Ouachita senior tapped as finalist in Governor’s Cup business competition

LITTLE ROCK —  A sequencing-based platform utilizing genetic biomarkers to better support and inform therapeutic decisions in brain cancer diagnoses, a process to bring together electronic components for implementation of full Net Zero emissions service into the commercial and home lawn care industries, and development of an all-in-one tree stand system using no additional equipment to take deer hunters from carry-in to the harvest are among the business ideas from 12 teams of college students who going to the final round of the 2022 annual Arkansas Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition, presented by Arkansas Capital Corporation. 

Six of the teams, three in the High-Growth / Technology Division and three in the Small Business Division, will be announced as the first, second, and third place winners at the 22nd annual Governor’s Cup Awards Luncheon Thursday, March 31, at 11:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites Pinnacle Ballroom in Rogers. The winners will share in a $100,000 cash prize pool, contributed for the fifth straight year by Dhu Thompson, former owner and former chairman of Delta Plastics and Revolution Bag in Little Rock.

The six finalists for each division are:

Winrock Automotive Small Business Division:

A.R. Lawn; Arkansas State University, Jonesboro

Ascend; John Brown University, Siloam Springs

Bento; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Kopi Koffee Company; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Limitless Fitness; Central Baptist College, Conway; Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia

Orange Otter Toys; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

High-Growth / Technology Division:

CiphrX Biotechnologies; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

GammaVet; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Horizon Health Solutions; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Shock; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Suelo; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

VEZA Solutions; John Brown University, Fayetteville

One representative from each of the 12 teams will take the stage at the luncheon to make a 90-second pitch on their team’s business idea, making the case as to why the product or service is needed in the marketplace and that it will be profitable.

The Limitless Fitness team consists of sisters Tabitha and Hannah Martin. Tabitha is the team leader, and Hannah is the team member. Hannah is a senior at Ouachita working toward a bachelors degree in business and psychology.

The pair has described their idea, Limitless Fitness, as a “modern, smart-tech, women-only fitness center. We focus on both the physical and mental health of women while creating an encouraging and safe environment. Statistics have shown that over 75% of women have been sexually harassed in a gym setting. With our business, we believe we can decrease, and possibly eliminate these numbers over time. We will prioritize bringing women together to create a safe and judgment free environment that allows women to exercise freely and improve their mental health. We are passionate about being involved and connecting with our community, as well as getting to know our members on a more personal level.”

For the first time in competition history, Arkansas Capital will be hosting the Governor’s Cup Awards Luncheon in Northwest Arkansas. Sam Walls III, CEO of Arkansas Capital, said “Northwest Arkansas has done an amazing job developing their entrepreneurial ecosystem and we are excited to showcase our competition finalists in this dynamic environment.”

The luncheon will be emceed for the seventh year by Mike Preston, director of the Arkansas Department of Commerce, and Anne Preston, a television news anchor. They will be joined by Mr. Thompson and representatives of other major sponsors, including the Walton Family Foundation, First Security Bank, Innovate Arkansas, and Winrock Automotive.

The $100,000 cash prize pool includes $25,000 to the winner of the High-Growth / Technology Division. The second place team will win $15,000 and the third place team will win $10,000. The first place winner of the Small Business Division wins $15,000. The second place team will be awarded $10,000 and the third place winner will be awarded $5,000. The division winners of the elevator pitches will each receive $2,000. Faculty advisors for the finalist teams will each receive a $2,500 cash award.

Arkansas Capital Corporation has managed the Governor’s Cup since the first competition in 2001. Nearly 3,100 Arkansas college and university students have been impacted, submitting 949 business ideas. For 2022, 31 teams of 157 students from ten Arkansas universities competed, the highest number of students since 2015. 

Walls III noted that, unlike many competitions around the country, the Governor’s Cup does not require student teams to launch their businesses. “Instead, they are rewarded for the rigorous and real-world experience they gain as competitors. Testimonials from past competitors show the Governor’s Cup has made a significant and positive impact in their professional development and in their careers beyond college. For 65 years, everything we do at Arkansas Capital has been geared toward empowering entrepreneurs and strengthening communities. The reason we started the Governor’s Cup over 20 years ago was to provide our state’s colleges and universities a highly-incentivized opportunity to teach their students to think entrepreneurially and encourage them to look at entrepreneurship as a career path,” he said.

Arkansas Capital’s history over the last six decades is itself a story of entrepreneurship. Over one hundred individual business leaders from around the state and dozens of state and local utility companies established the predecessor of Arkansas Capital in 1957 as a special purpose nonprofit finance company with a mission of economic development for the state of Arkansas.

Arkansas Capital offers flexible capital solutions to meet the unique needs of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and economic and community development projects, with emphasis on serving low-income and rural communities. Working in partnership with commercial banks, government agencies, and others at the local, state, regional, and national levels, Arkansas Capital has helped deploy more than $2 billion in capital financing into projects throughout Arkansas and surrounding states.