SUU Hosts State Bank Business Challenge As Part Of One Utah Summit

Published: October 11, 2023 | Author: Mary Amateis | Read Time: 3 minutes

Finalists posing with panel of judges

Southern Utah University was honored to host the State Bank Business Challenge as part of the One Utah Summit, a premier event in which the top leaders in the state of Utah convene with students and community members to build relationships and discuss the most influential topics impacting rural Utah. 

State Bank of Southern Utah sponsored the competition with $30,000 in award money along with an additional $30,000 from various donors. The State Bank Business Challenge provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their small business ideas to a panel of professionals for various prizes varying from cash to mentoring opportunities. 

The pitch-style competition opened with a preliminary round in which students were given three 90-second pitches to present their business models. Semi-finalists were then narrowed down based on scores. From there, contestants advanced to the Final Round to pitch their ideas to a prestigious panel of judges.

The judges’ panel consisted of high-profile professionals in the industry: Utah State Governor, Spencer Cox; Chief Executive Officer of State Bank, Eric Schmutz; Entrepreneur in Residence for the office of governor Cox, Brad Bonham; Commercial Loan Officer and VP of State Bank, Michelle Tullis; Senior Writer for the National Review, Charles Cooke; Founder and COO of Financial Solutions, Brad Labrum; Chief Executive Officer of Brandless, Cydni Tetro; and Chief Executive Officer of The Storm Group, Rich Christiansen.

This year, eight finalists won the following awards:

  • James Thelin, MegaLoaf, $15,000 including the Grand Prize award, Best Pitch award and a special social media mention from Governor Cox.
  • Megan Hutchinson, Sunny Side Up Pastures, $15,000, including the Grand Prize award, State Bank Legacy and Values award and the Business Use award. 
  • Heidi Kershaw, Square in the Eye, $10,000, including the Audience Choice award, Business Use award and the Any Use award. 
  • Jett Strand, Etched Timber, $8,000 including the Governor's Choice award, and the Best Student Business award. 
  • Cade Matheson, PhotoHive, $3,250 including the second Surprise Me award, and the Any Use award. 
  • Torrie Meidell, Dream Acre Flower Farm, $3000, including the Any Use Award and 2 mentoring sessions with Brad Bonham.
  • JP Teerlink, Parable Devices, $2,000, including the Business Use Award.
  • Kevin Ravenburg, Velocity Boards, $1,000, with the Director Award. 

A few extra prizes were also awarded–such as social media mentions from Governor Cox, mentoring sessions with Rich Christiansen and Brad Bonham, and a recorded message from Charles Cooke. Near the end of the competition, Brad Bonham surprised the audience by giving out an additional $10,000 Grand Prize award. 

Thelin’s business, MegaLoaf Sourdough, is focused on changing the bread industry by crafting uniquely flavorful and healthy sourdough bread. MegaLoaf is infused with prebiotics and probiotics that make it stand out from other bread brands.

“Participating in the competition was an incredible experience,” said Thelin. “Winning reaffirms our commitment to revolutionizing the bread industry with MegaLoaf Sourdough. We can't wait to bring more innovation and health to our customers' tables." 

Hutchinson’s business, Sunny Side Up Pastures, believes that all food should be local, healthy and sustainable; She also believes a healthy sustainable future relies on more small farmers. “Farmers who are going off the beaten path are often criticized and told we won’t make it,” said Hutchinson. “Even though I know what we are doing is important, it was so encouraging to have others say that as well. This competition was amazing and I’m grateful for the support and everything it will help us accomplish.”

Kershaw’s business Square in the Eye is a company dedicated to fostering eye contact in the autism community. Square in the Eye helps those who suffer from autism to learn the skill of eye contact, which in turn greatly assists in overall communication and ease of social interaction. 

“The State Bank Business Contest was different from other competitions because of the focus on unity,” said Kershaw. “It wasn't just some high-level concept introduced from the stage. It was an idea that took root among the competitors.”

The State Bank Business Challenge is a great opportunity for small business owners to network, build relationships and have their voice heard. For more information on One Utah Summit, and to look for next year's State Bank Business Challenge, visit the website for One Utah Summit.

Tags: Entrepreneurship Startup CurStu Business Professional Sales FacStaff School of Business Utah Rural Summit

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Nikki Koontz