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Utah Entrepreneur Challenge offers competition, $40K grand prize

Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

Utah Entrepreneur Challenge offers competition, $40K grand prize

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue | Posted - Mar. 29, 2015 at 4:04 p.m.

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This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY — Tired of the stodgy tie collection from the department store rack?

Accidental Gentleman can hook you up with the most daring or unique of screen printed tie designs limited only by your imagination.

Heck, if you're really that fond of yourself, you can put your own mug on that tie you drape around your neck.

If you're hungry, The Menu lets you punch in the specific food you've got a hankering for and presto, a list of the best customer-rated ham sandwiches or burgers will pop up on your smart phone.

Twenty teams of young, bright-eyed, well-dressed entrepreneurs trotted out their sales pitches, demonstrations and business cards in a fierce competition called the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge.

The final round of the 2015 competition was held Saturday at the University of Utah's Spencer Fox Eccles Building, where the public had a chance to pick their favorites.

The spoils for the top finisher was $40,000 — a tidy little jumpstart to get a budding business off the ground.


Jeremy Garcia is co-founder and chief executive officer of Accidental Gentleman.

The Dixie State University student said his twin brother, Garrett Garcia, is the "original gentleman" helping to inspire the business, which he described as a "no brainer" for them.

"I must have 60 ties in my collection and I have been screen printing since I was 16."

Screen printing allows those with the most discerning eye for detail the ability to put one's brand, logo, photo or even drawing to fabric.

"We just need some more backing," Jeremy Garcia said.

Across the way, Urban Yield wants to become Utah's first vertical hydroponic farm. The practice has not yet widely caught on in the United States, but Japan has the world's largest indoor hydroponic farm that produces lettuce nearly three times as quickly with just 1 percent of the water.

The level of sophistication continues to go up every year.

–Tony D'Ambrosio, Lassonde Institute

Zeppelin Zeerip from Westminster College wants to demonstrate and prove the practice in Salt Lake City, growing lettuce, mint and basil in a state he says produces just 2 percent of the vegetables its residents consume. With drought a challenge and most of the nation's food produce supply coming from Mexico or California, Zeerip said he believes it is well past time for the efficiencies of year-round vertical farming.

Hosted by the Lassonde Institute, a division of the David Eccles School of Business, the challenge attracted 180 teams from colleges and universities from throughout the state.

Institute director Tony D'Ambrosio said each year, the challenge becomes tougher.

"The level of sophistication continues to go up every year."

Ultimately, a student startup providing an online service to help people secure green cards won first place and the $40,000 grand prize.

Sam Stoddard, a team member of SimpleCitizen and a student at Brigham Young University, said the money will help his team launch its website by this summer.

The University of Utah is ranked the No. 2 school in the nation for cash awarded to student entrepreneurs, according to the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine. Last year, the university awarded $744,550 to students.

In fall 2016, the university will launch Lassonde Studios, designed to house the nation's top 400 entrepreneurial students from any field of study who want to "live, create and launch."


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