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Students Win Cash Prizes for Their Unique, Entrepreneurial Ideas

April 11, 2023

University of Idaho startup teams competing in the 2023 Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge (IEC) at Boise State University claimed top honors in the collegiate pitch event open to all colleges and universities across the state. Five U of I teams entered final rounds and each claimed awards and prize money.

Kalyssa Safley, a sophomore in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, won first place in the Consumer Goods category with her freeze-dried candy start-up Sawtooth Sweet Shoppe. Safley anticipates using the $7,000 in prize money she claimed as seed capital to help move her start-up forward.

College of Art and Architecture (CAA) senior Jacob Brown and his venture Willow’s Playground, a gamified autism social cues training app, won first place and $7,000 in the Technology category. Brown and his app were also selected by BSU’s President Tromp for the President’s Award and awarded an additional $1,000. Congratulations to Brown and his mentor, CAA Senior Instructor Brian Cleveley.

Winning second place and $3,000 in the Technology category was U-Caddy, an innovative three-wheel bicycle concept adapted to carry golf clubs. Team U-Caddy includes College of Business and Economics (CBE) seniors Hayden Hatten, Hogan Hatten, Alex Moore and Sam Brown and their College of Engineering mentor Matthew Swenson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

In the Manufactured Goods category, CBE senior Samuel Slusser won second place with his Strapwell Bags, a novel solution for home improvement, construction and lumber companies. In the same category, senior Cassidi Shindler and her mentor, Professor Swenson, won third place for Equine Smooth Suspension.

In total, U of I new venture teams won $22,000 at IEC this year and nearly $70,000 in nationwide pitch competitions this season. George Tanner, Idaho Entrepreneurs director and CBE senior instructor, mentors U of I’s startup teams and has seen Vandals win more than $1 million dollars in prize money at pitch competitions across the country.

“U of I is known for fielding strong startup teams and pitching well wherever we go and this year is no exception,” said Tanner. “I’m proud of what these teams have done. In entrepreneurship we say, ‘Life’s a Pitch’ and our students do it well.”

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, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 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 and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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