CMC students swim with the sharks for the chance at $1,000 at Rifle Cowork
With a buzz stirring and young entrepreneurs clamoring for position through the open office space of the Rifle Cowork, Colorado Mountain College students gave their best pitch to see who would take home the grand prize.
Bringing CMC students from Rifle and Spring Valley together to pitch their business ideas to a panel of local business owners Rifle Cowork and Coventure hosted the “Pitch Night” on Tuesday evening in downtown Rifle.
Working as strategic partners, Rifle Cowork and Coventure came up with the idea for the event.
“We have been really collaborative from the get-go. We had talked loosely about six months ago about doing outreach in Rifle. Initially, we thought we would try to get a SBDC consultant out here in Rifle and that would be the best place to start (Small Business Development Council) free consulting the state offers to entrepreneurs,” Coventure founder Mike Lowe said.
“The more we talked about it we thought, ‘Let’s do something that kind of builds community, that kind of gets excitement,’ and for us the pitch event has always been really effective at generating interest and building community.”
Coventure has been hosting events for local entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas regularly in Carbondale.
“They have been doing ‘Pitch nights’ in Carbondale that have been very successful. So Mike (Lowe) and I were talking about replicating that down here, and we decided the best fit to start off was to incorporate CMC business students into the night to get us started,” Rifle Regional EDC Executive Director Katie Mackley said.
“We approached CMC and asked if we could tap into some of their intro to business for this ‘Pitch Night,’ and they said, ‘Yes lets do it.’”
Mackley said they brought the Rifle students into the Rifle Cowork space two weeks ago to work with representatives with Coventure.
Students worked on business model structures and their pitch.
“They had two weeks to prepare to get their ideas together, prepare their slide deck, prepare the pitch, and then pitch. It was a quick turnaround, but we thought they were definitely up to the challenge,” Mackley said.
“We saw tonight that they were, they did a really great job turning it around.”
With nearly 30 people in attendance, six youth entrepreneurs presented their business plans to six local businessmen and women.
Business models from a ski and film company hybrid to hemp water bottles were pitched during the two-hour event.
After a short deliberation the sharks came back with a winner, Taylor Fruend, a senior at Coal Ridge High School who lives in New Castle and is taking two classes at CMC Rifle this semester.
“Like a lot of people I care about the environment, but I’ve had this idea for so many years, and I’ve seen so many people talk about and heard so much buzz on the Internet, but nothing has been done,” Fruend said.
He put together a business plan and pitched the idea of hemp water bottles.
Fruend’s idea would take the hemp plant waste from CBD oil production, to make a plant-based polymer to construct reusable and biodegradable water bottles.
“I think that it needs to be done. I really hope I can be one of those people or someone else can step up and get this done,” Fruend said.
All six sharks said Fruend’s idea was great and he had a solid business plan.
“He really is solving a huge problem. For example we have an entrepreneur who just signed deals with Whole Foods and Albertsons to get her soup on shelves, and she is trying to find an alternative to plastic containers. There is a real market; she is out there looking for someone who can provide an alternate to plastic. If he can get this business off the ground there are real customers out there in his own backyard,” Lowe said.
Mackley and Lowe believe the event was a success and hope to work together on more pitch events in the future.
“I think it went really well, testing the waters to see how people would respond. We had a good turnout. I thought the students really accepted the challenge and came up with some really great ideas,” Mackley said.
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Current owners, struggling with declining breakfast customers and staffing, hope to sell the iconic restaurant near the entrance to Carbondale.