Idaho State University’s participation in the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge stemmed from student Jonny Henderson and Jeff Street, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.
Early in the fall 2016 semester, Henderson was introduced to the idea of competing in the IEC after discussing business ideas with his brother-in-law.
“I’ve always been entrepreneurially minded,” said Henderson, member of the SpareSpace group. “This was a chance to really let loose with a much stronger chance of success by winning a cash prize versus actually trying and potentially failing a business in the real world.”
Eight other groups joined the challenge that would offer $100,000 in prizes to be divided between the four categories of winners. The competition allowed students to introduce unique ideas, products and services to a panel of judges and compete in Boise for the funds to help move their businesses forward.
“I was informed of the competition by Dan Cravens, director of BengalSolutions and my professor in the Small Business Entrepreneurship class,” said another competing student, Colby Borup. Borup’s group joined the competition just one month prior to the first round of submissions for the competition, which consisted of a five-page business plan and a 60-second video “elevator pitch.”
Upon submitting their business plans and 60 second pitches, six of the eight student groups from varying colleges at Idaho State were selected as finalists for the competition against 70 other applicants. The finalists included:
- Camie Parsons and Gabby Kane with the product “iuveni Duality,” a unique hair chemical designed to allow users to both perm and dye their hair simultaneously.
- Hassan Afzal, Amanda Gardner and Joss Stewart with the “Rx Project,” a software designed to help track and prevent drug diversion among medical professionals.
- Steve Beck and Cody Smart with the product “Smart Lawn,” a water filtration system that would allow consumers in high and low precipitation areas to recycle water used on lawns for other non-potable uses.
- Jonny Henderson and Timothy Mohlke, developers of the service “SpareSpace” which would allow students to store their belongings over the summer months in a large warehouse all categorized by a unique cataloguing system.
- Thomas Brumpton and Jared Cantrell, of “Turtle Back Technologies,” a product designed to help improve the composition of bike tires by using a reinforced fiber layer.
- Colby Borup with the product “WynderHub,” a tool designed to allow users to quickly and easily repair stretched wire fencing mainly in agriculture and ranching.
These students would compete in Boise over the weekend of March 31 against 20 other finalist groups of students from other schools across Idaho including: Boise State University, the University of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, BYU-Idaho, Northwest Nazarene University and The College of Idaho.
“Once we arrived on Thursday, there was a workshop and dinner,” said Henderson. “The next day we gave a four minute pitch to three different panels of judges, each followed by six minutes of Q and A.” Much like the famous TV show, Shark Tank, students were assessed by high-level judges from various corporations and universities from across the country.
“Our four minute presentation focused on the problem, which is that repairing barbed wire fences is very time consuming and strenuous and the implications of an improperly repaired fence can be very costly if livestock are lost,” said Borup, whose product, WynderHUB, provides a cost-effective solution for ranchers and cattle owners to efficiently repair stretched barbed wire fencing in a portion of the time of traditional techniques.
“We then began to focus on our solution, which was our product. We also needed to describe the composition of our team and how each member’s expertise would help us move the product and company forward.”
“I really had no idea what to expect for the judging,” said Camie Parsons, a chemistry student from ISU and founder of Duality. “I was really nervous because my division was the largest with as many groups competing as all the other divisions combined. But, by the time we got to our Q and A, the questions I thought the judges would ask were nothing like what they ended up asking.”
According to Parsons, a deeper knowledge on the background of the hair industry came in handy during her group’s question and answer session of the presentation. Upon completing her session, judges were very impressed. “I had offers of help from the judges. One wanted to know more about investing in my company and another offered to help me grow my business by introducing me to people in the industry,” said Parsons.
After an intense wait, the winners of the competition were announced and for ISU’s first time competing in the IEC, the results were nothing short of impressive.
- First place in the category of Agriculture and Agriculture Technology winning $15,300 in cash was WynderHUB with students Colby Borup, Miguel Rangel, EJ Lopez, Morgan Rasmussen and Mike Day.
- Runners up in the competition both receiving $6,300 were iuveni Duality with students Camie Parsons and Gabby Kane as well as SpareSpace with students Jonny Henderson and Tim Mohlke.
- And winning Best Marketing Display for a prize of $1,550 was Turtle Back Technology with students Thomas Brumpton and Jared Cantrell.
“When my company was announced I was truly numb,” said Parsons. “It took about 10 minutes for me to realize I had actually won $6,000.”
For the students, the competition represented an amazing opportunity to see each of their unique ideas built up into a sustainable business plan- judged by entrepreneurs and professionals from across the nation and to gain valuable insights on how to make their ideas grow into a full-fledged and profitable business.
“The challenge helped me to get further in the process of building a real business plan by getting exposure to the process,” said Henderson. “This was on a much grander scale than anything I’ve worked on where expansion and scalability were key. We really had to hash out every detail or at least have thought about it.”
“Overall this was a great experience for myself and my team,” added Borup. “We were able to do a lot of networking which will help us greatly in the next few months when we go to launch our company.”
The students said they plan to use their prize money to assist with the initial run and marketing of their products along with compensating team members for their hours spent on the project leading up to the competition.