Margaux Parmentier

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — A record number of Winthrop University students participated in the fifth annual Student Innovation Competition, which encourages students to create an idea for an inventive product and develop a business plan for it.

The event, a partnership with Rock Hill’s Technology Incubator at Knowledge Park, challenged students to come up with a new product, tool or service and pitch the idea to business professionals, using a business model canvas.

A record nine student teams, which received guidance from the Technology Incubator, competed in this year’s event March 1.

“The Tech Incubator knows a lot about launching a business and has a lot of community contacts,” said Patricia Raley, assistant director of student activities.

David Warner, director of the Technology Incubator, said the event is intended “to raise awareness for students about the importance of entrepreneurship.”

He said he hoped the event would “identify local entrepreneurial talent.”

Imani Belton, a junior integrated marketing communication major, said the coaching night, which took place five days before the ideas were pitched, really helped her team.

“True entrepreneurs from Rock Hill,” Belton said, “break it down piece by piece so that way to help you and show you the new in you didn’t think about.”

Teams had five minutes to pitch their business plans to the judges at Dina’s Place on the Winthrop campus.

The students were judged on criteria that included the innovativeness, ingenuity, uniqueness and business readiness of the idea and effective use of technology. They also had to provide feedback from three potential customers.

Prizes were sponsored by Coroplast and ranged from $500 to $1500. The judges selected the top three teams and a fourth place was awarded by the audience.

Riley said the judges were “all picked by the Technology Incubator. Usually they are either clients or connections they have.”

First place winners Autumn Haynes and Jared Nodine developed the Autumn’s Harvest concept, which was based on hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil.

“I’ve spent hours of research, but it was definitively worth it. I learned a lot of stuff,” said Haynes, a sophomore biology major.

“It’s more experience and it’s really exhilarating, so I really enjoyed it,” said Nodine, a philosophy and religion major.

Driton Bytyqi and Faisal Alhazmi pitched the second place Guidely concept, an online platform that would allow travelers to book their own local tour guides.

“Me and my partner took a lot of time to do this project and we’re really happy and excited to win an award like this,” said Bytyqi.

“It’s just another realm for me to challenge myself and to learn new software and new things,” said Belton.