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WKU student honored in fifth annual ‘Idea State U’ business plan competition

A WKU student has won an award and cash prize in the Cabinet for Economic Development’s fifth annual statewide student business plan competition. The competition, called “Idea State U,” is designed to help identify and support the next generation of Kentucky innovators and entrepreneurs.

Higher Education Associates, a proposed venture by WKU graduate student Jacob Hildebrant, received second place in the business concept category of the "Idea State U" competition. From left: Kris Kimel, president and founder of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation; WKU's Krist Schell, R. Wilburn Clouse and Jacob Hildebrant; and Paul Boisvert, Idea State U organizer, Kentucky Cabinet For Economic Development.

“I congratulate the winners and applaud the efforts of all who participated in the Idea State U competition,” Gov. Steve Beshear said. “This type of innovative and entrepreneurial spirit will play a key role in future economic development. We wish these students the best as they pursue their dreams of putting these promising business plans into action.”

Among the graduate student teams, Jacob Hildebrant of Madisonville took second place in the business concept category, receiving a cash prize of $2,111. His proposed venture, Higher Education Associates, provides institutions of higher learning with education audits by enrolled students specially trained and certified to perform objective, comprehensive and anonymous audits.

Additional WKU students participating in the competition included the team of Ben Aroh and Nick Burnett, both of Louisville. Their undergraduate business concept, Impact Energy, markets and installs quiet, compact power plants generating 25-500 kW of onsite electrical power by burning low-emission natural gas.

Also participating was Elisa Levine of Horse Cave in the graduate business plan category. Her proposed venture, Looking Glass Bookstore & Café, provides a college community with a used bookstore that will offer in-store and online sales. Breakfast, lunch and snack items will be offered.

WKU students, with the help of team advisors R. Wilburn Clouse and Krist Schell, spent months developing their business concepts.

“The Idea State U competition is fast becoming noticed as a venue for success. We’ve had more competitors with better plans in each year, and two WKU ventures have become real successes with real sales,” said Schell, director of WKU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The feedback from the judges we received this year was the best yet, and even more valuable have been the contacts that the teams have made though the spirit of support and professionalism Idea State U creates. We are looking forward to participating in this competition again and it’s becoming an expected part of our entrepreneurship curriculum here at WKU. Thanks for the wonderful event.”

Students from WKU were among more than 70 participants in the competition. In all, “Idea State U” featured 10 teams of graduate students and 14 teams of undergraduates from seven of Kentucky’s public universities.

Approximately $100,000 in prizes was awarded to student teams who conceived and developed plans for new Kentucky companies. Cash prizes were weighted to provide larger awards to those teams whose entries are more fully developed and therefore more likely to succeed in the real world. This emphasis on readiness to compete in the marketplace offers the greatest opportunity to earn a return on the state’s investment by creating real companies that provide real jobs for Kentuckians.

The Cabinet hosts the “Idea State U” competition to encourage a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that will help sustain Kentucky’s future economy in the global marketplace. The $100,000 in awards makes Kentucky’s “Idea State U” one of the nation’s top state-sponsored business plan competitions.

Contact: Wil Clouse, (270) 745-5325; Krist Schell, (270) 745-6864; Mandy Lambert or Daniel Lowry, (502) 564-4886.

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