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Aspiring Idaho entrepreneurs compete for cash prizes through Boise State competition

Twenty-four teams of aspiring entrepreneurs hope to win Boise State’s Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge. The school holds the challenge each spring, featuring teams of students from universities and colleges across Idaho pitching business ideas to judges with the hope of winning a cash prize.

There are six teams competing in each of these four categories: Software & Technology, Lifestyle & Service, Social & Environmental Impact, and Manufactured Goods. Judges will select a winner in each category and award $7,000 to go toward startup costs for their business. Then, an overall winner will be selected, earning an additional $1,000.

[2020: Winemaking, catheters, locating lost gear and more: Idaho challenge gives entrepreneurs a boost]

The Judges

A panel of 30 volunteer judges will determine which team is the category winner and overall winner. All 30 judges are both local and out-of-state investors and business developers.

Nic Miller, the Executive Director of BSU’s Venture College, says the allure of the competition for students is obviously the cash prize but this also an opportunity for competitors to create a relationship with the judges that lasts beyond the competition.

“We’ve had students follow up with these judges and say, ‘hey I really appreciated what you had to share, can you tell me more about what you think about my business,'” Miller said. “And so even if the business doesn’t work, which isn’t our goal, this network exists for students to tap into well beyond the competition.”

In addition to the panel of judges, Trolley House Ventures, which is a local group of investors, will select its own winning team and award it $7,000. Along with the $7,000 in winnings, Miller says the team will have the opportunity to enter into a mentoring relationship with Trolley House Ventures, which could potentially lead to further investment.

The Finalist

BoiseDev spoke with Alaina Holland, a supply chain student, and materials science student Terra Miller-Cassman. The two women are competing in the Social & Environmental Impact category and are behind the business plan called Beaming.

Beaming takes lumber wrap, which is a strong plastic used to protect lumber while it is either being transferred or stored, and diverts the material from going into the landfill by selling it to recycling centers.

“Basically we’ve identified this huge gap in the industry,” Miller-Cassman said. “These lumber yards accumulate massive amounts of lumber wrap and that’s typically thrown in the garbage because it’s just not economically feasible for them to recycle it and transport it to the recycling centers.”

Holland said Beaming takes care of the processing and distribution of the lumber wrap. “So, it actually benefits the lumber yards by increasing their margins because it can cut their waste costs, and then it also benefits the recycling centers because they have this constant stream of really good plastic that we have decontaminated for them.”

Miller-Cassman adds that this process creates two revenue streams for Beaming. “We charge a small fee to the lumber yards for our pickup service. And then we also make money off of the sales to recycling centers.”

The winner

The category winners, the overall winner and Trolley House Venture’s winner will all be determined Wednesday.

While Holland and Miller-Cassman hope to come out victorious, they say either way, they are grateful for the opportunity. “We’re thankful for Boise State University, specifically the Venture College, allowing us to pursue this idea.”

Like last year, the school will hold the competition virtually due to COVID-19.

You can watch quick previews of each of the IEC candidates in this video series:

Gretchen Parsons - BoiseDev managing editor
Gretchen Parsons is BoiseDev's managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].

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