Dakota Hoskins said he was nervous walking into the First Federal Center for the Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition, standing on a massive stage, and looking out to see more than 300 people in the audience.
If he was nervous, it sure didn’t show.
The owner of Safari Car Wash Solutions shined under the bright lights to win the Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition, presented by Community Trust Bank, on June 23 at the First Federal Center on the campus of Hazard Community and Technical College. The event was in conjunction with the SOAR Focus Summit on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, presented by Kentucky Power.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Hoskins said, looking back on when his name was announced as the winner. “I was just thrilled. There were so many great finalists.”
Hoskins, who won a $10,000 grand prize, was the first of six finalists to take the stage during the pitch competition. A car wash owner, Hoskins has developed a unique and affordable barcode system for operators to implement to increase profits and marketing reach.
This year’s Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition attracted a record 39 applicants from 24 counties in Appalachia Kentucky. The competition is led by SOAR’s Business and Innovation team, a partnership with KY Innovation to support startups and existing businesses throughout Kentucky’s 54 Appalachian counties.
You can view the video of the entire Startup Appalachia Pitch Competition on our YouTube Channel.
Reimagines takes second place
Elizabeth Schroer took home second place — a $3,500 cash prize — and the crowd favorite award with her business Reimagines. Based in Somerset in Pulaski County, Reimagines is a custom design and print shop, specializing in large format printing and UV printing services.
Schroer’s use of UV printers and other high-tech machinery has placed her at a competitive and cutting-edge. She is creating one-of-a-kind artwork and working with a variety of surfaces, including metal, leather, wood, and plastic.
UpScore Test Prep finishes third
Dr. Kyle Mann is a dentist by day, and an entrepreneur at heart. That heart was evident as he placed third and earned a $1,500 cash prize.
The Adair County native is the creator of UpScore Test Prep, an interactive and affordable ACT test-prep platform.
Dr. Mann created the business as a way to address the inequities of access to ACT test prep. But his product isn’t just filling a gap, it is a platform that allows for a fully online and customizable preparation tool that is tailored to the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
The other three finalists for this year’s Pitch Competition were:
- Kevin Poole | Hemp Cattle Company
- Charles Young and Daniel Greider | EmereeSoft
- Justin and Kristen Matthews | Eridinaus Brewery
All applicants and finalists for the Pitch Competition will receive free services through SOAR’s Business and Innovation Team and network of partners. The team works by providing business coaching and mentoring, in addition to a host of free direct services, including:
- Business Planning
- Basic Website Design
- Google Services
- Digital Media
- Systems for Success
Judges for this year’s Pitch Competition were:
- Molly Pyle, Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development Lead at the Center for Rural Innovation
- Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman, Deputy Executive Director of KY Innovation
- Kelby Price, Managing Partner at Keyhorse Capital
Rick Newsom, president of Community Trust Bank, was on hand for the competition and presented each winner with a cash prize.