Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores announced as new signature sponsor
By Jim Stafford
In a night full of surprises for student participants and guests alike, organizers of the recent Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup business plan competition saved the biggest surprise for last: new signature sponsor.
Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores was announced as the new Signature Sponsor of the annual entrepreneurship competition for Oklahoma college students.
Scott Meacham, CEO of competition manager i2E, Inc., made the announcement at the conclusion of the annual awards dinner held at the Chevrolet Bricktown Events Center.
Love’s will become the event’s Signature Sponsor beginning in 2017, replacing the founding sponsor, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
The Reynolds Foundation has sponsored the event for the past 12 years, underwriting the cash prizes annually awarded to winning teams of college students. The Foundation is set to dissolve at the end of this year and no longer will be awarding grants.
“My concern when I learned the Reynolds Foundation was liquidating was how could we keep this great resource for our state and its college students,” Meacham said. “The competition is too important and too valuable to lose.”
More than 1,700 students from campuses across Oklahoma have participated in the Governor’s Cup, including more than 200 this year.
“That is why I am pleased and honored to share with you how fortunate we are to have found the perfect partner in Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores to continue and build upon what we have been able to accomplish over the past 12 years,” Meacham said.
Founded by Tom and Judy Love, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores operates fuel stations and convenience stores at more than 370 locations nationwide. It employs 15,000 people in 40 states and has annual revenue of $22 billion.
“We’re delighted to be part of this competition that celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of our culture here at Love’s, and we’re excited to support the innovators of tomorrow,” said Vice President of Communications Jenny Love Meyer.
In the final Reynolds Foundation-sponsored Governor’s Cup, teams from Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and East Central University claimed first place finishes in the High Growth Graduate, High Growth Undergraduate and Small Business divisions.
Mito Material Solutions from OSU claimed first place in the High Growth Graduation Division. Team members were Haley Kurtz, team leader, and Kevin Keith. Richard Gajan was the team advisor.
Second place in the Graduate Division went to Nutripeutics from OU, while WoodPro from OSU took third place.
In the High Growth Undergraduate Division, Project Pediatrics from the University of Oklahoma claimed first place. Team members were Krishna Manohar, team leader, and team members John Dastague, Nikita Hussain, Harrison Morrow and Eli Weathers. Team advisor was Alyssa Boutelle.
Second place in the Undergraduate Division was awarded to Heart Optic LLC from the University of Central Oklahoma, while third place went to KegSafe from Oral Roberts University.
The top two finishers in each of the High Growth divisions go on to compete for an additional $118,000 in the Tri-State competition in Las Vegas in May.
In the Small Business Division, AIR-EZ from East Central University claimed the first place prize. Team leader was Larisa Bolin and team member was Breanna Ragan. Team advisor was Stacey Bolin.
Second place in the Small Business Division went to Back Seat Hero from ECU, while Pure Golf from St. Gregory’s University claimed third place.
Other category winners recognized during the Awards Dinner included top teams from The Interview, in which High Growth Division teams sat down in February with experts in the industry category of their business plan.
The Interview winners were:
KegSafe, Oral Roberts University won the AT&T Information Technology/Communications; Heart Optic, LLC, University of Central Oklahoma won the Greater Oklahoma Chamber Healthcare; ARdecor, University of Oklahoma won the i2E, Inc. Student Generated Technology Design; Cubby Connect, University of Oklahoma won the OG&E Positive Energy and Environmental; and Mito Material Solutions, Oklahoma State University won the Oklahoma Business Roundtable Manufacturing, Material Sciences and Transportation.
Winners of the IBM pitch competition were:
Anthony Purinton, Phunctional Foods, University of Central Oklahoma, High Growth Graduate Division; Morgan Timmons, Somaware, University of Central Oklahoma, High Growth Undergraduate Division; and Austin McRay, Altimeter, Oklahoma Christian University, Small Business Division.
Winners of $5,000 Paulsen Award scholarships from the Oklahoma Business Roundtable were Larisa Bolin, East Central University, Small Business Division; Robert Gallegos Castillo, Oral Roberts University; Undergraduate Division; and Amanda Curtis, University of Oklahoma, Graduate Division.
Winner of the Robert E. Craine Outstanding Venture Award was Nutripeutics from OU. Named in honor of the late Robert Craine, a founding board member of i2E, the award recognizes an exceptional business concept presented during the competition.
The Awards Dinner was a “transformational” night for the business plan competition. One era passed and a new era dawned with Love’s as the Signature Sponsor.
“With Love’s strong history of entrepreneurship beginning with a single startup location and growing into a national market leader, theirs is a story that would inspire any entrepreneur,” Meacham said. “Thank you, Love’s, for accepting the role of Signature Sponsor; we look forward to the competition next year.”