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Companies awarded $10,000 in Business Plan Competition

ATHENS, Ohio (July 29, 2004) -- Two businesses were awarded $10,000 each July 21 when they were judged as having the top plans in the Appalachian Ohio Business Plan Competition, organized by Ohio University's Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs and its Small Business Development Center. The award for the best plan for a start-up business was given to Puff Buddy Clouds, LLC, owned by Victoria Laudick of Coshocton, Ohio, and the award for the best plan for an existing business was given to Milo's Whole World Gourmet, owned by Jonathan Leal of Athens, Ohio.

Puff Buddy Clouds produces a series of stuffed toys and accompanying books targeted to children ages 2 to 4. The products are designed to enhance children's social development by helping them understand their emotions. Milo's Whole World Gourmet makes all-natural, wine-based sauces, and is planning to introduce at least two new product lines by September, according to Leal.

"I think it's a great idea," Leal said of the competition. "I personally know of numerous businesses that have started without a plan. If people are encouraged to actually plan, it saves a lot of money and a lot of heartache."

"I walked away feeling good because of how supportive and positive the judges were," said Laudick. "I just feel that it was a great experience all around."

The competition was open to the owners of start-up and existing businesses located in Appalachian Ohio who submitted a written business plan for preliminary review by June 1, 2004. Most participants had recently completed the NxLevelä entrepreneurial training program, a 12-week business course in which participants create a comprehensive business plan, learn to set realistic goals, predict cash flow, establish a budget and identify their market. The course was offered in Cambridge, Athens and Portsmouth.

A group of 13 finalists were selected from the initial business plans that were submitted for the competition, and the finalists gave presentations of their plans to a panel of judges on July 20 and 21.

Judges for the competition were Gary Folden, owner of Folden Business Services in Brilliant; Neill Lane, president and CEO of Sunpower, Inc. in Athens; Susan Ridge, membership services director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.; Larry Triplett, owner of Resource Systems in New Concord; Peter Keim, business development officer at WesBanco in Parkersburg, W.Va.; and Linda Clark, director of the Ohio University Innovation Center.

The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, the Appalachian New Economy Partnership (ANEP), the Ohio Small Business Development Centers at Ohio University and Marietta, and the Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs sponsored the competition. The Ohio Small Business Development Centers located at Kent State University-Tuscarawas Campus in New Philadelphia and at the Ohio Mideast Government Association in Cambridge, as well as the Ohio State University South Center Enterprise Center in Piketon participated in organizing the NxLevelä entrepreneurial training programs.

The Ohio Small Business Development Centers provide free and low-cost business assistance to new and existing businesses. The Small Business Development Center Program of Ohio is a funded program of the Ohio Department of Development and the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information about this program, call the Ohio Small Business Development Center at Ohio University at (740) 593-1797.

The Voinovich Center brings together and engages world-class resources at Ohio University to enhance the quality of life and economic health of the region and state. One tool the Center uses to achieve its mission is funding through the ANEP, an initiative of the Ohio Board of Regents designed to put technology and knowledge resources to work to create business growth and competitiveness in the current and emerging knowledge-based economy in Appalachian Ohio.

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Media Contact: Susan Abdella, (740) 593-1797 or abdella@voinovichcenter.ohio.edu

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