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Student innovators win big at the annual ZinnStarter Pitch Competition



On Tuesday, Oct. 4, The WVU Morris L. Hayhurst LaunchLab hosted its third annual ZinnStarter Pitch Competition. Here, eight of West Virginia University’s brightest entrepreneurs had five minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry professionals and a packed audience teeming with support. 

The judging panel, consisting of Emma Hartle, Jim Davis and Nathan Polk, provided a robust Q&A to complement the presenters’ pitches. From small business start-ups to new social media software and fashion line roll-outs, each idea introduced a unique fusion of strategic business planning and creative ingenuity. 

The 8 Pitch Competition Finalists: 

  1. Avalon Green, an Entrepreneurship & Innovation major, is the founder of Avalon Green Apparel. Her original clothing design rethinks women’s golf and sports apparel through shape, pattern and function.

  2. Emmy Severs, an Entrepreneurship & Innovation major, is the founder of Lemon Milk Paper Co., a stationery company that specializes in colorful and customizable greeting cards, stickers, notebooks and more. 

  3. Nick “Soren” Kowalski, a Computer Software major, is the founder of Four Letter Word Games. He has launched a number of arcade-style games on the app store including his newest release, “Seagull Smash”. 

  4. TidQuan “TQ” Grant, a Marketing major, is the founder of Mixroom Software. This novel application provides a portfolio for audio engineers to showcase their work

  5. Andrew Shephard, an Industrial Engineering major, is the founder of Stingray. This new social media platform engages community members to find their claim to fame. 

  6. Bailey McCord, an Interactive Design for Media major, is the director and writer of “Strange Taste.” Her new short film puts a horror-comedy spin on pledging for Greek Life.  

  7. Clay Grandolph, a Computer Engineering major, is the founder of Change of Pace. Grandolph’s new application reshapes the way runners listen to music. 

  8. Krystal Kraynick, a General Business major, and Mac McMillen, a Health and Well-Being major are the founders of Poseidon; a protein powder that incorporates a unique formula for a new audience. 


The ZinnStarter Pitch Competition is supported by Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn, whose  generosity gave these participants an opportunity to win from a $10,000 prize pool. Thanks to this contribution, six of the finalists were awarded funding to support their ideas, with Avalon Green Apparel receiving the top prize of $5,000.