Published on April 25, 2018 by Morgan Black  
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Alex Tian and Associate Dean Chad Carson
Alex Tian and Associate Dean Chad Carson

Samford University’s Brock School of Business and Regions Bank teamed up April 20 to present the 10th annual Regions New Venture Challenge business plan competition.

Students interested in starting their own business entered the competition for the chance to win start-up capital, gain publicity and receive mentoring to help start their businesses. First, second, and third place prizes were available for the Open Division valued at $7,500, $5,000 and $2,500, respectively. In the BUSA 100 Division, open to students currently enrolled in the World of Business course, first place received $2,500, while second and third placed received $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.

The Open Division was won by GA Exchange and its founder, Alex Tian, a senior management major from Auburn, Alabama. Second place went to social media content aggregator, Funnel, proposed by senior marketing major Zach Taunton from Hoover, Alabama, and senior management major Jay Michael Johnson from Tampa, Florida. Third place went to wedding crowdfunding firm Town Square Affair presented by Juris Doctor / Master of Business Administration student (J.D. / M.B.A.) Christian Flowers from Vestavia Hills, Alabama.  

In the BUSA 100 Division, the winning team was personal training service, My Sport. Team members included sophomores and pre-business majors Zack Allen from Fayetteville, Georgia; Madison Cate, Birmingham; Carter Harbin, Dalton, Georgia; and Rick Remetich, Pelham, Alabama; as well as freshmen pre-business majors Amelia Faucher, Roswell, Georgia, and Mallory Messer, Mobile, Alabama..

Second place in this division was awarded to Urban Lyfe, an entertainment activity aggregator, and third went to You Entertainment, an on-the-go alternative to streaming services.

Open Division winner Tian said, “It’s been a huge confidence booster. I didn’t know how much possibility this business had until I pitched it to real professionals and they think it really has an opportunity to grow.” Tian’s business, GA-Exchange, seeks to match Chinese students to English-speaking tutors to enhance the student’s conversational English skills.

“For 10 years, this has been the showcase event for our entrepreneurship program,” said Brock Family Chair in Entrepreneurship Chad Carson. “Our partnership with Regions has been amazing. We are truly blessed to have been able to celebrate ten years of this competition. Part of that celebration is having two of our past winners back to serve as judges for this year’s competition – Blair Badham and Heather Williams Simmons.” 

Badham received his M.B.A. from Brock School of Business in 2009 and is the managing director for Butler Snow Advisory Services LLC. Simmons received her M.B.A. in 2011. She is the founder and president of Tallulah’s Designs in Birmingham and a business consultant for Silverbeet Creative Company in Florence, Alabama. Ty West, editor-in-chief of the Birmingham Business Journal, also served as a judge for the competition. 

Carson added, “This was the best competition and the best level of participation that we’ve had.”

“It’s amazing. You don’t get this opportunity at a lot of other schools,” Tian added. “I want to thank Regions and Samford University for providing this opportunity because now I can pursue my dream.”

Region’s New Venture Challenge 

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.