Three Business Startups Win up to $17,500 in UofSC’s The Proving Ground

Staff Report From South Carolina CEO

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Tenth annual The Proving Ground competition announces three winners, awards more than $50,000 in prize money

Students and alumni pitched their business concepts to a panel of judges and live audience on March 28 in hopes of winning cash prizes and startup support.

Seniors Jeremy Leake of Memphis, Tennessee, and Hamilton Van Sciver of Westport, Connecticut won the $17,500 prize in the Maxient Innovation category for their startup, “SnapLites.” “SnapLites” are reusable and interchangeable decorative accessories for traditional string lights.

“We are in the process of filing our patents and plan on locking down product designs this summer,” Van Sciver says. “If everything runs smoothly, we plan on rolling out our first product line this fall for a Halloween debut.”

Franklin McGuire, business and law graduate student from Lexington, South Carolina, won the $17,500 Avenir Discovery Prize for his business, “CivvieSupply.” “CivvieSupply” is a premium clothing brand based on old-school military apparel. The idea for the business came when McGuire and his brothers saw a gap in the clothing market they thought they could fill.

“My brothers and I have always dreamed of creating an apparel brand,” McGuire says. “Moving forward, we are going to look for a larger space to conduct business operations, as well as a mentor to help us on our journey.”

Finalists had five minutes to make their pitch, followed by seven minutes of questioning by the judges. The judges for these two competitions consisted of Candice and Aaron Hark, founders of Maxient, and Jonathan Peterson, a former winner of The Proving Ground and co-founder of Tux on Trux.

The competition also held a fan favorite category where the two finalists made their pitches directly to the audience, who then asked questions and voted for their favorite.

Andrew Eckstein, senior, of Greensboro, North Carolina, and Brooks Herring, Navy veteran and graduate student from Conway, South Carolina, won the SCRA/Fluor Fan Favorite Prize for their concept, “RunPHASE.” Inspired by personal stories, Herring wants to develop “RunPHASE” as a secondary rehabilitation program for military veterans, using strength and fitness training in an effort to remove physical and psychological barriers that may block them from reintegrating into civilian society.

The winners were chosen based on six categories: problem, target market, financial understanding, investment potential and viability.

Dean Kress, associate director of the Moore School’s Faber Entrepreneurship Center, has directed the competition for ten years. The Proving Ground has awarded more than $300,000 in prizes and many winners have gone on to successfully launch businesses and services.