WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., April 1, 2015 — Local popcorn start-up, Mmm…Popcorn is the winner of the recent West Liberty University Pitch Contest that was held on Thursday, March 26 at Grand Vue Park, Moundsville.
Five local entrepreneurs submitted ideas and gave presentations to enter the contest that resulted in a $2,500 award for the winner.
“We are so humbled to have won the contest, especially against such talented competition. We want to thank the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Regional Economic Development group for staging these competitions, and for the invaluable resources they provide to budding entrepreneurs in the Ohio Valley,” said David McFarland, who is co-owner of the gourmet popcorn enterprise with his wife Betsy.
This was their second time presenting at a WLU Pitch Contest, the last time being March 2014.
The Martins Ferry, Ohio couple have been popping corn at home as a cottage industry for about a year and are now looking for a storefront in Wheeling.
“That’s what the money will go for,” said Betsy McFarland. “Because operating out of home limits us in many ways, we can’t wait to get started in our own store.”
The business offers gourmet popcorn, in tins and bags. Flavors include sea salted caramel, cheddar, white cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, buckeye caramel and other specialty flavors. The popcorn is perfect for weddings, parties and other events.
Eventually, the couple hopes to expand into mail order and Internet sales. It currently has a Facebook page.
Dr. Carrie White, director of WLU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of business at its Gary E. West College of Business, coordinates the Pitch Contests.
“I congratulate the McFarlands for their great presentation and entrepreneur vision. We at WLU’s College of Business believe that the pitch contest is the perfect way to network, pitch ideas and potentially receive funding based on audience participation. Our pitch contests have now fueled seven businesses locally and we are providing our students with a wonderful lesson in business development and planning,” said White.
Some of the successful businesses that have come out of previous WLU contests include Spatial Decision Support System by Vishesh Maskey, Mason Dixon BBQ, founded by Patrick Fisher, and most recently, Happy Goat Yoga, owned by Lindsay Schooler.
“Past participants have been overwhelmingly grateful for the experience of participating in our pitch contests. These events offers incentive and feedback that is invaluable, whether you win or not,” she said.
The recent contest was the first time that pitch event took place outside Ohio County. Other pitchers included: Innovations, by Lisa Stone; The Evergreen, by George Kellas; Oilfields Fluids by Eric Cabello and Nonprofit Collaborative by Rose Hart.
Judges for the March 26 Pitch Contest were: businessman Leslie “Les” DeFelice of Visiting Angels; Cory Dennison, president of Vision Shared; Jonie Grubler, manager of Sleep Inn & Suites, Moundsville and Robert Straub, certified public accountant.
The next Pitch Contest is planned for Fall 2015.
The Pitch Contests are always open to the public both as participants and audience members. Each start-up makes a five minute presentation and the audience gets a chance to learn about what’s up and coming in business and then votes for the best idea presented at the end of the hour-long presentation session.
Sponsors include West Liberty University’s Gary E. West College of Business and Center for Entrepreneurship and the Regional Economic Development Partnership. The Center for Entrepreneurship is a division of the Gary E. West College of Business and offers catalyst for innovation and job creation in West Virginia and the region.
Entrepreneurs seeking more information should contact White at 304-336-8159 or at [email protected].