HPU and BB&T Announce Finalists for the 2017 Business Plan Competition

HIGH POINT, N.C., April 13, 2017 – The Belk Center for Entrepreneurship at High Point University has announced five finalists for its seventh annual Business Plan Competition. This year’s winners will compete for up to $25,000 in start-up funds.

The finalists will present their business plans to a panel of judges consisting of business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors at 5 p.m. on April 20 in the Michael L. and Laura M. Baur Institute for Executive Education in Cottrell Hall on HPU’s campus.

“The Business Plan Competition is just one example of HPU’s focus on the experiential aspect of learning, like standing up in front of a crowd to explain something as complicated as a business,” says finalist Ryan Gilbert. “I knew those were skills that I needed to work on, and when I explored colleges, it was this program that drew me to HPU above other schools.”

The annual competition is open to all HPU undergraduate students. It includes an application round that narrows the competition to 15 participants. Judges then decide on the five finalists before picking a winner at the competition event.  

“I am excited and nervous as anyone would be in any competition,” says finalist Charlotte Thompson. “This opportunity has opened a lot of doors. I’ve also been paired with a mentor who is giving me advice and a chance to meet with other professors and professionals. It gives me real-world experience that the classroom may not necessarily provide.”

“I’m very excited about the caliber of the projects and the enthusiasm of the students in the competition this year,” says Kathy Elliott, director for the Center of Entrepreneurship. “Watching potential businesses take their next steps is an integral part of what we are trying to accomplish here.”


The 2017 finalists and their business plans are as follows:

Erika Bridges
Company: Knot Average
Hometown: Toano, Virginia 

Bridges formed her hair tie business “Knot Average” as a charitable operation, primarily selling and making hair accessories for a variety of causes. Every other month, a percentage of sales from custom or pre-designed hair ties is donated to a different charity based on customer nominations. Bridges started Knot Average as a way to get involved in the community and the idea caught on. Knot Average operates by making custom order hair ties in any color or print for events, clubs or organizations. Bridges says that high margins, repeat customers and custom orders have made Knot Average a success. Going forward, the business is aiming to grow by expanding into boutiques, salons and yoga studios. Knot Average has already obtained its first retail partner through Simon Jewelers in High Point, North Carolina.



Name: Joseph McCabe
Company: Panther Propulsion
Hometown: Naples, Florida

McCabe’s business, “Panther Propulsion” is focused on the aerospace industry. McCabe finds that in recent years, airlines have become increasingly aggressive in creating efficiency and hedging against rising oil prices. Every aspect to the flying experience is subject to efficiency optimization. Panther Propulsion proposes a mode of boosting efficiency to aircraft operations through an electric engine that’s mounted to the front nose wheel to generate pilot-controlled propulsion of the aircraft while on the ground. The engine propulsion system would be drastically more efficient than the use of jet engines.



Name: Jacqueline Stein
Business: PE3RS
Hometown: Orchard Lake, Michigan

Stein’s business, PE3RS, is a virtual reality company that teaches educators about students with learning and mental disabilities from the first person perspective of the student. When using a virtual reality headset, the viewer will be able to see, hear and relate to what a student with the specific kind of disability experiences in the classroom. The company aims to better personalize the education system based on students’ needs. Stein plans to bring the virtual reality programs into private schools and allow the teachers to experience the programs for themselves. As a business, PE3RS will travel to and attend professional development programs at schools and associations and allow teachers an opportunity to test the product and experience the opportunities it creates.



Name: Ryan Gilbert
Business: Student Storage
Hometown: Austin, Texas

“Student Storage,” created by Gilbert, is a company that partners with colleges to help the institutions develop and manage their own storage service for the ease of students. Gilbert found that 80 percent of High Point University come from out of state and need reasonably priced storage facilities over the summer or while studying abroad. By partnering with universities and utilizing a unique crate system, Student Storage is able to undercut existing storage options. The system includes a crate that is dropped off at the student’s dorm and can be loaded by Student Storage employees. Unlike other storage companies, Gilbert’s crates are on wheels, can be lifted easily by two people and fit through double doors. Crates are then stored at a location the college owns such as a warehouse, vacant building or any other space that can be locked.



Name: Charlotte Thompson
Business: Water-You-Saving
Hometown: Highland Park, Illinois

Thompson created “Water-You-Saving” as an impact-driven concept to solve the need for a continuous supply of fresh water. Her product, the Water-You-Saving unit, will save consumers resources and money by reusing shower water for toilet use. The unit consists of a pipe attached to the shower which is then directed to a tank installed inside a wall. A pipe will then be directed from the tank to the toilet. Thompson found that toilet flushing is the second greatest consumer of water in any household and created her system to drastically cut back on water usage. She plans to target the hotel and apartment complex market, putting one unit in each room or apartment.


Judges for this year’s competition are Christy Cottrell, CEO and founder of RetailData, LLC; Flint McNaughton, owner of SunCap Property Group; Richard Wood, financial advisor and stock broker; Eric Hill, co-founder of BioRX; and Les Goldberg, president and CEO of LMG USA Holdings, Inc. 

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