by Amy K. Lavender

After a whirlwind of a week that saw destructive weather and travel delays, a road-weary William Cross returned to Carrollton from the 17th annual Rice Business Plan Competition at Rice University with one more prize under his belt.

William CrossCross, an undergraduate majoring in business administration with the University of West Georgia’s Richard College of Business, compete with his team, VasoCorp, against some of the world's top universities between April 6 and 8. VasoCorp’s team includes Cross, and his sister, Michelle Cross, who presented their business plan for NeuropAWAY, a dietary supplement for diabetic nerve pain.

The teams for this year’s competition were chosen from nearly 350 entrants to compete in four categories: life sciences; information technology/Web/mobile; energy/clean technology/sustainability; and other.

The Crosses brought home the Manna Award for coming in first place in the second round among the second place finishers of the first round.

More than 163 former competitors have gone on to successfully launch their ventures and are still in business today and another 20 have successfully sold their ventures. Past competitors have raised in excess of $2 billion in funding and created more than 2,000 new jobs.

“The true measure of success for the Rice Business Plan Competition is the number of teams that launch raise funding and go on to succeed in their business,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University, which hosts the event. “The competition has served as the launch pad for a great number of successful entrepreneurial ventures, and the success rate exceeds the national average.”

Of course, Cross already has a head start with his business. For the past few years, he’s been attending business plan competitions like this and reinvesting his winnings in his product and company.

“I was able to buy a $70,000 capsule machine to keep up with demand,” Cross reported. “Before, I was only able to fill as many capsules as I could manage by hand. With this machine, I can make between 5,000 and 6,000 capsules a day.”

However, Cross just began outsourcing production to CebaTech in Florida now that demand has increased.

“I feel like the business is really starting to take off,” he said. “We ordered 4,000 bottles last month and have already sold 2,800. Also, we want to start clinical trials as soon as we can find a doctor to partner with, and at the end of that (two months) ours will be the only product clinically shown to treat neuropathy without further damaging nerves.”

The business plan competitions have also helped Cross make connections. As a result, his product was picked up by HealthMart, which placed NeuropAWAY in 6,000 pharmacies across the Southeast, followed by McKesson, which will take his distribution nationwide.

In the meantime, Cross is working away, trying to keep up with the steady 30 percent increase in sales he sees each month – all while looking to the future.

“Right now, I’m also working on developing a wound care cream that can be used by soldiers in the field and nurses in the ER. It’s my latest project. I always have a lot of irons in the fire,” he laughed.

To find out more about Cross’s product, go to www.neuropaway.com. To learn how you can help him with his business venture, call the Small Business Development Center at 678-839-5083. To donate to “FY Diabetes,” a foundation Cross created with his sister that raises $100,000 a year to put toward Faustman Lab’s efforts to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, contact Cross at neuropaway@gmail.com.

Posted on April 21, 2017