Business Students Among Finalists for Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Business Plan Competition

Posted on 3/29/2018 4:56:27 PM

After beginning with almost 200 competitors, the seventh annual Business Plan Competition held by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is down to 14 finalists—and two of them are from IUP.

The competition provides student entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their original business plans and to win funds to assist in the start-up or expansion of their businesses.

The two IUP entries still competing are Gator Oil and Gas Services, which is operated by Colin Gasper, and CrocReady, a company owned by Ben Smith.

Gator Oil and Gas Services is a company that provides support for major oil and gas operators and service companies in the Marcellus and Utica shales region. Gator Oil and Gas Services is the sister company of the supply company Gator Industrial Solutions, LLC. Gator Oil and Gas Services provides four main service lines including trucking, fuel services, safety/project management consulting, and safety training. The company is owned by Gasper, who graduated from IUP in December 2017.

CrocReady is a food delivery service startup that will be based in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. CrocReady’s goal is to deliver pre-made crock-pot meals to customers, who can store the meals in their refrigerator or freezer overnight and insert the bagged meal into their crock pots to slowly cook during the day. Smith will graduate from IUP in May 2018 and hopes to pursue the opening of CrocReady in September 2018.

The winner of the $10,000 top prize—along with the second- and third-place finishers, who will receive prizes of $5,000 and $2,500 respectively—will be announced April 4 at an awards ceremony to be held at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. The program will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a reception and student poster session; the awards ceremony will follow. 

IUP students have won the competition twice in the past.

In 2015, Ryan Brannon took home the top prize for his web-based application My New Leaf, which was designed to help young people deal with drug and alcohol abuse problems. Brannon, who continues to work as the owner of the company, graduated from IUP in 2015 with a degree in management information systems.

Krurlath Patel, a technology support and training graduate, won the 2013 competition with his company, an Internet- and mobile-based marketing platform. The platform was designed to help small businesses to effectively market their promotions to college students.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our students to put everything they have learned in the classroom to practical use,” said Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia Shapira. “A number of past winners have gone on to successfully launch the businesses they conceived as part of this practical, real-life experience. There is no better demonstration of how our universities prepare students for success than this competition.”

“It is so exciting just to be able to have the opportunity to listen to the students who participate in this competition each year as they talk about their dreams,” said State System Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney. “The ingenuity and determination they demonstrate is remarkable. The large number of students who participate each year speaks volumes about our students, the faculty who work with them, and everyone who is involved in the competition from start to finish.”