VIBE Business Plan Competition Final Five

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Team plans include innovative disease treatment, fitness services, an artisanal cidery, employee recruitment and an edible cookie dough café.

Five Teams Move On to VIBE BPC Final Round

The five teams are:

Helrus – Development of innovative treatments for irritable bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Oli Fitness – A suite of integrated services and technologies to the personal fitness/weight training market.

Tart Hard Cider – A commercial cidery producing a hard cider product that targets the artisanal cider market: significantly less sugar and no “back-sweetening.”

Torqly – Mobile app recruitment of employees in high-demand sectors like construction, hospitality and healthcare.

We Make Dough – Edible cookie dough café, with space for art and craft work in a Victorian-inspired atmosphere.

Read more details about these five, and 10 other business ideas that will live to try again another day.

Five teams have made it through to the final round of the inaugural VIBE Business Plan Competition, scheduled for May 3. Winners will receive $50,000 in prizes.

Fifteen teams started the competition. Participants spent two weeks working with mentors to refine their plans for the trade-show-style investment round, held on April 26. Businesses leaders from throughout the region were invited to attend and spend “VIBE Dollars” on teams they thought were the most viable. The five teams with the most “VIBE Dollars” at the end of the round advanced to the finals.

Daniel Byrne, a VIBE mentor, started his own business more than twenty-five years ago. Initially working out of his basement, he built Byrne Specialty Gases into one of the nation’s leading distributors of specialty gases for the life sciences sector, selling it in 2006. He now spends part of his time mentoring young entrepreneurs. VIBE Director Thomas Kuljam invited Byrne to help judge the investment round. “This is basically free consulting,” said Byrne. Looking at the steady stream of business leaders arriving to interact with teams and cast votes, he noted, “There are thousands of years of experience walking through the door.”

Byrne said he had one idea on his mind as he talked to the different teams. “At the end of the day having a business is all about having a customer,” he said. “I want to see how well they know their customers and their needs.”

Another VIBE mentor, Brian Nelson, jokingly refers to himself as a “serial failed entrepreneur.” The Army veteran has started businesses that did not develop as planned. Nelson has since found success with a non-profit animal rescue he co-founded with his wife. Nelson has been involved with VIBE since its inception and was asked to offer his insights during the investment round. “I’ve tried the ‘just to make money’ thing and it wasn’t fun,” he said. “I want to see if the people on these teams are really doing what they want to do, that they’re passionate.”

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / April 28, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or