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Two student teams from the College of Business and Technology at Eastern Kentucky University placed at the recent Idea State U regional business competitions.

Nathan Hall’s MowMi, an app connecting lawn servicers with property owners, placed first in the business model competition, and Simple Circle by Austin Molen, Konner Kimmel and Craig Hicks placed third in the business plan competition. Laura Barthel served as the faculty adviser.

A record number of innovative young business minds from 18 colleges and universities across Kentucky pitched ideas for startups during the Cabinet for Economic Development’s ninth annual Idea State U event, a nationally recognized business plan competition designed to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship at the college level. Thirty-two regional winners advanced to the final round, scheduled for April 22-23 in Lexington.

This year, a record 51 teams of undergraduate and graduate students registered. During four regional rounds, each team delivered a formal presentation to a panel of judges. The judges determined the top finishers in each of two categories and provided valuable feedback and advice.

“After nearly a decade of success, Idea State U continues to grow. As a result, the 2016 event boasts the largest number of participants to date,” said Mandy Lambert, commissioner of business development for the Cabinet. “This year we welcomed six new colleges and universities to the competition. Adding a fourth regional event means that an increasing number of students caught the entrepreneurial spirit and jumped at the opportunity to compete with their business models and plans.”

Winners at the state level will receive a share of a $100,000 prize pool to help move their ideas forward. Cash prizes are weighted to provide larger awards to the more fully developed entries that are therefore more likely to succeed. Most of the award funds can be claimed only as reimbursements for specified business expenses after the team forms a legal Kentucky company.

The student teams also will continue to work with the Kentucky Innovation Network to pursue their business goals. Consisting of 13 offices throughout the state, including one at EKU, the Kentucky Innovation Network helps entrepreneurs and small business owners at any stage – whether it is just starting with an idea or already having an established business – and works with them to plan, build and launch their business.

The Office of Entrepreneurship within the Cabinet for Economic Development oversees Idea State U, as well as an array of other services, programs and initiatives to encourage small business growth. The goal of the office is to streamline the state’s focus and efforts to create and promote a strong culture of entrepreneurship.

The competition is open to all postsecondary institutions in the Commonwealth.