The popular Hawk Tank Business Plan Competition for Fort Lewis College students and alumni has its 2019 champions. In the college track, sophomore Bella Sage and Bryce Vaughn were awarded the top cash prize of $5,000 for their new business idea, Blossoms & Brews, a coffee shop that also specializes in custom flower bouquets and emphasizes community connection through events and pay-it-forward purchasing options. In the alumni track, Anthony Martin (Spanish and Business Administration, ’15) also took home the top prize of $5,000 for his international and cultural mountain bike tour operation, DaLe Biking Adventures.
At an evening gala on Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Durango, seven student teams and three alumni teams were acknowledged as competition finalists, as well as two alternate teams.
“Each year, Hawk Tank gets better, and this year was no exception. We have great students, alumni, and faculty, and a great business community engaged with each other in innovative ways,” says Steve Elias, dean of the School of Business Administration.
Second place in the college track was junior Katherine Candelaria who received a cash prize of $2,500 for her business plan for Gringa Med Tours, an online medical tourism website that lists services and costs for dentists and cosmetic surgeons in Mexico. Much like choosing a plane ticket based on carrier and price, Gringa Med Tours would match patients to physicians and prices outside of the U.S., where treatment is often more affordable.
Third place in the college track and $1,000 went to seniors Scott Betzer and Seth Hyatt for their business Student Connect, a higher education social media app for students to build stronger networks within their college and town. The app would consolidate all events, entertainment options, jobs and internships, and discounts at local businesses available to students into one app. The team also received Southwest Innovation Corridor’s Innovation Kicker prize of $1,500 for the most innovative plan of the competition.
Hawk Tank kicked off in the beginning of January and for two months, faculty and local business professionals hosted workshops for competitors on varying aspects of successful business management. The workshop series helped teams not only create competitive plans for Hawk Tank, but also discover what it really takes to own and manage a business. Gary Masner, co-founder of Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs, taught and coordinated the workshops, bringing in the Beta Alpha Psi honor society and FLC faculty.
That’s what Hawk Tank is all about. It’s about making a connection between our school and the community, professionalism, and helping entrepreneurial-minded Fort Lewis College students take that next step.
Michael Valdez, associate professor in School of Business Administration
“Beta Alpha Psi played a prominent role in helping our students get over that final hurdle and our faculty advisor team integrated improvements and met with students as well,” says Michael Valdez, SOBA associate professor. “That’s what Hawk Tank is all about. It’s about making a connection between our school and the community, professionalism, and helping entrepreneurial-minded Fort Lewis College students take that next step.”
Of the 51 teams that registered to participate in the competition, only 19 completed the entire Hawk Tank workshop program and submitted complete business plans in mid-March. Fourteen student teams and five alumni teams were then narrowed down to the ten finalists for the gala.
“We also have an additional 45 students who actually help us put on Hawk Tank,” says Valdez. “They have to take their book learning and make this event happen. It’s an amazing real-world opportunity for them, too.”
Since the launch of Hawk Tank, the FLC Foundation has been a major partner and contributor. The Foundation has helped obtain mentors for team leaders and other necessary resources for the program, including a crowdfunding site. The Alumni Engagement Office also helped Hawk Tank with locating judges, many of whom are alumni and entrepreneurs, as well as developing the mentor program.
“The vision has become reality, thanks to so many people,” says Mark Jastorff, vice president for Advancement and executive director of the Foundation. “Hawk Tank is a great example of the power of partnership and we’re looking forward to its continued growth and success.”
Swan Global Investments has also supported Hawk Tank since the beginning, noting that the competition creates economic value for Durango by adding variety and depth to the small business community.
“The most important part of Hawk Tank is that it provides real-time access to resources and programs which aid entrepreneurs in creating, building and launching their redefined business passion,” says Justin Bates, managing director of operations. “Swan has sponsored Hawk Tank since its inception and will continue to do so in order to maintain those valuable entrepreneurial opportunities.”
Next year, Hawk Tank will expand to include student teams from regional high schools in the competition.