Rio’s Center for Entrepreneurship Awards $3,000 in Inaugural Storm Tank Student Pitch Competition

The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College’s Center for Entrepreneurship held its inaugural student pitch competition on Monday, April 1. “Storm Tank” provided a platform for students to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges with local business ties, competing for $3,000 in prizes. The participants demonstrated their ability to develop viable business models, address market needs, and present compelling pitches in front of the judges and a live audience.

The event, made possible by the Gallia Community Foundation, ITSVOIP Business Communications, The Wiseman Agency, and The Root Sports & Fitness Center, brought students on-stage at the Berry Fine and Performing Arts Center and highlighted Rio’s commitment to fostering creativity and innovation among its students.

Two individual competitors and one team walked away with prizes from the competition:
First Place, $1,500 prize: Taylor Sells, SmartSprout
Second Place, $1,000 prize: Leah Deaner, Leah Deaner Designs
Third Place, $500 prize: Opal Huggins and Ruby Lechler, The Wool Weed Mat

"I was blown away by our students’ enthusiasm and creativity in this year's Storm Tank competition," said Cole Massie, Director of Economic Development and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Rio. "This event not only encouraged entrepreneurial thinking, but also provided practical experience in building viable business plans and presenting ideas in a compelling way – essential skills for success no matter where these students’ careers lead them."

The ten student teams showcased a diverse range of concepts and solutions aimed at industries such as food and beverages, athletics, real estate, consumer goods, fashion, and healthcare. Pitches ranged all the way from early-stage concepts to operating businesses, and competitors ranged from College Credit Plus (CCP) high school students to masters students.

The ten participants were:
• Lucas Hutton, Athlete Information Monitoring System (AIMS)
• Santiago Blanco, COF&
• Riley Canter and Jessica Rife, Women’s Health Clinic
• Leah Deaner, Leah Deaner Designs
• Opal Huggins and Ruby Lechler, The Wool Weed Mat
• Nalah Kirkendall, Thrift & Flip
• Danny Lin and Kyle Bennet, The Grande Dumpling
• Ziann Payne, The Food Analyzer
• Jordan Ramirez, SmartConnect Solutions
• Taylor Sells, SmartSprout

Judges for the competition were:
• Shelly Boothe, Ohio Valley Bank
• Travis Dennie, ITSVOIP Business Communications
• Troy Miller, Holzer Health System
• Nick Roach, The Wiseman Agency & Gallia County Community Foundation
• Pat Tackett, Ohio Valley Bank

Rio’s Center for Entrepreneurship is dedicated to assisting students and community members access free business consultation, community connections, and specialized programming, such as Storm Tank. The Center is also partnering with the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Business Center for Central Appalachia, and Shawnee State University for entrepreneurship workshops now and into the summer months.

“Storm Tank is really just the start of what we’re aiming to do with the Center for Entrepreneurship,” said Massie. “This is about creating a culture of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and problem-solving with our student body and the community. Some of the world’s largest companies started on a college campus – we’re here to help students take some measured risks and build businesses that sets them up to aim toward those same heights.”

For more information about Storm Tank and other entrepreneurial initiatives at the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College, visit Students and community members interested in being part of the Center’s growth can contact Cole Massie, Center Director, at