Ohio University

Zanesville student participating in Shark Challenge

Zanesville student participating in Shark Challenge

Ohio University Eastern will virtually host the sixth annual Shark Challenge to promote economic growth in the Ohio Valley by encouraging innovation among college students.

The event, sponsored by TechGROWTH Ohio, will strengthen Ohio University students’ entrepreneurial skills by asking them to present business pitches. “Pitch competitions and events like the Ohio University Eastern Shark Challenge help generate new and unique solutions to everyday problems, which can lead to some great new startup opportunities,” said Jane New, TechGROWTH Ohio director.

Selected teams with engaging business proposals will advance to the final round at 6 p.m. on April 13. The winning team will be awarded a $1,500 cash price, which can be used to further promote the business idea. Judges will be Wendy Anderson, director of St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce, Ed Looman, manager of engagement and partnerships for OhioSE, Paul Benedict, executive director for Ohio University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, and Ken Young, a global credit consultant who previously served as credit and collection manager of PepsiCo Beverages Canada.

“For many years, the OHIO Eastern Shark Challenge has provided students the opportunity to apply knowledge from a myriad of fields, such as marketing, operations, finance, accounting, science and social science classes,” said Michael Schor, who is the event organizer and an associate professor of instruction at the College of Business. “The event also helps build presentation skills and offers an opportunity to connect with key local entrepreneurs and business owners.”

Alicia Staub, an OHIO Zanesville senior studying integrated healthcare studies and applied management and a first-time competitor, said the event has helped her interact with her teachers and other fellow students on a personal level, thus improving her college experience. Staub said she is excited to use her creativity to collaborate on innovation, which in turn, has helped her learn about other communities.

“I always avoid public speaking, but this event pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone,” Staub said. “In the future, I know I’ll look back to this event whenever I’m communicating with important public figures and business leaders.”

Students are encouraged to develop innovative ideas in the process, product or business model stages. They will be judged on how well their products, equipment, staffing, tools, business location, target market, advertising, competitor analysis, profitability and financing, and exit strategy are described and articulated in the business proposal.

“Answering the tough questions about how a business can actually run or how a startup can be successful will only help the participants later in their careers,” said Kyle Sutphin, a 2017 OHIO alumnus with dual degrees in communication studies and marketing, who is also on the event planning team. “Networking opportunities with local businesspeople, who can offer insight on life after school, will allow for great opportunities to the community, participants and planning team.”

In the competition itself, students are asked to describe the impact the innovation will have on the local economy and the employment rate. To prepare for this, prior to the event, Crystal Lorimor, executive director at Belmont County Community Improvement Corporation, and Sutphin provided an overview in a separate session, “Regional Economy, Culture and Economic Development,” with an introduction to Southeast Ohio.

“I think this event is making the Ohio Valley a better place to live by giving opportunities to students to share ideas on how to improve their surroundings through economic innovation,” said Nolan Nicholas, who is a second-year undecided major at OHIO and an event organizer.

Each team must consist of two or three members enrolled at the same institution. On a three-member team, one member can be a graduate student or a high school student on college option at the represented institution. For more information, reach out to Schor and the event organizers at ouesharkteam@ohio.edu.