The Southeast’s biggest startup competition, the Charlotte Venture Challenge, is in its year and for the first time an entrant from Lenoir-Rhyne University’s in the mix.More than 100 hopeful start-ups hailing from Georgia to Washington D.C. to Tennessee hope to come out on top. The entrants will have all day on Thursday, May 1, to hear successful entrepreneurs speak about the lessons they learned along the way. They’ll also get time to network and pitch their ideas to investors searching for the next big thing.The competition is for ventures that have less than $350,000 invested in their companies and who have less than $350,000 in sales to date.The five categories in the CVC are:1. New Energy and High Technology2. IT and Informatics3. Health IT & Biotechnology4. Consumer Products and Services5. Student BusinessesAlex Freeman and his company Fanaticmasks are representing Lenoir-Rhyne University in the undergraduate student category. Freeman’s company makes stylized masks in the tradition of Mexican wrestlers, but they’re made with modern materials and emblazoned with logos for sports teams, bands and companies are having a look at some camo masks to wear while hunting instead of using face paints.Freeman’s masks are for the lighthearted fan who doesn’t take himself or herself too seriously.“It’s just a bra for your face,” is his tongue-in-cheek product description.Freeman started working as a marketing specialist for Fanaticmasks while he was still in high school, but the company has been honed in the university’s small business incubator under the guidance of LR’s Entrepreneurship Professor Dr. Ralph Griffith.“He came in with an exciting idea and we just ran with it,” Griffith said. “We made some tweaks to his business plan and we honed some of his processes, but what you see in Fanaticmasks is Alex’s vision.”Freeman’s luchador masks will be going head-to-head with nine other student ventures from N.C. State to Emory and Davidson.On May 1 each finalist will present their venture to a panel of judges and then to a room packed with potential investors including representatives from Fortune 500 companies and potential customers all of whom will vote on the winner—who’ll be going home with a $20,000 prize and the finalists who will divide a further $55,000 among themselves.SIDEBAR:Finalists in the CVC’s undergraduate division:1. Clutch Gaming Solutions (UNC Charlotte)2. Fanaticmasks (Lenoir-Rhyne University)3. OnCahoots (Davidson College)4. Tee-Pa (Pfeiffer University)5. Track2Quit (NC State)6. Ugly Duckling Games (Central Piedmont Community College)7. BioWorks (UNC Charlotte)8. HANDYKAP (Emory University)9. Redwire Logic (UNC Charlotte)10. Vybe Sunglasses (NC State)###About Lenoir-Rhyne University:Lenoir-Rhyne University is a private, coeducational university with its primary campus in Hickory, N.C. and was founded in 1891. Academic programs include more than 50 undergraduate majors and 24 graduate programs, the Center for Graduate Studies of Asheville, N.C.; and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C. Today, more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled between the three campuses. Lenoir-Rhyne is affiliated with the N.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and welcomes students from all religious backgrounds. The website is lr.edu.