1st Place:  CitrOHa

From Left to Right: Marcos Fondelius Sernandez, Christin Justice, Nicholas Rodenbusch, and Dr. David Snow.

2nd Place:  Pier Smart

From Left to Right:  Noelle Fields, Tyeisha Smith, Dalton Rife, Madison Stiltner, and Dr. David Snow.

3rd Place: Eyesight Education

From Left to Right: Diego Rivas, Tengfei Si, and Dr. David Snow.

The University of Pikeville welcomed aspiring entrepreneurs to the Coleman College of Business’s fifth Startup Challenge Business Plan Competition. This is the largest event of its kind in Eastern Kentucky and everyone in the region is eligible to participate.

The Startup Challenge was developed to seek new, independently proposed ventures in the conceptual, seed or startup stages. The event was held in collaboration with the Kentucky Innovation Network Pikeville office.

Entries from high school students, college students and community members were received. Teams submitted written plans for a chance to compete for $10,000 in prize money. The most comprehensive plans were chosen as finalists to attend the event. These teams delivered oral presentations before a panel of judges. The three highest scoring teams were selected as winners.

“Each time we host this event, interest grows and the plans continue to improve. It is exciting to see the current entrepreneurial activity in Eastern Kentucky and to play a role in supporting these efforts,” said David Snow, D.M., director of the Kentucky Innovation Network Pikeville office, director of the SBI program and business competitions, associate professor of business and the founder of the event.

CitrOHa took home first place and the $5,000 prize. The team members are UPIKE students Marcos Fondelius Sernandez, Nicholas Rodenbusch, and Christin Justice who created an all-organic feed supplement to address the pervasive problem of osteoarthritis in dogs.

"UPIKE’s Startup Challenge was an excellent experience offering East Kentuckians a chance to showcase their talents while gaining confidence to move forward with their ideas,” commented Justice. “UPIKE is serving their community by fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in the region.”

The second place award of $3,000 went to the Pier Smart team of Dalton Rife, Madison Stiltner, Tyeisha Smith, and Noelle Fields. They are Phelps high school students who are working on a portable desalination product to provide clean, salt-free drinking water to the more than 5,000 people who become stranded at sea each year.

“The entrepreneurship competition is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs to learn what it takes to succeed in the business industry. I know personally that my knowledge of the business industry has grown tremendously since participating in this competition,” said Rife. 

Eyesight Education with UPIKE international students Tengfei Si and Diego Rivas earned third place and $2,000 with their idea of providing affordable, unbiased and comprehensive information to Chinese students wanting to attend college in the U.S.

“Reading about entrepreneurship from a textbook and actually creating one's own business plan is very different. We really learned a lot from the whole process of preparing for the UPIKE Startup Challenge,” said Si.

From assisting startups in assessing an idea, to developing a business plan, to finding grants, loans and capital, the Kentucky Innovation Network helps local entrepreneurs and local companies discover the resources needed to be successful. The Pikeville office operates in UPIKE’s Community Technology Center and serves the nine counties of Breathitt, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Perry and Pike.