A graduate student gaining a PhD in aerospace engineering from the Statler College is a finalist in the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition for his idea to open a brewery—specifically for kombucha. Andrew Rhodes came up with the idea when he began drinking and home brewing kombucha in the summer of 2016.
“I loved the flavor of the kombucha I made, from the initial classic unflavored to apple spice. After finding kombucha on draft in Colorado, I knew it would be popular in a college town of an outdoorsy state like Morgantown,” Rhodes said.
He now finds himself in the finals of the statewide competition designed to encourage college students to turn their ideas into real businesses. Rhodes said he uses local and seasonal ingredients, and he names the products after natural physical features of West Virginia. His key audience will be millennials, college students and health-conscious customers who want the living drink, which is full of probiotics, vitamins and minerals. And because Morgantown has a relatively young population, he said he knows the Kombuchery will do well in the small city.
This is the 13th year for the West Virginia Statewide Business Plan Competition, hosted by the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. Efforts to bolster entrepreneurship and small business creation have been identified by WVU as a goal for the West Virginia Forward initiative to advance the state’s economic future.
Rhodes, a native of Morgantown, had been rejected from the competition twice in years past, so he said it is rewarding to have come across a plausible business idea that he is passionate about.
“I encourage all students who have the entrepreneurial desire to participate in this competition and in the WVU Launch Lab,” he said. “This process has been essential to my understanding of the business world and the process of developing a marketable product.”
Rhodes said his ideas for after he graduates in spring 2019 are to, first, open The Neighborhood Kombuchery and then to use his aerospace engineering degree to teach. He plans to spend his career in West Virginia to give back to the people and communities that have always supported him in his endeavors.
WV Forward is a statewide collaboration led by West Virginia University, the state Department of Commerce and Marshall University to help grow the economy by adding jobs, investing in education, and improving health and wellness to create the most prosperous West Virginia possible.The BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is part of the WVU Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Applied Ecosystem, a University-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community. A visual map of the full ecosystem and detailed information about the resources included can be found here.