Students from John Brown University in Siloam Springs won four of six top prizes Wednesday at the 11th annual Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup college business plan competition.
JBU swept the top three spots in the overall undergraduate division and took third place overall in the graduate division. JBU is a private, Christian university in Siloam Springs with roughly 2,100 students.
Teams from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, won first and second place in the graduate division.
Agricultural Food Systems, the JBU team that developed a business plan around technology that measures tenderness in raw meat carcasses on production lines, won every award for which it competed, including the undergraduate agriculture award, the undergrad innovation award, the undergrad elevator pitch competition and the top spot overall.
The top three overall winning teams in each division were:
- Agriculture Food Systems, JBU
- Craftistas, JBU (direct sales craft kits)
- GardenCraft, JBU (do-it-yourself hypertufa)
- cycleWood Solutions, UA (biodegradable plastic bag)
- TiFiber, UA (innovative industrial filtration)
- Peas and Cues, JBU (foreign language cirriculum)
The awards luncheon was held at the Statehouse Convention Center in front of about 1,000 people, including Gov. Mike Beebe.
Other winners included:
- cycleWood, graduate elevator pitch winner and graduate agriculture winner
- Jeska Shoe Co., Southern Arkansas University, graduate innovation (interchangable heels for women’s shoes)
The top winners in each division take home cash prizes of $20,000. Second place overall winners receive $10,000, and third place winners get $5,000. In addition, innovation and agriculture award winners take home $5,000 each.
The top two teams in each division will advance to the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Governor’s Cup, pitting the top teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Nevada, to be held in Las Vegas in May.
Kirk Dennison led the Agriculture Food Systems team, which developed its plan around UA technology. The 21-year-old from Fairfax, Virginia, delivered the team’s winning elevator pitch, in which team members have 90 seconds to pitch before the luncheon audience. The pitch winners were determined by audience members who texted their favorites to a predetermined code, thanks to Innovate Arkansas firm Sumotext.
Dennison said his startup is looking for an initial investment of $200,000, and told ArkansasBusiness.com his firm has received nibbles from interested investors since presenting before the competition’s panel of judges last week.
"We set goals to first do well in class, and we got A’s," he said of his team’s business plan. "Then we wanted to do well in this competition. We put in 17 to 20 hours a week last fall, and dedicated it to God. We recognize that God blesses those who honor him."
Dennison even received a job offer before he left the Wally Allen Ballroom following the luncheon. He plans to give his new startup a go, first, though.
The competition began earlier this spring with 50 teams representing seven Arkansas colleges and universities — JBU, UA, SAU, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas Tech University, Harding University, Henderson State University and Hendrix College.
The initial 50 entries were whittled down last week to six finalists in both divisions, each of whom participated in Wednesday’s elevator pitch competition. Other undergrad finalists included Here to Last from Harding; Buck Nekkid BBQ, UA, and BEAST Technologies, Harding. Other grad finalists included Kigali Coffee, Hendrix, and Integration Enterprises, UALR.
Arkansas teams have fared well recently in the Tri-State competition, winning the 2008 graduate top prize, the 2009 undergrad and graduate top prizes plus the elevator pitch competitions in both divisions, and both divisional top prizes in 2010.
The Arkansas competition is presented by Arkansas Capital Corporation.