ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new baby formula storage device to feed toddlers on the go and a ready-made curriculum for youths to try their hand at business took first-place prizes at the University of New Mexico’s annual business plan competition.
The 11-year-old competition, organized by UNM’s Anderson School of Management, handed out $83,000 in prizes this year, up from $75,000 last year. More sponsors joined the 2015 event, allowing UNM to increase this year’s awards, said Sul Kassicieh, a distinguished Anderson professor and the endowed chair in economic development. Funding came from local businesses, the national laboratories and professional organizations. The awards were handed out at the Crowne Plaza in Albuquerque on Friday.
“It’s all about encouraging students to become entrepreneurs,” Kassicieh said. “At the very least, we’ve helped turn more young people onto entrepreneurship who might not have considered it before.”
To date, about 370 students on 57 teams have participated in the annual event. Many have continued building their companies.
This year, six student startups entered with technology-based businesses. They competed for four prizes ranging from $2,500 to $25,000, for a total of $62,500 in awards.
Another 12 startups competed in the non-technology “Entrepreneurial Challenge,” which offered six prizes for a total of $20,500.
The top technology prize went to “FormaPop,” which created a versatile storage cup for baby formula that snaps onto any baby bottle.
“It’s essentially a baby-bottle attachment to replace caps with stored formula,” said team member Antonio Gutierrez. “We intend to expand it into a viable business to help parents with young infants.”
Karuna Colectiva won the non-tech, $10,000 first-place prize for its “pop-up workshop” for students to work, learn and earn through entrepreneurship.
“It’s an educational curriculum,” said Jake Foreman. “I want to sell it online and offer it at places like growers markets.”
Central New Mexico Community College students also participated this year for the first time.
One of the startups now enrolled in CNM STEMulus Center’s Ignite Community Accelerator won the second-place, $20,000 technology prize for MyTap — a new mobile app for people to learn and share information about craft beer.
“The competition experience is invaluable,” said John Mierzwa, director of STEMulus initiatives. “Participants get an amazing amount of coaching and mentoring. It’s a super-charged experience that can provide a trampoline effect for new businesses.”
Two other tech teams won prizes for a device to accurately measure evaporation from reservoirs, and for a search engine and promotional platform for musicians to share their work and collaborate with other artists. In non-tech, more prizes went to startups with all-natural cosmetics, a climbing gym, green chile popcorn, a website to bring independent music artists and fans together, and a website for pop culture collectibles.