University of Charleston

University of Charleston

Ward with Large Check


The annual West Virginia Business Plan Competition affords college students around the state the unique opportunity to make a business idea come to life – and one University of Charleston student has earned $25,000 to make his business a reality.

Dustin Ward, a retired Army Special Operations Veteran and student at UC, won for his innovative sleeping system – the Lite Sleeper.

“Having retired from Army Special Operations and being an avid hiker myself, I recognized a problem for sleeping in the field,” Ward explained. “The Lite Sleeper solves this problem by being an all-in-one, compactible, lightweight, sleep system. Made from military issue rip stop nylon and rated to 40 degrees, it provides a sleeve to insert a sleeping pad, so the pad stays with the sleeper through the night. It also has an integrated pillow for maximum comfort. The Lite Sleeper combines comfort with common sense.”

The goal of the WV Business Plan Competition is to provide students with the education, skills, contacts, and motivation to create a viable start-up company in West Virginia. It awards varying amounts of funding based on the quality of the ideas/presentations, the estimated likelihood of success, and the need each business has for immediate impact.

“We shipped over 100 orders in the first couple of weeks,” Ward stated. “The next steps in the short term are to use the funding received to purchase more inventory and create a marketing campaign.”

Ward will graduate from UC this summer with a degree in Organizational Leadership. He has already sourced suppliers and secured a manufacturer for his product, and launched social media and a website, While looking forward to his potential business success, he also says “I couldn’t have done it without Mr. Ramsburg (David Ramsburg, UC Executive Director of Innovation) or UC.”