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Student Entrepreneurs Win More Than $26K to Support Business Ideas at Pitch Competitions

May 01, 2017

The University of Idaho College of Business and Economics awarded $26,600 in prize money to student entrepreneur teams during the spring 2017 Idaho Pitch and Business Plan competitions April 21-22.

UI students pitched their business ideas during the biannual Pitch competition, which features a unique format that allows teams to mingle with judges, share elevator pitches for their startups and talk about how to move their ventures forward. The better the pitch, the more business cards teams receive from judges. The teams with the highest number of business cards win significant seed funding for their startup ideas.

This year’s winners were:

  • First place – Style Her Empowered, $1,250: Payton McGriff, Idaho Falls, and Micah Johnson, Portland, Oregon, both of the College of Business and Economics (CBE).
  • Second place – Puzzle Modular Housing, $1,000: Jacob Middleton, Meridian, and Matt Dieckmann, Idaho Falls, both of the College of Engineering (ENGR); and Misty Blyleven, Moscow, CBE.
  • Third place – The Forever Shower, $750: Chad Vorse, Moscow, and Edward Hall, Eagle River, Alaska, both of ENGR; Maria Horta Vorse, Moscow, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS); and Alex Boatman, Lewiston, CLASS/CBE.
  • Fourth place – Virtual BlockFest, $500: Laine Conger, Eagle, College of Art and Architecture (CAA); Brittnay Davis, Moscow, CBE; Ross Galyean, Corvallis, Oregon, CAA; Megan Hall, Emmett, CAA/CLASS; Alyssa Perko, Kent, Washington, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS); and Emily Ward, Garden Valley, CAA.

Blue Collar Virtual Reality, a startup team whose product allows construction workers to train in a safe virtual environment, won a special prize: a free business analysis consultation from the CEO of Five23 valued at $2,500. Blue Collar VR includes Anthony Berlin, Potlatch, CBE; Ray Garcia, Watsonville, California, CBE; Jonathan Gomes, Vancouver, Washington, CAA; Catherine Keenan, Boise, CBE; Joseph Matteis, Rathdrum, CAA; Mohammed Nahas, Moscow, CBE; and Landon Wright, Longmont, Colorado, CAA.

Sixteen teams competed in the Business Plan Competition the next day, each with 12 minutes to sell the judges on their idea. The competition featured two tracks this year: Entrepreneurial Ventures and Innovative Ventures. Winners were:

Entrepreneurial Ventures

  • First place – Style Her Empowered, $5,000: McGriff.
  • Second place – Agritain Solutions, $3,000: Steve Frei, Grangeville, CBE.
  • Tie for third place – Speed Strap, $1,000: Vince Difatta, Coeur d’Alene, CBE; and Kairos, $1,000, Bridger Hopkins, Moscow; and Karlee Peterson, Hayden, CAA.

Innovative Ventures

  • First place – Barrel CRM, $7,000: Hannah and Packy Tagliaferro, Coeur d’Alene, CBE.
  • Second place – The Forever Shower, $2,000: Vorse, Hall, Horta Vorse, and Boatman.
  • Third Place – ApnoMed, $1,000: Jonah Graff, Bellevue, Washington, CBE; and Ryan Yousefian, Washington State University.

A graduating senior, McGriff won the “Triple Crown” of business competitions this spring, taking first in the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge, the Northwest Entrepreneur Challenge, and the Idaho Pitch and Business Plan Competition. In total, McGriff won $35,000 to cover startup and maintenance costs for her business Style Her Empowered, which is already getting off the ground in Togo, Africa.

Boone County Distilling, Jimmy John’s, and The Kluth Family sponsored the cash prizes. All the teams gained real-world pitching experience, valuable feedback and new mentors and networks.

“In the Idaho Entrepreneurs program, we focus intensely on pitching — on being able to convey the essence of a business or social venture — to investors and judges in a concise yet exciting way,” said George Tanner, director of the Idaho Entrepreneurs program. “Once again, our teams did an outstanding job at the Idaho Pitch and other spring business competitions. As we say, ‘Life’s a Pitch,’ and our students have one ready to deliver at all times.”

The Idaho Pitch and Business Plan Competition come on the heels of two regional business competitions, the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge in Boise and the Northwest Entrepreneur Challenge in Spokane. UI teams won multiple categories in these competitions and came home with more than $36,000 in funding for their ideas. Including the Pitch, UI entrepreneurs earned more than $62,000 at business competitions this spring. University of Idaho entrepreneur teams win $100,000 or more in competitions each year, and create new businesses and jobs as a result.

To learn more about the Idaho Entrepreneurs program, visit or contact Tanner at 208-885- 6475 or email

Media Contact: 
Emily Linroth
Marketing & Communications Manager, College of Business & Economics

About the University of Idaho

The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, a research and Extension center in Twin Falls, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to more than 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky Conference and Sun Belt Conference. Learn more: