Plainview Hale County Economic Development Corporation’s investment in Wayland’s NexGen SPARK program results in a business plan for an upstart nonprofit organization. For the past three years, the Plainview Hale County Economic Development Corporation has awarded $50,000 to Wayland Baptist University’s NexGen Spark program. The program aims to teach students the art of business entrepreneurship through partnerships with local entrepreneurs on the development of business plans and meetings with investors.

Chris and Sue Lewellen were excited when the winners of Wayland Baptist University’s NexGen Spark competition were announced Monday night. The student team was ecstatic. And The Hope House was officially established as a viable mission project in Plainview.

The third annual NexGen Spark entrepreneurial competition in Wayland’s School of Business was held Monday night, featuring three teams of students working with local entrepreneurs to present a comprehensive business plan to a panel of judges. Sponsored by the Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation and Wayland, the competition awards a $5,000 grant to the winning team to be used by the business. Student team members receive $500 each.

The Hope House team, supporting the Lewellen’s vision, was led by Elisabeth Piroli, a graduate student from Brazil. Team members included Nathanael Barnard, Deng Bol Yol and Damian Goode.

The Hope House is a non-profit organization that works with Plainview’s homeless population to provide food, shelter and training to help individuals get back on their feet. The goal is to serve both the transient and long-term homeless populations in Plainview. The transient population typically needs shelter for a night or two before moving on to a new location. The long-term population, described by team members as those who need housing for more than week, will need additional services to meet their needs.

“As a community we have a need to help those struggling in society,” Piroli said.

The Hope House was born from several instances where the Lewellen’s saw a need for this type of ministry. As Chris was driving down 24th street in Plainview, he was flagged down by a woman who just needed help. She had no place to go, no food to eat and her car needed repair. A few days later, Sue, who volunteers at Faith in Sharing House (FISH), ran into clients who needed more assistance than FISH could offer.

The couple began talking with others in town about the possibility of starting a ministry to meet needs that weren’t already being met by other organizations. Shelter, mental healthcare and job training were primary among these needs. Together, they established The Hope House, applying for and receiving non-profit status.

The goal of The Hope House is two-fold. The mission will provide help to those who are struggling with housing, food, mental health and emergency needs, as well as act as a centralized location for all the organization and services in Plainview that assist people.

The Hope House will partner with other organizations, including churches, the police department, Crisis Center of the Plains, FISH, Texas Workforce Solutions, the Serenity House and others to provide services. The group has already secured a property to use for the ministry headquarters thanks to a generous lease agreement from the local school district.

With the addition of the $5,000, Chris Lewellen said the plans for The Hope House will continue to move forward.

“The fact that the judges had confidence in us and in our vision, that just helps. That gives us a little more momentum and a little enthusiasm,” he said.

Two other business plans were also presented, including one for LimeLight, an arts and entertainment venue that will offer concerts, shows, dinner theatre, event spaces, training and community outreach opportunities in Plainview. Babel Lens was the third business, offering wearable real reality glasses that allow people to explore and experience other locations around the world in real time. The technology is based on Google technologies that are already available.

Dr. Charles Starnes, professor of economics at Wayland and the mayor of Plainview, said the competition is a great opportunity for the students to put their education to the test in real-world applications. It also greatly benefits the businesses that are represented. Starnes reported that last year’s winner, Magline, tripled its annual sales this year based on the business plan set up through the competition in 2021.

To submit a business idea for the 2023 competition, contact Starnes at 806-291-1027 or by email at