Matthew Byrd, a  19-year-old sophomore from West Virginia University, won the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council’s inaugural Launchpad competition at the Parkersburg Arts Center on Wednesday, September 28th.

Byrd beat out six other finalists, winning over the five panelist judges and a packed audience with plans to expand his Ritchie County-based Byrd’s and Bee’s honey operation.

Byrd, a Harrisville native, established his company less than a year ago. He plans to use the $5,000 prize to expand his apiary to produce 7,000 bottles of honey to be sold at various specialty markets throughout the state.

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Jody Murphy, chairman of the Launchpad Committee, said the event was a success on several levels. And one he hopes will grow.

“We established Launchpad to promote the region as eager and open to new business and entrepreneurship. We’re providing a platform for new business and ideas.”

Launchpad had about a dozen applicants this year. Murphy said the committee whittled that to seven finalists to make their pitch at the Launchpad event. Finalists were from Jackson, Wood, Ritchie, Pleasants and Tyler counties.

Jill Parsons, a Launchpad committee member and emcee of the event, said the finalists were a good, well-rounded representation of the area.

“We had a lot of great ideas, and growing businesses.”

In addition to Byrd, Launchpad finalists included: Shannon Reilly of Ellenboro, Kristian Lenard of St. Marys, Mark Meredith of Parkersburg, Jade Kalinofski of Friendly, Stephen Cogar of Ravenswood and Tina Matheny of St. Marys.

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Finalists faced the live audience and provided a five-minute description of their business model. Kalinofksi, a graduate of West Virginia University of Parkersburg’s Culinary School, took things a step further and wowed the crowd and judges providing a sample of her business plan; maple bacon and red velvet mini cupcakes. 

Following their description each contestant had an additional five minutes to take questions from the Launchpad judges: Eric Peters, executive director of the Tyler County Development Authority; Laura Cox, owner of Cox Pharmacy; Carl Guthrie, executive director of the Pleasants County Development Authority; Patsy Hardy, operating owner principal of S & P Harley Davidson, and Cory Dennison,  president and CEO of Vision Shared.

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Guthrie, a former bank executive, said he was impressed with the business plans he was pitched.  

Launchpad was sponsored by the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, The Ross Foundation, Vision Shared, the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the Pleasants Area Chamber of Commerce, Huntington Bank, Ritchie County Economic Development Authority and the city of Parkersburg.

Murphy said the event would not have happened without the backing of the regional council, the committee’s volunteers and the support of the business-minded community, including the Ross Foundation. He believes the competition was successful enough it will become an annual event. 

“This is something we think will grow. As word gets out, I think you’ll see more applicants and more ideas. Launchpad was well-received.”


Jody Murphy is the Executive Director of the Pleasants Area Chamber of Commerce.

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