ADA – With another dominant performance at the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup competition, East Central University continues to build a strong case as Oklahoma’s best business school.
All four of ECU’s Love’s Cup teams claimed prize money at the 2020 competition. In fact, ECU brought home seven separate awards, more than any other university in the state, with total combined winnings of $27,000.
“I am extremely proud of how hard our students worked throughout this competition,” said Dr. Stacey Bolin, who mentors each ECU team.
The traditionally exciting and opulent Love’s Cup awards ceremony was sidelined this year by the coronavirus pandemic, but the celebration moved online with an energetic Facebook Live event that broadcast the joyful, surprised reactions of winners from their respective homes. The actual Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup competition a week earlier also occurred online with students utilizing Zoom video software to make their competitive pitches.
“Our students stepped up and held practice sessions with ECU faculty and staff, community members, and ECU Love’s Cup alumni, who graciously volunteered their time to help students with their presentations,” Bolin said. “Our students’ determination, despite all the adversity, is inspiring.”
Casey Black, of Chickasha, won second prize overall in the Graduate High Growth division with her entry “WhiCount,” a device that monitors white blood cell counts. Black’s presentation marks ECU’s first-ever entry into graduate-level competition, earning her $10,000. She also won first place in the pitch competition, a $1,000 award, as well as $1,000 for making the finals.
“Throughout this competition, there were times when I felt I was in way over my head, and without the constant guidance and support from Dr. Bolin, I would not have made it,” Black said. “She has always believed in me and has pushed me because she knows what I am capable of achieving.”
Cullen Edens, fresh from being named ECU’s 2020 George Nigh Award winner, also made his presence felt at the Love’s Cup competition. Competing in the Undergraduate Small Business division, the Ada native wowed judges with the presentation of his product “Eco-Snap Tiles,” which are flooring tiles made of recycled plastic. Edens earned the $5,000 Paulsen Scholarship, $1,000 for Best Interview in the Product category, and $1,000 for making the finals.
Chris McMahan, of Ardmore, placed third in the Undergraduate Small Business division for “Crop Cut,” a program that raises hemp on under-utilized farmland while sharing profits with the landowner. McMahan earned $6,000 in prize money, including $1,000 for Best Interview in the IT/App category, and $1,000 for making the finals.
In the same division, Tanner Jack and Halen Ogles, both of Ada, earned a total of $2,000 for winning Best Pitch for “UBrew” and for making the finals. UBrew invites customers to use the team’s brew canvas to design custom beers complete with custom labels.
“We are incredibly proud of our students and love that their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit are being recognized by the state’s business leaders,” said ECU President Katricia Pierson.
The Love’s Cup is a collegiate business plan competition open to students on any Oklahoma campus. Students take what they have learned in a classroom setting and apply it to real-world opportunities as they assemble teams, identify products, research markets, formulate financial projections and write business plans. The competition comes when teams pitch their concepts to a panel of potential investors, much like the popular television series “Shark Tank.”
“This is one of the best nights of the year for the Stonecipher School of Business,” said Dean Wendell Godwin. “We had our first student winner in 2012 and have won multiple Love’s Cup awards in each of the last eight years.”
Godwin said the ECU program’s success is firmly rooted in the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship.
“The Center for Excellence was created by Carol Smith to honor her late husband,” Godwin said. “The funding and focus provided by the center has allowed Dr. Bolin to grow our overall entrepreneurship degree and attract amazing students from around the state. Our students allow the Stonecipher School of Business and ECU to stand out among universities in Oklahoma.”
Photo cutline: ECU Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup competitor Casey Black, upper left, celebrates after hearing her name announced. Black is ECU’s first-ever graduate-level entrant and winner. Celebrating with her are (top right) her mentor, Dr. Stacey Bolin, and (below) Wendell Godwin, dean of ECU’s Stonecipher School of Business. The 2020 Love’s Cup awards ceremony – usually a glitzy affair – had to be conducted online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.