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Proving Ground startup winners named

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University of South Carolina seniors Jeremy Leake of Memphis, Tenn., and Hamilton Van Sciver of Westport, Conn., won $17,500 in the university’s 10th annual Proving Ground competition.

The seniors won the Maxient Innovation category for their startup SnapLites, which are reusable, interchangeable accessories for string lighting.

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

More than $50,000 was awarded in the annual competition, which took place March 28.

Franklin McGuire, a business and law graduate student from Lexington, won the $17,500 Avenir Discovery Prize for his business CivvieSupply, a clothing brand based on old-school military apparel. McGuire said he and his brothers want to fill a niche in the apparel market and are looking for a larger space to house their business.

A panel of judges questioned the Proving Ground finalists after five-minute pitches. Two finalists pitched directly to the audience in a fan favorite category, won by senior Andrew Eckstein of Greensboro, N.C., and Brooks Herring, a graduate student from Conway.

Their concept, RunPHASE, uses strength and fitness training to help military veterans rehabilitate and reintegrate into civilian activities.

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