Provisions for long trail hikes, a product to keep your shoes dry in Northwest weather, and a digital tool for rowers—all three topped the judges’ list at QuackHatch, a new business plan contest held at the Lundquist College of Business as a precursor to the annual University of Oregon and Oregon State University (OSU) business plan competition.
First place and $1,500 seed funding went to sophomore business student Spencer Holton of Trail Supply Co. The second place winner and recipient of a $1,000 investment was senior entrepreneurship student Leila Mozaffarian of DuckFeet. The third slot in the winner’s circle and $500 went to junior computer and information science major Garett Roberts of Garowr.
“This was my first business competition, and it was an incredible experience,” Holton said. “I’m so excited to win and start preparing for the Civil War competition against OSU. With the money I plan to get my website up and running and also legally incorporate my business.”
Holton’s Trail Supply Co. addresses a very specific need in a seemingly untapped market: a supply shipment service for thru-hiking—long distance, end-to-end hiking on trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.
Through his research, Holton found significant issues with current resupply strategies for thru-hikers. First, food planning for these hikes is largely a guessing game for the hiker. Holton said folks tend to underestimate how hungry they will be after expending a great deal of calories hiking 20 miles a day. His system allows for customization, including the amount and types of food sent.
Next, supplying the hiker is typically a huge burden on his or her friends and family, Holton explained. Someone must send boxes every few days to a different post office further along the route.
Finally, about 50 percent of hikers don’t finish the trip. Life events come up, and injuries happen. Meanwhile, the hiker has likely spent a lot of time and money prepacking food and supplies. Holton’s plan allows for cancellation for any reason.
Second-place winner Mozaffarian offered up DuckFeet, “the rain jacket for your shoes.” Even with an average of 138 rainy days a year in Oregon, precipitation can still catch a person off guard. For those times, DuckFeet can save your favorite shoes while keeping your feet dry. Think of them like the inexpensive ponchos a fan can pick up for those days it does in fact rain in Autzen Stadium—but for your feet. Mozaffarian’s online surveying has indicated a great deal of customer interest, and she has already been accepted into The Duck Store’s Oregon Incubator Program, which works with local entrepreneurs to build their businesses and get their products in The Duck Store.
Roberts of Garowr said most rowers are currently using “stopwatch technology” and he aims to bring the co-coxswain tool into the digital age at an affordable price. Garowr’s co-coxswain product will replace the current cox box product in the field of crew. The co-coxswain is a waterproof container for a crew shell that allows one to protect their smart phone while also providing a matching app that allows for crew members to better communicate and measure their progress. A rower himself, Roberts saw the need for an inexpensive practice and competition tool that could “revolutionize the way you row.” Roberts said interest in the sport is steadily growing and his product could eventually expand to kayaking, canoeing, and other paddling sports.
The competition accepted University of Oregon undergraduate students of all majors pitching new business ideas not created before fall 2015. Judges were Jeremy Green, an entrepreneur, trainer, and mentor with experience in business accelerators, including Oregon RAIN (Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network); Shane Johnson, a tech startup founder and the entrepreneur-in-residence at Fertilab Thinkubator; Sonja Itchkavich-Levasseur, a front-end web developer for Palo Alto Software, maker of Business Plan Pro; and Peter Thorsson a startup found and director of business development and strategic partnerships at Palo Alto Software.
The winners move on to Civil War Shark Tank, the annual Duck-Beaver business plan competition slated for May 6, 2016. It is the Lundquist College’s turn to host.
Check out more event details and a list of the semifinalists on the QuackHatch website.
Visit QuackHatch Website