchfield and Taylor, each of which presented new venture concepts concerning extremely challenging problems facing underserved populations.

Taylor presented a concept entitled Emotionally Prepared that aims to provide affordable services to children during early childhood-development especially to underserved and under-resourced areas of West Virginia.  Such services will include emotional development resources, affordable mental health care options, and a focus on difficult and challenging situations.

Taylor is pursuing degrees in Business Administration and Communications. Crutchfield presented a fin-tech app entitled Genisis Investment Management (GIM) that focuses on the wealth gap that exists between the average White family and the average minority family, including Blacks, Latinos, and Asians.  Through the GIM platform, the tools and features empower individuals to navigate the financial markets with confidence, democratizing investment opportunities in a way that cuts through the jargon and complexity.  Crutchfield is pursuing a degree in Business Administration.

Event founder, organizer, and overseer Assist. Prof. Olen York (Marshall University – Lewis College of Business) said, “West Virginia Wesleyan College is a valuable partner in the crusade to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and action at the student-level.  Dr. Tracie Dodson is a wonderful colleague and contributes to the high-quality participation that we continue to experience.  With Dr. Dodson’s encouragement, guidance, and wisdom, West Virginia Wesleyan College business students have a tremendous opportunity to learn valuable skills that can be applied in all aspects of business and life.  This is demonstrated annually by the high-quality teams that participate in the WVIBMC.

“Specifically, it was encouraging to witness Elisha and Tyriek’s respective presentations because of the scope and scale of the problems they want to tackle. Elisha possesses a quiet confidence and has a wonderful presentation style to go with a passion for finding a solution to the childhood development issues that persist.  Tyriek is a powerful personality, articulate, and determined to close the wealth gap and lift the fortunes of others.  My hope is that they continue chasing down these problems and find the right circle of people to help them launch these ventures.  As they plow forward, our team will be available to assist in any way that we can.”

The WVIBMC judging panel awarded the top prize (minimum of $3,000.00) to the Marshall University partnership of CJ Fazio and Dom Konopka representing the new venture Konaz, a new ice cream option infused with high protein ingredients for the health conscious.

The second-place prize (minimum $2,000.00) was awarded to West Virginia University’s Nola Todd.  Todd pitched a vegetarian-menu as a healthy food truck option named Goldenrod Breakfast Co.  Todd is from Charleston, West Virginia and is majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WVU.

The third-place prize (minimum $1,000.00) was awarded to Brittany McKnight of Shepherd University for the concept of Sagittarius Esthetics that focuses on personal care, including skin and nails.  McKnight is pursuing a BBA degree and is an entrepreneurship student at Shepherd University.  McKnight and Shepherd University are first-time participants in the WVIBMC.

The fourth-place prize (minimum $750.00) was awarded to Jonathan Hale of Marshall University for the concept named SleepyPause that conceives of an app to assist in restarting your streaming video at the moment you fall asleep.  Hale is pursuing a BBA degree with a major in Management.  Hale is from Putnam Co., West Virginia.

For reaching the finals, five teams are guaranteed a minimum of $500.00, including  West Virginia Wesleyan College, Miguel Aguilar and Daniel Goodavich representing Shepherd University, Dustin Redden of West Virginia University, and Bella Schrader representing Marshall University. In total, the 2024 WVIBMC organizers awarded over $9,000.00 in funding to be used in furtherance of the presented new venture opportunities.

As noted by Host/Emcee Mackenzie Morley, a distinguished panel of judges had the unenviable task of evaluating these ideas.  The WVIBMC was fortunate to have an aggregate of 100 years of business experience with the panel, which included: Mary Hott (Innov. Tech. Program for the WV Small Business Development Center), Bill Woodrum (Benedum Foundation), and Kaylin Jorge and Kathy Thomas (both with the WV Chamber of Commerce).

The WVIBMC was organized and hosted by Marshall University (Brad D. Smith Schools of Business, the Lewis College of Business, and the Entrepreneurship Education program).  As part of the 2024 WVIBMC campaign, the four participating institutions hosted campus qualifying events that resulted in at least two automatic qualifiers advancing to the April 9th Finals Event.  In particular, business model development entails customer interaction and feedback for more accurate decision-making.

“The idea is to develop a business model validated through customer feedback and field research,” states Marshall University Provost and former College of Business Dean Avi Mukherjee. “The competition rewards new ventures for utilizing a canvas to track hypothesis validation or elimination. And through this methodology, we hope to promote new business ventures among university students and encourage innovation and building of new venture organizations of all sizes to serve the greater West Virginia economical ecosystem.”

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