Chica Chocolate, which makes chocolate truffles infused with Chinese herbal remedies, may have been second banana in last year's Colorado College Big Idea competition, but the student-run company wasn't second to anyone Thursday.
After winning $10,000 last year, Chica landed another $25,000 for winning the business-plan pitching competition that the company will use to expand its management team, set up a kitchen in Boulder to research formulas and start building inventory, said Cassidy Lam, a Colorado College junior who started Chica with Elise Morgan, a University of Colorado at Boulder student. The chocolates, which are marketed to help women ease monthly menstrual and hormone cycles, are sold on a subscription basis at $29.99 a month.
"I feel elated and validated," Lam said after the five-judge panel chose Chica over four other finalists. "It was different from last year, when we were asking the judges to believe in our idea. We feel validated because we have been actively working on this project and we have run into some challenges convincing customers this is something they need. I knew that insecurity is part of the start-up process, but I didn't realize how strong those feelings would be."
Raw Sauce, headed by CC seniors Alex Harros and George Fowlkes, won the $15,000 second-place prize to help them expand production of their chili sauce made from fermented produce as well as further develop the brand through expanded marketing efforts to reach its goal of selling 12,000 bottles at $8 each during the next year. The company, which has sold about 80 bottles of the sauce, wants to develop local sources for the produce and eventually grow its own through hydroponic agriculture.
Momentics, headed by CC senior Alana Aamodt, junior Anna Gilbertson and Josie Eichers, a University of Minnesota student, won the $10,000 third-place prize and will use it to expand its management team, accumulate inventory of wooden toy kits and boost its marketing efforts as it prepares for a Kickstarter campaign in January. The toy kits sell for $34.99 and include levers, balls, pulleys, wheels, ramps, hooks and supports that can be connected with existing toys to build "Rube Goldberg" machines and are targeted at children ages 8-12
The other finalists included LifExpectancy, headed by CC freshman Lauren Weiss and senior Jack Hamren, which is developing the next generation of an iPhone application to motivate users to live healthier lives by showing how health and wellness activities affect their life expectancy; and NOWZ, headed by CC freshmen Deming Haines, Charlie Kellogg and Case Regan, which is developing an event aggregation application that uses augmented reality to display and filter local events, using a smartphone camera and geolocation features.
The Big Idea competition, now in its sixth year, is designed to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among CC's 2,000 students. The competition began with 19 teams in December and was narrowed last month to nine semifinalists and later five finalists.
FlyPhone, which is developing a drone that is designed to turn a user's smartphone into a flying "selfie" camera to photograph athletes and other outdoor enthusiasts in remote locations, won the $30,000 first prize in last year's competition. The Big Idea boasts the biggest prize money of any business plan competition in the Colorado Springs area and helped launch the nonprofit Colorado Springs Food Rescue, started by the same entrepreneur who is co-founder of FoodMaven, a local start-up that is trying to create a marketplace for surplus food.
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