Student entrepreneurs compete for start-up funding

A group of student entrepreneurs are a step closer to turning their business idea into a real business.  They just won the VCU Entrepreneurship Program's Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the Association for Corporate Growth, walking away with the $1500 prize.

The team of students from VCU competed with a prototype for the their product called Cush, a special cushion for wheelchairs that automatically changes the inflation level of different sections of the cushion.

Team member Kaitlin Taylor demonstrated for our camera, "You can see it has air cells that inflate. And then it's surrounded by foam. The next step we haven't added yet is a gel overlay that will on the top of the cushion."

Cush is meant to prevent painful pressure ulcers, or bedsores, for people who can't easily change their sitting position. Student Calvin Peterson was inspired to create it after developing a painful pressure ulcer in his own wheelchair.

"I had to have surgery to completely heal it and then I had to stay off it for a while," he told us. "So I know the pain personally."

The team is one of five finalists competing to win the $1500 prize in the ACG Business Plan Competition. They've already won the $4000 People's Choice Award in the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce's i.e.* Start-up Competition, and the $2500 undergraduate award in VCU's Venture Creation Contest.

Said Doug Pugh, Management Department Chair of the VCU School of Business, "I think it says a lot about what we do at VCU and the real practical approach to entrepreneurship education that we have here. They're not just learning about it.  They're out there doing it, creating new ventures.

For the Cush team, it's not just a school project. They say they may have a company interested in producing Cush.

"It's not a project at all," said Peterson. "It is our future, at least mine."

The runner up was The Shogun Gallery, an art gallery focusing on ancient Japanese wood prints, winning $350.

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