The third annual Weber State University Camping World Outdoor Weber student entrepreneurship competition concluded virtually last Friday with 10 finalists presenting their business plans to a panel of six judges. The winner was D.J. Potter (pictured), a graduate student at the University of Utah, who presented two innovative cargo management products and a business plan.
“This year’s level of competition was stellar,” enthused Brandon Stoddard, director of Weber State’s Hall Global Entrepreneurship Center, which manages the contest. “Each year the quality of the business plans, the creative entrepreneurial response to potential business opportunities, and the professionalism of the students improves.”
Potter’s startup company Sawtooth developed both a waterproof pick-up bed tonneau cover that stretches over cargo and an aerodynamic cartop carrier. The products are made of lightweight materials and durable, cut-resistant fabric that are easy to self-install, said the awards announcement.
“We put a lot of work into Sawtooth and this competition, so it’s very encouraging to get this level of validation,” said Potter. “The Outdoor Weber team did a great job of pivoting and continuing with the competition despite the COVID-19 emergency. This was more than a competition. It was very much a learning experience on many fronts.”
Weber State undergraduate students Madsen Wessman, Chase Moffett and Utah State graduate Chance Blackman earned second place for their Dose Hydration business plan. Dose Hydration’s mission is to promote healthy lifestyles by providing products that offer convenient ways to stay hydrated when on the go.
The third-place finisher was Oregon State University’s Matthew Gilbert and his startup Stag Rack. Stag Rack’s product is a modular roof rack system for bikes, skis and boards which uses vacuum suction cups to conveniently attach the system to any vehicle.
Thanks to the competition’s title sponsor Camping World, and supporting sponsors the Alan & Jeanne Hall Foundation, Bill Child Foundation, Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, Lifetime Products, Ogden City, and Workman Nydegger, the first, second, and third place finishers received checks for $30,000, $15,000, and $7,500 respectively. The funds will be used to further expand the winners’ entrepreneurial efforts.
The remaining 2020 student finalist teams and the universities they represent are: Belay Women Guiding Women (Metropolitan State University of Denver), Black Bear Smart Tent (University of Denver), Fuel Lite (Utah State University), Lobo Gear (Utah Valley University), Pete’s Micro Campers (University of Utah), Powder Soles (Utah State University), and Quipper (Southern Utah University).
The purpose of the Outdoor Weber competition is to stimulate new ideas and take unrefined concepts and turn them into promising business opportunities by the end of the competition. This third annual event began in December 2019 with an open call for video-taped business pitches. More than 50 students from Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah submitted proposals.
Next, to simulate a real marketplace situation and demonstrate what it takes to market and sell a product or service, 25 semifinalists were selected based on the greatest number of online votes received from the general public. During the two-week voting period, the web page received nearly 100,000 visits and 50,000 votes. Outdoor Weber judges picked an additional 10 semifinalists.
From this group of 35 semi-finalists, a panel of industry experts identified 10 finalists who were invited to Ogden, Utah for the final competitive event scheduled for March 18-21, 2020.
The 10 finalists were supposed to participate in two days of face-to-face mentoring with industry professionals to hone their business plans, present those plans to a panel of six judges, with the winners being announced during a large dinner at The Monarch art studio and workspace in Ogden, Utah.
However, with Coronavirus’ federal and state mandated travel restrictions, on Tuesday, March 10, with the competition just eight days away, event organizers announced the remaining competition would be held virtually using online video conferencing.
“Despite the challenges facing Utah and the world, the student finalists were able to adjust quickly and move their business concepts forward. With the virtual help of more than fifty mentors and judges worldwide, they made tremendous progress that not only made an impact in their competitive efforts, but helped prepare them for launching and growing their new ventures. We’re very proud of this year’s group and their ability to adapt,” concluded Stoddard.
For more information about the competition, go to Weber.edu.