Editor's Note: This was a pre-event story. A post-event story is here.
Five finalists in the Monfort College of Business' third annual Entrepreneurial Challenge will present their business proposals Thursday with $36,000 in prize money on the line in a competition format similar to that used in the ABC reality series Shark Tank.
The event, held in the University Center ballrooms, is free and open to the public. Free parking is also available (click here for a parking map).
Each presentation will be followed by a question and answer session with the competition's judges. The audience also will be given the opportunity to ask questions.
This year's first-place winner will receive $18,000, second-place will get $10,000 and third $8,000.
Following is a summary of each finalist and their product as well as the time they'll present:
Branch Out Cider - noon
Four years ago, two Fort Collins neighbors Matt Fater and Aaron Fodge noticed a large number of apple trees in their other neighbors' yards that weren't being picked. Recognizing a business opportunity, the friends got permission to use the un-picked apples, rented a press and made apple cider.
"It turned out really well, so the next year we found a few more people who had apple trees that weren't being harvested," Fater said.
Many homes in northern Colorado have apple trees in their yards; in the late 1800s and early 1900s, apples were a clean and healthy source of food for many residents.
Today's homeowners don't usually harvest the apples, however, eventually leaving them to rot on the ground.
"It's sort of a win-win," said Fodge. "We remove the apples from their yards and put them to good use."
The pair will use any prize money they win to fund the purchase of equipment needed for seasonal manufacturing of their cider. According to Fater, the prize money could fund one or two years' total operating expenses.
"This competition has forced us to reach several goals we'd established for ourselves," Fodge said. ""We prepared and presented our feasibility study, and then had the opportunity to present our idea to a panel of experts; it was like having a free consultant to help us fine-tune our business plan."
The first commercial release of Branch Out Cider is scheduled for spring 2013.
FirstLine Safety - 1 p.m.
Five years ago, Josh Galindo was working at an oil well when a freak accident injured a man so severely that he ultimately lost his leg.
"If several people at the site hadn't had combat medical training in the armed forces, he would have died, instead of just losing his leg," Galindo said.
After realizing the potential for injury at his workplace, Galindo decided he wanted to build something to help in similar situations, when people are far from medical help or emergency facilities.
He teamed up with friend Justin Wheat and Cody Mylander, a general business major in the Monfort College of Business, to create a specially designed trailer fitted with a small medical emergency room, an emergency shower, eye wash stations and emergency supplies to be used in the event of a remote job-site accident or hazardous materials incident.
While the trailers were initially invented for use in oil and gas fields, they can also be used in other remote or hard-to-reach locations where serious injuries could be sustained.
"We see these being used at remote sporting events, on farms and ranches," said Wheat, who serves as president of FirstLine Safety. "There are lots of ways to use these trailers."
The first trailer, fabricated from a 10-foot snowmobile trailer, was delivered in February and will be part of their presentation in the final competition.
Bedside Solutions - 2 p.m.
John O'Leary, a nurse at Poudre Valley Hospital, sought help from his father, sister and a professional doll maker to create a respiratory device that attaches to an oxygen delivery system through the mouth, instead of through the nose.
Like others in the competition, O'Leary saw a need for a better way and decided to do something about it.
"Back in 2007, my brother noticed a problem with the design of the oxygen cannulas, which are designed to effectively deliver low-flow oxygen through the nose," said Jamie Alexander, O'Leary's sister. "If a patient has nasal congestion or a sinus issue, it can't be used effectively."
O'Leary came up with a design, then had a doll maker build the initial prototype. After filing a patent application O'Leary and Alexander worked with engineers in Boulder to put together a smaller, simpler design for the device. The final product is O2oo, a hypo-allergenic device that provides a universal fit on standard oxygen cannula and is safe, secure and improves patient comfort.
After reading about the MCB's competition in the newspaper, O'Leary and Alexander decided to enter and have been impressed by the amount of feedback received through the Entrepreneurial Challenge thus far.
"The input has been invaluable and has helped us fine tune our business plan," said Alexander. "It's been a great way to get feedback about our product and business plan."
UNC Ride Away - 3 p.m.
What started as a new business idea for a class competition has led Brad Henderson, Luis Munoz and Phillip Horning to the final round of the Entrepreneurial Challenge.
"As part of our class assignment, we had to present a business plan and participate in a classroom competition," said Henderson, a senior management student. "We won the $1,200 prize and decided we'd see how far our idea could take us."
The three found inspiration for their project while discussing their inability to commute between central and west campus in a timely manner: The distances between classroom buildings made it difficult to arrive on time. The solution? UNC Ride Away, a pedi-cab service to serve the student population of the University of Northern Colorado.
Each pedi-cab can carry up to three passengers, with a set price structure that encourages multiple riders. One passenger pays $3 for a ride, and the rate goes down with each additional passenger.
"We think this could also enhance the campus experience, by encouraging people to share the ride and get to know fellow students," said Henderson. "It's not only timely transportation, but it provides social interaction."
Lockers on Wheels - 4 p.m.
Brad Shannon, owner of Shannon Marketing Communications, found the answer to an overlooked inconvenience while volunteering at a two-day bicycle event. He noticed many of the race participants' frustrations as they searched for a safe place to store their belongings during the race. Two days later while sitting at a stoplight, Shannon had an idea.
"When I came up with the idea for a mobile storage unit and started researching it, I was surprised to find out that almost no one else had thought of it," said Shannon. "I started talking to people who participate in or manage races, events and festivals to pull together some ideas."
Going into the Entrepreneurial Challenge, Shannon had few expectations about the outcome, but was pleasantly surprised when he was selected for the competition's finals.
"When I heard about the Entrepreneurial Challenge, I thought it'd be a good idea to use the competition structure and deadlines to help me further develop the idea for Lockers on Wheels," Shannon said. "I definitely got great feedback and good suggestions from the panel of judges at the semi-finals."
Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards - 5 p.m.
The winners of the Entrepreneurial Challenge will be announced at the Union Colony Civic Center during the 2012 Bravo! Entrepreneur Awards, a Northern Colorado Business Report event that recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of northern Colorado business men and women. 9News business reporter Gregg Moss will serve as emcee for the MCB-sponsored event and awards ceremony.
Tickets to the awards ceremony are $45 each, and can be purchased on the NCBR website.
- Katie Owston, Junior Journalism Major