A senior from John Marshall High School has won a $10,000 college scholarship after her idea was chosen as the best in a field of 103 entries in West Virginia’s inaugural high school business plan competition.

Sierra Cook of Glen Dale, W.Va., was one of eight finalists from high schools across West Virginia who traveled to the West Virginia University Mountainlair for the final competition March 22. The first-ever competition in the state was hosted by the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, located in the College of Business and Economics.

Cook’s concept, Marshall Mushrooms, is a local small business engaged in the production, growing and marketing of shitake and maitake mushrooms to restaurants, grocery stores and health food stores in the Ohio Valley.

“Fresh, local produce is becoming more and more in vogue in the health conscious segment of our society, and our business will be the first in the Valley to grow and market these delicious, medicinal and nutritious mushrooms,” Cook said in her proposal.

Along with John Marshall High School, the eight finalist teams hailed from Washington High School, Shady Spring High School, Bluefield High School, Herbert Hoover High School, Morgantown High School, Mingo Central Comprehensive High School and Wirt County High School. The 103 competing teams represented 36 schools from across West Virginia.

“The purpose of the competition is to expose high school students to entrepreneurial opportunities so they understand what is required to make a business successful,” said Steve Cutright, Director of the BrickStreet Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “There’s no competition in the state for Cook’s particular product. I think the lesson learned is to evaluate opportunity, seize it and put together a plan to take concept to reality.”

Cook will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship to one of nine participating universities and colleges throughout West Virginia. Participating universities include Bethany College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Glenville State College, Shepherd University, University of Charleston, West Liberty University, West Virginia University and West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

The competition was made possible by a five-year agreement between the College of Business and Economics and the West Virginia Department of Education. West Virginia RESA, a functional and sustainable organizational structure to sustain a statewide platform, also played a role by selecting a regional winner from each of the eight RESA districts throughout the state. Through the cooperation of Nick Zervos, one of eight regional RESA directors, the competition is a statewide initiative.

The competition is open to 37,000 juniors and seniors from 157 West Virginia high schools. The program is funded by a collaborative effort of the Brickstreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Through a grant of $89,000, the Benedum Foundation funded the initial startup costs and first two years of operating costs for the competition. The balance of the operational costs is funded by a $3 million gift from BrickStreet Insurance, which established the Brickstreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneuriship in February 2013.

“Without the vision, guidance and support of Mary Hunt of the Benedum Foundation, the High School Business Plan would never have become a reality,” Cutright said.

For further information on the West Virginia High School Business Plan Competition or the WVU College of Business and Economics, please visit be.wvu.edu.



CONTACT: Tara St. Clair, WVU BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
304.293.7221, tara.stclair@mail.wvu.edu

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