Kyle O'Donnell, an MBA student from WKU, won the “Idea State U” business competition’s highest award of $35,000 to create a sustainable sock manufacturing company in Kentucky after a two-day competition designed to identify and support the next generation of Kentucky innovators and entrepreneurs.
Eighteen teams from Kentucky's business schools pitched their new venture business plans at the sixth annual Idea State U competition held on April 12-13 in Lexington. The Kentucky Economic Development Office sponsors this event to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in the region.
“The Idea State U competition provides students with an excellent opportunity to present their business plans, network with experts and investors, and see their dreams take one step closer to reality,” said Dr. Jeff Katz, Dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business. “As an applied college of business, we are proud of the business plan Kyle developed and look forward to his continued success in business following graduation.”
The competition rewards entries that are more fully developed and ready for the marketplace. This emphasis maximizes the opportunity to earn a return on the state’s investment by creating real companies that provide real jobs for Kentuckians. Several start-up companies have formed after competing in past Idea State U events.
O’Donnell said he is excited about the possibilities of this seed money.
“Looking back, there are only a handful of events that change the course of your life so dramatically. During undergrad, I worked the weekend night shift to help pay for school. Yet, even all those paychecks don’t add up to these start-up funds,” he said.
O’Donnell is now in the process of finding property to start the manufacturing process. The knitting machine he ordered will arrive in two months.
The Gordon Ford College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation sent two other students to present their business ideas. Blake Wheeler, a Business Administration undergraduate major, sought further funding to make Kentucky State Roads safer with a high-technology Automotive Ignition Interlock Device Company. Willis Holmes, an Industrial Education undergraduate major competed with his Internet Device, a more efficient replacement for desktop machines which would save electricity and money for K-12 schools. The students were selected after a University-wide competition to which all students were invited, an annual competition the Center holds.
“The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s staff Mr. Krist Schell and Mr. Raja Bhattacharya worked diligently with Kyle and the other participants to refine and help focus their business plans,” said Dr. Zubair Mohamed, interim director of the Center. “The Center is proud of the role they play in incubating student talent, nurturing and helping its transition to launching of businesses at the Student Incubator at the Center for Research and Development.”