A University of Arkansas student recently won first place and $10,000 in an international student startup competition hosted by the University of Manitoba. Locally-sourced ice cream company Simple + Sweet Creamery won top prize in the Undergraduate Business Plan Competition of the Stu Clarke New Venture Championships. Coleman Warren, a senior studying industrial engineering, established the company as a way to battle hunger and food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas.
Warren said his company competed not only against small business enterprises, but large-scale technology ventures.
“I loved the opportunity to represent Arkansas and the U.S. at the global scale with our very locally focused business,” he said.
Warren, who is also UA Student Government president, conceived the idea for Simple + Sweet after serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA team member at the Food Bank for the Heartland in Omaha, Nebraska. Simple + Sweet donates over half of its profits to the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and has contributed roughly 10,000 meals to date.
Warren plans to use the winnings to relaunch the company’s ice cream trailer in April, and to recruit a new chief executive officer.
“We are hiring a new CEO to take our business to higher levels of growth thought this summer and into the future,” Warren said. “Within the next two years, we hope to expand to a brick-and-mortar storefront with grown into our wholesale distribution to restaurants and groceries.”
Two other U of A student startup teams also found success in the graduate division at the Stu Clarke NVC.
Horizon Health Solutions, which aims to empower independent pharmacies to compete against resource-rich industry giants, finished third in the Graduate Business Plan Competition, earning $5,000.
CiphrX Biotechnologies, a company formed to improve brain cancer diagnostics, won third place in the Graduate Elevator Pitch Competition and took home $750.
The victories for Horizon Health and CiphrX come less than a week after both companies won $2,000 in a seed funding pitch competition overseen by the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the McMillon Innovation Studio. Both teams formed and developed their business ideas in the graduate New Venture Development program at the U of A and include students from the Sam M. Walton College of Business, U of A College of Engineering and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Horizon Health and CiphrX will be competing April 14-16 in the third annual Heartland Challenge, and Horizon Health has also been accepted into the semifinals of the elite Rice University Business Plan Competition. Organized by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Heartland Challenge is a global student startup competition designed to simulate the process of raising venture capital for a high-growth enterprise and will feature 12 semifinalist graduate student teams from across North America.
Photo courtesy of U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation