Past Governor’s Cup Winners

SEC Pitch Competition

Andrew Miles
GROX INDUSTRIES
University of
Arkansas
2017

by Kody Ford

Andrew Miles, CEO of Grox Industries, cares about windows. Given that windows account for over 20 percent of all energy lost in our home and office buildings, finding a way to improve the efficiency of this has become the company’s goal. Grox has utilized graphene oxide as a coating to create a 70 percent increase in energy conservation.

The company has faced some issues with staff turnover and expanding on a limited budget since its inception, but Miles has moved forward with a determination forged by his six years in the Army, an experience he believes serves him well as CEO of the growing company.

“I would say that it likely reinforced my command presence, but didn’t generate it,” he says. “The military does an excellent job of highlighting and exploiting traits that already exist in people.

“If the military enhanced any skill set that would be requisite for any CEO, then I’d say they definitely increased my threshold for patience with others,” he adds. “I firmly believe that startups can and should move quickly to generate results, but people make up startups, and those that chose to work in startups tend to be forceful in their opinions. The ability to remain calm and step back emotionally when dealing with co-founders or early employees will always pay dividends down the line.”

Douglas Hutchings in a plaid shirt with collar

Douglas Hutchings
PICASOLAR
University of
Arkansas
2013

by Kody Ford

Picasolar’s Douglas Hutchings isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. Such a work ethic is great in an employee, especially the CEO.

“Growing up, I worked in chicken houses and as a busboy at the Chopping Block Steakhouse in Mena,” says Hutchings. “These jobs were critical in teaching me the meaning of actual hard work, keeping me grounded through any success, and the value of money. In a startup, you cannot limit your work by your job title, and it is critical to be a good steward of the money that has been given to you by investors or your customers.”

In 2009, as Hutchings was finishing his PhD at the University of Arkansas on “Early Detection of Breast Cancer using Microwave Imaging,” he enrolled in the New Venture Development classes in the Walton College of Business. The idea of the class was simple – have an idea, write a business plan, and hopefully start a company. Their team coalesced around a technology that provided a new way to produce solar cells, developed by Dr. Hameed Naseem. They fared well at business plan competitions and raised a round of seed funding six days before he defended his dissertation.

While the initial plan would have required massive amounts of capital, they scaled down and honed in their process on a way of improving existing solar cells. They have received a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation to prove the concept of this new approach, which enabled them to secure funding from the Department of Energy SunShot Program. They have made it through three rounds of back-to-back support in the SunShot Program, a dazzling achievement.

As for why he enjoys working at a startup, Hutchings quips, “You are working on something that has never been done before, and the odds are not in your favor. What’s not to like?”

LB Hudson by tree and green grass

L.B. Hudson
LEVERAGE BIDS
Ouachita Baptist
University
2016

By Melanie Kramer

In 2016 L.B. Hudson and fellow Ouachita Baptist University classmate, Evan McKinnon, were awarded the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition prize for agriculture for their innovate platform, AgCorp. The idea for AgCorp came from an OBU alumni who worked in agriculture and pointed out the inefficiencies in the way crops are bought and sold.

“It is amazing how some segments of agriculture are amazingly and efficiently high tech – seed yields and the GPS systems that combines run, but then you look at something as easy as selling your crop – it is outdated and needs to be more developed and competitive,” says Hudson. The duo did just that. They created an online system for farmers to sell their crops to the highest bidder at a particular point in time. Their efforts were rewarded and fellow agriculture professionals granted them the prize and $5,000.

“The Governor’s Cup experience gave me a healthy confidence in entrepreneurship and business overall,” says Hudson. “You need to have the confidence to trust your ability to communicate effectively and be yourself. If someone doesn’t like your idea, then prove them wrong.”

The Governor’s Cup agriculture award also made it possible for Hudson and McKinnon to further their platform and in late 2016 AgCorp was rebranded as Leverage Bids to better service any product that has customers that needs price matching services. Leverage Bids currently serves mostly Arkansas and the Memphis area.

Hudson graduated from OBU in 2016 and now works full time for HoganTaylor, LLP in Little Rock as a tax accountant. He is a co-owner in three other small businesses; his favorite is a retail fireworks tent in Parkers Chapel. His employer not only allows the additional ventures, but supports and encourages them. His most recent project is the early stages and is a research and development business that deals with monetizing patents.

Nathan Bailey on truck in sunglasses

Nathan Bailey
WATERBUG IRRIGATION
Arkansas State
University
2017

by Morgan Embry

Waterbug Irrigation Owner Nathan Bailey is making waves in the agriculture industry with his invention: The Bailey Patch.

The Bailey Patch is an irrigation repair to polypipe, flat irrigation tubing that is flexible, but not always the most durable against harsh weather and animals.

The patch allows farmers to quickly mend damaged polypipe for less than half the price of conventional repairs, with Bailey Patch costing $30 per patch, and conventional repairs costing approximately $100.
Not only is the Bailey Patch cost effective, but it also saves time and labor.

“You know, I grew up working on a farm, and I’ve had to fix a lot of those blowouts. I had to fix two back to back in 100-degree weather once,” Bailey says. “Farmers are the backbone of America. We need to help them save time and money, not spend it.”

The Bailey Patch led Bailey to victory at last year’s Governor’s Cup, a collegiate business plan competition managed by the Arkansas Capital Corporation, where he presented his invention and won on the behalf of Arkansas State University.

“The Governor’s Cup taught me that political influences can affect entrepreneurs on every level — no matter how small or large [the entrepreneur] may be,” Bailey says.
Though Bailey is graduating this May with a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, he is unsure of where his future will take him.

“I’m just keeping my mind open,” he said “I thought about law school or continuing with Waterbug Irrigation. Nothing is set in stone — I’m just going to go with the flow and see where life takes me.”

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