Published on April 18, 2017 by Kara Kennedy 

Ashley Steiner’s business plan for her company wowed the judges, and she was awarded the top prize in Samford University’s Brock School of Business annual business plan competition.

Steiner competed in the Open Division in the ninth Regions New Venture Challenge against two other finalists and was awarded $7,500 seed money to help expand her business, Ashley Ink & Paperie. Steiner is a sophomore prebusiness major from Birmingham. 

“I am so excited and blessed to represent Samford as this year’s Regions New Venture Challenge winner,” Steiner said. “Brock School of Business has given me incredible opportunities to grow as a business owner in ways I never could have done on my own. This school year has been the first year for me to ever compete in business competitions.

“Presenting Ashley Ink & Paperie in a competition setting has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone to pursue my passions and take my company to the next level. I am so thankful for Samford, Brock School of Business, Regions Bank, and all of my friends and family who have encouraged me through this journey. I can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”

Ashley Ink & Paperie is a stationery and illustration company featuring note cards, prints, calendars, planners and other products. The company’s products are sold nationally online through Etsy as well as in Birmingham at O’Henry’s and the Samford bookstore. Steiner recently represented the state of Alabama in the national Entrepreneurs’ Organization National Pitch Competition in Kansas City.

Regions Financial Corporation partnered with Brock School of Business in 2008 to establish a business plan competition that includes a division for first-year business students, the BUSA100 division, and the Open Division for upperclass and graduate students to gain recognition for launching their businesses. Student competitors are awarded a total of $20,000 to help start and grow their businesses.

Finalists are selected through a semifinal round by judges within the business school to advance to the final round in the competition. They then present to a group of judges from the Birmingham business company. This year’s judges were Duke Hinds, Regions Financial Corp. banking executive; Ty West, managing editor, Birmingham Business Journal; and Tracy True Dismukes, owner of Collage Designer Consignment and Brock School of Business M.B.A. graduate.

Since the competition’s beginning, Franz Lohrke, director of the entrepreneurship program and Brock Family Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, has worked to establish a legacy for this competition. As a result, it has received national recognition for including first-year business students. 

“Over the years, our contest has laid the foundation for many of our participants to start their business with the plan they presented in the finals,” said Lohrke. “I’ve always been amazed and overwhelmed by the talent our students exhibit in their business plans, and I keep up with where they land and how their business flourishes after they graduate.”

Four other companies that competed in the Regions New Venture Challenge also received a monetary prize for their business plan.

In the BUSA100 Division for first-year business students, first place went to Scribes MD, a company that will produce an “Alexa-type device for doctors” to reduce the time they spend filling out electronic medical records. Second place went to Vinylnaut, a company that would 3D-print customized vinyl records from customers’ music playlists. Third place was awarded to Trade-In, a company that will broker trade in recycled materials between large and small companies to reduce landfill waste.

In the Open Division, 1318 Consulting won second place; it is a company that wants to help small businesses develop and manage their brand names. Owner Cameron Gonzalez has been a finalist or semifinalist three times in the Regions New Venture Challenge. Third place went to Mid-Job Cleanup, a company that provides a mid-job cleanup service for interior and exterior construction projects to increase job-site cleanliness and safety.

“The Regions New Venture Challenge is one of our signature events,” said Howard Finch, business dean. “We are continually grateful to Regions for its generosity in supporting this program. Through this support, we continue Harry B. Brock Jr.’s legacy of entrepreneurship while at the same time helping students realize their dreams as business owners.”

Kara Kennedy is director of marketing and communication for Brock School of Business.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.