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WVU LaunchLab hosts social entrepreneurship Show of Hands pitch competition

West Virginia University’s  LaunchLab Network hosted its first Show of Hands pitch competition to encourage students to speak out about their ideas to spark social entrepreneurship and change. Five student teams pitched not-for-profit or social change ideas for products and businesses to a full crowd, who served as the judges for the evening. The top three contenders were those with the most votes. They were awarded monetary prizes to fund their projects, receiving $1,500, $750, and $500 respectively.

Andrew Wilson, a fourth-year MDS student in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, and Johnny McFadden, a senior psychology major in the WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, won the crowd’s first place vote. They pitched the need to expand the medical cannabis industry in West Virginia and strive to represent West Virginia’s medical cannabis industry through their nonprofit organization, West Virginia Medical Cannabis Society. Wilson and McFadden will use the funds to advocate for medical use and public policy advancement and to educate the public. They will also provide members with timely information, expert and educational services and professional support.

Courtney Burgazli, a second-year student at the WVU School of Pharmacy, took home second place for her idea of customizing medicine through 3D-printed oral disintegrating strips. The strips would combine all of a patient’s medications into one product that can dissolve in the patient’s mouth, targeting those who have a hard time swallowing and those taking multiple medications daily, particularly the elderly. Burgazli continues to gain traction and interest in moving her innovation forward and is currently working on intellectual property and prepping for additional competitions and contests.

Third place winner Joshua Lohnes, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Geology and Geography, pitched his alternative food access strategies program, Conscious Harvest Cooperative. The purpose is provide a space for families and individuals to grow and preserve their own food.

“Our first-ever Show of Hands competition uniquely encouraged students to focus on new initiatives and ideas that make societal changes in a positive way. We are very proud of our students and their dedication to achieving their long-term entrepreneurial and innovative goals,” said Dr. Carrie White, LaunchLab director.

The Show of Hands Pitch Competition is the third of five pitch competitions to be offered by the LaunchLab Network this academic year. In addition to helping students focus on business and commercialization, these on-campus competitions prepare them for national competitions hosted by prominent business schools and corporations in which the judges are real potential investors.

Supporting entrepreneurs and innovators on every step of their journey, the LaunchLab Network offers everything from one-on-one mentorship to prototype development facilities, a variety of resources and connections to investors.

The LaunchLab Network is part of the WVU IDEA Ecosystem, a university-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship in WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community. A visual map of the full ecosystem and detailed information about the resources included in it can be found at  https://ideahub.wvu.edu