Majors & Programs - Alumni stories

Alumni stories
Founder of The Mate Exchange Giancarlo Vigil with representatives from First National Bank of Durango and Fort Lewis College

Fort Lewis College Hawk Tank winner joins Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs

The Mate Exchange, Inc., the winner of the inaugural Fort Lewis College (FLC) Hawk Tank business plan competition, has been accepted into the Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs (SCAPE) for 2016.

The Mate Exchange, a yerba tea company, was founded by Giancarlo Vigil, a 2015 alumnus of the economics program at the FLC School of Business Administration. After a trip to Argentina he, along with Fort Lewis College students and contacts in South America, started the business to provide a tea with sustained energy without the crash that follows coffee and energy drinks.

To further their business, the Mate Exchange applied to enter SCAPE. SCAPE is a six-month program offering in-depth mentoring by subject matter experts, office space and capital to help new businesses launch and enter markets. Since beginning in 2013, the program has worked with 15 local businesses, and created 36 jobs in southwest Colorado. They have raised over $3 million of capital to grow the businesses they support, and the majority of this money has been spent locally.  

SCAPE companies have been featured in Cadillac commercials, the TV show Modern Family, Denver News, Amazon Launchpad,, Tech Crunch, and Product Hunt. 

The Mate Exchange team participated in the FLC Hawk Tank competition this past spring and, after months of mentoring and development, presented their final business plan and was chosen the winner from 43 participating businesses. The Mate Exchange won $5,000 to help them develop their company.

“The Fort Lewis College inaugural Hawk Tank business plan competition was successful beyond our wildest dream” said Paul McGurr, interim dean of the FLC School of Business Administration. “Through the leadership of Dr. Michael Valdez and Dr. Lorraine Taylor, Hawk Tank went from an idea to a successful event. The participants were excellent and The Mate Exchange succeeded against strong competition.

“We appreciate the commitment of SCAPE to the small business community in Southwest Colorado and are proud that The Mate Exchange will become part of their program.”

Local companies can apply to be a part of the 2017 SCAPE program when the application opens on September 1, 2016.  For more information about SCAPE, go to