WVPA Sharing

Pitch Southern West Virginia Business Idea Competition winners announced 

WV Hive, WVU Tech Launch Lab foster expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem

West Virginia Press Association

BECKLEY, W.Va. – Community entrepreneurs and West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) students presented their business ideas before an expert panel of judges and a live audience at the Pitch Southern West Virginia Business Idea Competition on the WVU Tech campus. The judges and attendees selected the winners, who received strategic feedback and prize money to help bring their ideas into reality and further the students’ educational journeys.

The West Virginia Hive, in partnership with the WVU Tech Launch Lab, conducted the competition. 

Diana Woods, director of the WVU Tech Launch Lab and coordinator of the event, said the following entrepreneurs/business owners and student entrepreneurs were selected as having the best business ideas of the competition:

Ideation Division

One prize – $1,000:  Kaleb Cole and Payton Hanshaw – WVU Tech

Incubation Division

First prize – $2,000:  JarHead Farm – Monroe County

Second prize – $1,000:  Paws N Pals Doggy Daycare – Raleigh County

Third prize – $750:  Magnolia Real Estate and Property Development LLC – Fayette County

Overall Audience Favorite – $250:  JarHead Farm – Monroe County

Cash prizes provided by private donations from sponsors to the West Virginia Hive will be used to advance the winners’ business ideas. United Bank and the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) — gold sponsors — and Stephens Auto and WV Auto Buyers, Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce and Fayette County Chamber of Commerce — bronze sponsors — donated the cash prizes. 

Judy Moore, executive director of the West Virginia Hive and deputy director of NRGRDA, said, “The presenters did an excellent job and, more importantly, learned and grew professionally through this real-world experience — from formulating their business ideas to building them out for a pitch before a live audience and our expert judges. We’d like to thank our community sponsors for providing the generous cash prizes, which are deeply appreciated by our winners. Our Pitch Southern West Virginia Business Idea competition encourages innovation, inclusivity, and is a major element of our efforts to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southern West Virginia.”

Judges for the evening’s competition included:

  • Ryan Thorn, State Director, West Virginia, Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Mike Jarrell, President, Paramount Development Corporation
  • Connor Golden, Business Banking Portfolio Manager, United Bank
  • Angela Peterson, Ph.D., CMA, Associate Professor, Department of Accounting and Management, WVU Tech

Those in attendance also had the opportunity to vote for their favorite pitch. 

Judges in the first round who selected the entrepreneurs and student groups who would pitch their business ideas at the competition included:

  • Dr. Jo Harris, President Emeritus of BridgeValley Community and Technical College
  • Jennifer Wood, Chief of Staff/Executive Director of University Engagement, WVU Tech
  • Mike Fulton, Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy, Asher Agency

Woods said eligibility targeted WVU Tech students and faculty as well as residents or businesses located in Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Monroe, Mercer, Wyoming, McDowell, Logan, and Mingo Counties, along with WVU Tech students, faculty and staff.


Feature image caption: Winners, judges and competition coordinators at the Pitch Southern W.Va. Business Idea competition included (left to right) Abed Mihrim; Ashley Parrish-Mihrim; Kaleb Cole (back); Natasha Zoe; Dr. Angela Peterson; Mike Jarrell (back); Judy Moore, WV Hive; Ryan Thorn (back); Connor Golden; Jennifer Camarillo; Corey Lacy; and Diana Woods (WVU Tech Launch Lab).

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