From an initial pool of 80 international submissions, 10 entrepreneurial hopefuls remained. Each group of presenters had spent months brainstorming ideas, developing products and working with mentors to perfect their concepts.
On March 23 at Union Station, these groups gathered for the final event in the Outdoor Weber competition: pitching their ideas to an esteemed panel of judges in a chance to win $30,000 dollars.
The pitch needed to stand out from the others while including enough detail about the outdoor recreation idea and how it could be beneficial to both consumers and retailers.
One group of students from Utah State University pitched a product made from old pants that holds mountain climbing chalk and other loose items, which they called Jeanius Chalk Bags.
“The idea came from a class on color theory,” product creator Haley Bennion said. “I went to go get cheap materials, and I got these old jeans that go with some blue shorts. It had these pockets and zippers that can hold your keys and brushes, and it all came together.”
Those who presented with Bennion helped showcase aspects of the product’s design such as its cost effectiveness, sustainability and overall look.
“It’s not made out of a brand new material so we don’t have to create more waste,” Jeanius presenter Makell Garrett said. “We can take something that already exists, bring it back to life and bring more value to it.”
While some competitors assembled a physical product for their concept, others pitched a service that could benefit outdoor enthusiasts.
Weber State University student Colton Mouritsen pitched his idea for an app called “Where Wildlife Wander” that informs users of specific locations particular animals can be found in.
“It’s designed to enhance viewing wildlife in the outdoors,” Mouritsen said. “It’s a crowdsourced app where people get on and post their photos of wildlife.”
The photos that people take with their smartphones are embedded with metadata, GPS coordinates and a date-and-time stamp that are automatically uploaded into the app as well as the user’s feed.
The idea came from a camping experience Mouritsen had with his father. As they traveled away from their campsite, a bear ripped their tents apart in an area where bears are not known to wander.
Mouritsen felt his service could help others avoid similar situations.
“If you got on the app and saw that there’s a bear on this campsite every single day, you’ll probably want to stay away,” Mouritsen said.
The heat of the competition fueled some competitors but frustrated another. Luciano Hernandez, from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, expressed dissatisfaction with his presentation.
Hernandez pitched an idea for portable and kayak-attachable solar-powered lights, called “Ignight Lights,” specifically designed to work at night. Although he overcame some technological difficulties in his presentation, he still felt that his overall goal remained unaccomplished.
“I was confident, and I got to the point, but I didn’t do it in a way that made sense,” Hernandez said. “It didn’t go as I wanted, but the bottom line is that I need to be grateful for this experience.”
The overall competition culminated in keynote speaker Marcus Lemonis from CNBC’s “The Profit” giving a speech and presenting the awards to the respective competition winners.
The top three winners came from GVSU and USU and each group received a monetary prize as well as recognition from Camping World President Roger Nuttall.
The $30,000 first place prize ultimately went to Jordan Vanderham and Jared Seifert of GVSU for their cold-endurance mask, but panel judges and mentors encouraged participants to continue pushing their products and ideas for future investment opportunities.
The list of winners and competitors can be found Outdoor Weber’s page on WSU’s Entrepreneurship program site.