HPU Students Win $25,000 in Start-Up Funds at 2018 Business Plan Competition

In the group photo, the HPU Business Plan Competition finalists from left to right are CeAnna Soper, Dylan Silber, Richard Pagano, Jenna Tarantino and Joseph Cochrane-Brown.

HIGH POINT, N.C., April 18, 2018 – Winners of High Point University’s Business Plan Competition received thousands of dollars toward their businesses during the eighth annual event.

Joseph Cochrane-Brown was selected as the first-place winner of this year’s annual Business Plan Competition, receiving $10,000 for his company, SOW.

Hosted by High Point University’s Belk Center for Entrepreneurship and supported by BB&T, the five finalists competed for $25,000 in start-up funds. The event was held in the Michael L. and Laura M. Baur Institute for Executive Education inside Cottrell Hall on HPU’s campus.

Each finalist presented their business plan to a panel of judges who scored the competitors based on a list of criteria. Funds were then divided amongst the finalists based on where they placed in the competition. Joseph Cochrane-Brown was selected as the first-place winner, receiving $10,000 for his company, SOW.

SOW is a study-aid mobile and web platform that takes any text, whether from notes, textbooks, or PDF files and in real-time converts that information into study guides, flashcards, or multiple choice questions. Cochrane-Brown says that as e-learning markets continue to grow above $160 billion, the opportunities in this market also grow.

“Winning this competition feels like the culmination of years of hard work,” says Cochrane-Brown. “I have been participating in competitions for HPU’s Entrepreneurship Club since I was a sophomore, and while I’ve had some wins and loses along the way, I’ve used each opportunity as a chance to learn and grow. Wins like these increase my determination to continue to strive toward my goals. My partners and I are planning to use the money to purchase new hardware so that we can continue testing our app more efficiently.”

Jenna Tarantino presents her invention, the Thermo-Leash, to judges and an audience gathered inside HPU’s Cottrell Hall.

Dylan Silber was awarded second place, receiving $8,000 for his business, Pong Pro. The Pong Pro, a patent-pending practice game table, helps users become skilled at playing the game, but without the alcohol. This game has the ability to compete with corn hole at parties, during tailgating, and in game rooms across America.

Jenna Tarantino, founder of The HotDawg Company and creator of Thermo-Leash, placed third in the competition and won $5,000 towards her company. Thermo-Leash is a retractable leash with built-in infrared technology used to measure and alert dog owners of the dangerous ground temperature to which their dog’s paws are exposed. The leash is a preventative approach to limiting burnt, blistered and infected paws caused by unsafe temperatures.

Other winners, earning $1,000 a piece, included CeAnna Soper and her business partner Jack Micchiche with the Breezy Brush, and Richard Pagano with his company Pocket Profits.

Judges for this year’s competition were Chris Caffey, CEO of Caffey Distributing; Robert Finkle, founder and managing partner of Prism Capital and Rootmaster and CEO of Forbidden Root Benefit LLC; Peter Hollett, president of Thermoking Central Carolinas; Gary Fredrick Scott, president of Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd.; and Sutton Shaw, co-owner of a multi-million dollar restaurant company.

Cochrane-Brown delivers his business pitch for SOW to a panel of five judges.

“I think any opportunity you have to connect students with business people, gives them the chance to really test what they’re learning in the classroom against what’s happening in the real world,” said Shaw, a competition judge. “These students are going to get up in front of us, and we’re going to ask them questions that investors would ask. I’m going to treat this experience as if this is my $25,000 to invest. Soon, these students will graduate, and they’ll be pitching their business to investors. They’ll be ready for that because of this opportunity.”


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