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Businesses Win $150,000 in Prizes at the 2024 Hayhurst Invitational


Five West Virginia small businesses recently competed for cash prizes to accelerate their startups, thanks to the West Virginia University Morris L. Hayhurst LaunchLab and its inaugural Hayhurst Invitational. The invite-only pitch competition was featured in Bridging Innovation Week 2024, and was sponsored by the Hayhurst Family.

Lost Creek Farm, curators of Appalachian dining experiences and culinary events, took home the first-place prize of $100,000. Mountain Steer Meat Company, a family-owned business with roots in the beef industry, was awarded the second-place prize of $50,000. 

Anne Jones, director of the LaunchLab, said the event “is based on the knowledge that in our state there are amazing businesses that can accelerate their growth and they have potential.” Jones explained that with an investment, any of the businesses can grow and pursue their next big idea.

Anne Jones Presents the Hayhurst Invitational

Anne Jones introduces the Hayhurst Invitational at Bridging Innovation Week 2024.

The other finalists of the event included YNST Magazine, Mountainside ABA, and Stone Tower Coffee Roasters. Each business traveled to Huntington, West Virginia – pitching the next steps of their business and competing for prizes adding up to $150,000.

The judges of the Hayhurst Invitational included: 

- Brad D. Smith, President of Marshall University

- Michele O’Connor, Director of Innova Commercialization

- Dr. Jorge Atiles, Dean of Extension and Engagement for WVU

- Dr. Carrie White, Co-founder of Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Experts

Mike Costello, a chef and farmer for Lost Creek Farm, said in his pitch, “Our on-farm experiences are incredibly popular, and we have momentum, but we need to expand our facilities in order to grow, and $100,000 would let us grow immediately.” Costello explained that with the Hayhurst Invitational prize, Lost Creek Farm will be able to fund the expansion of their farmhouse, allowing the business to increase revenue and profit.

Lost Creek Farm Wins First Place

Lost Creek Farm wins the first-place prize of $100,000 at the 2024 Hayhurst Invitational.

Frank Ford, co-owner of Mountain Steer Meat Co., stated in his pitch, “The $100,000 will be used to construct an Abbatoir – or a harvest facility – attached to our existing processing plant.” Ford described that through the development of the abattoir, it would benefit their company, but could also benefit West Virginia ranchers, schools and businesses.

Mountain Steer Meat Co. Wins Second Place

Mountain Steer Meat Co. wins the second-place prize of $50,000 at the 2024 Hayhurst Invitational.

The Morris L. Hayhurst LaunchLab extends a great applause to the nominees, finalists and winners of the Hayhurst Invitational. Additionally, LaunchLab clients Brite, Goldenrod Kitchen, Redd-Stump and Mal’s Fresh Produce won prizes at Bridging Innovation Week, totaling up to $58,500. 

Congratulations to our hard-working entrepreneurs! The Hayhurst Invitational will be back at Bridging Innovation Week next year.