Ritchie County native wins West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Competition

Photo Provided Matthew Byrd makes his final presentation to a panel of judges April 21 in the West Virginia Statewide Business Plan Competition. He won a $10,000 grand prize in the Hospitality and Tourism category.

MORGANTOWN– A Ritchie County native was among the West Virginia University students who swept all three categories at the 2017 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Competition on April 21.

Matthew Byrd, a wildlife and fisheries resources sophomore in the WVU Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, won the Hospitality and Tourism category with Byrds and Bees Honey, his business focused on producing high-quality, great-tasting, small-batch honey in West Virginia, according to a release from WVU.

“I made it to the finals as a freshman, and I knew I could do better, so I entered again this year,” Byrd said in the release. “This year, I focused more on my financials and marketing, which was a lacking component from last year. I spent more time with the numbers, figuring out how many more hives I could have with the acreage I own and what the nectar sources were.

“I also focused on helping the declining bee population by increasing the hives I have and working on a good type of genetics, where my bees will be healthier and won’t require as much treatment,” he said. “I want to create a healthier bee climate in the state of West Virginia.”

Byrd’s victory came with a $10,000 prize. Last fall, he earned $5,000 by winning the Launchpad entrepreneurship competition sponsored by local businesses and agencies.

The three winning teams were announced following three rounds of competition that spanned the entire academic year. A record 303 entries were submitted in this year’s West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition from a record-tying 15 West Virginia colleges and universities. The competition is hosted by the WVU BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

A panel of judges from across the country heard presentations from five competing teams in each of three categories.

Sophomore aerospace engineering major Keith Heisler won the Lifestyle and Innovation category with his business, H2OLD IT, which provides luxury products that conserve natural resources, while WVU School of Medicine students Brandon Lucke-Wold and Zachary Wright took top honors in the STEM category for their business, SwifTag Systems, which deals with laboratory animal tagging, tracking and inventory.

Student teams compete for the $10,000 first prize in each category, as well as accounting and legal services. The winning teams must turn their ideas into valid West Virginia businesses in a designated amount of time.

The business plan competition has awarded more than $330,000 in prizes since it went to a statewide format more than a decade ago.