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WV Hive, WVU Tech Launch Lab announce finalists chosen to pitch at the April 23 Southern WV Business Idea Pitch Competition 

West Virginia Press Association

BECKLEY, W.Va. – Leaders of the West Virginia Hive and West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) Launch Lab announced today the entrepreneurs who will be presenting their business strategies at the April 23, 2024 Pitch Southern West Virginia business idea competition on the campus of WVU Tech.

Entries received in the ideation and incubation categories were judged, and the in-person presentation line-up includes:

Top three finalists — Ideation Division: 

  • Ansel Ponder, Blue Appalachia, Mercer County
  • Kaleb Cole, Payton Hanshaw, Wyatt Harmon, and Cole Pearson, WVU Tech 
  • Kabrea James,  Raleigh County

Top five finalists — Incubation Division:

  • Natasha Zoe, JarHead Farm, Monroe County
  • Wauketa Okoli, Get Lifted, Raleigh County
  • Corey Lacey, Paws N Pals Daycare and Boarding,  Raleigh County
  • Pauline Sturgill, Old Mountain Field Fine Arts and Crafts Mingo County
  • Ashley Parrish-Mihrim, Magnolia Real Estate & Property Management, Fayette County

Diana Woods, director of the WVU Tech Launch Lab and coordinator of the event, said this year the format has been restructured from ‘community’ and ‘student’ divisions to ‘incubation’ and ‘ideation’ divisions. She said the incubation division is for entrepreneurs who have already registered their business and have made their first sales. The ideation division is for those who have not yet registered their business or who have registered but have not made their first sales.

Woods said on April 23 a panel of expert judges will select the winners and award $5,000 in prizes:  

Incubation Division:  First place: $2,000; Second place: $1,000; Third place: $750

Ideation Division:  One prize: $1,000

Audience Favorite:  $250

Prize money must be used to further the business idea. WVU Tech students also have the option of putting it toward educational expenses. 

During the in-person competition, each entrepreneur will have five minutes to present their business idea to a panel of judges and explain why it is innovative and how it will make a difference to residents of southern West Virginia.  Each presentation will be followed by a brief question and answer period with the judges.

Entries were open to residents and businesses located in Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers, Webster, Pocahontas, Greenbrier, Monroe, Mercer, Wyoming, McDowell, Logan and Mingo Counties and WVU Tech students, faculty and staff. 

There is no cost to attend the business pitch event from 5:30 – 8 p.m. on April 23 but registration is required:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pitch-southern-wv-business-idea-competition-tickets-853762515667

Funds for the awards have been contributed by private sponsors, including gold sponsors United Bank and New River Gorge Regional Development Authority and bronze sponsors Stephens Auto and WV Auto Buyers, Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce and Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. All sponsorship funds are provided to the contestants as winnings.

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