EPIC Innovation organized its 5th Annual Fall Pitch Party at Western Carolina University on October 7, 2019 with over 100 people in attendance. EPIC is a student initiative within the College of Business that encourages entrepreneurship through Elevating Potential, Imagination, and Collaboration. The event was sponsored by WCU’s Center for the Study of Free Enterprise (CSFE).

The pitch party offers an opportunity for existing and aspiring student entrepreneurs from all disciplines to present their business ideas for a panel of judges and a live audience. Before the official event, participants work with mentors to research relevant industry information, develop their pitch content, and improve their presentation techniques. At the competition, the participants have five minutes to present their ideas, followed by two minutes for questions and feedback from the judges. Emily Tatum, a student participant in the event, stated that “preparing for and competing in this event helped improve my public speaking skills in a way that I cannot get in the traditional classroom.”

This year, the competition had two tracks. One track was for outdoor-related business ideas in support of the Regional Outdoor Economic Conference being held in Asheville on October 7th. The winner of this track was invited to present their idea to over 300 outdoor-related businesses and professionals attending the conference. The other track was for all other business ideas. The panel of judges determined the top three winners in each track and the audience voted for their favorite business idea to receive the People’s Choice award.


Track 1: Outdoor-Related Ideas

In the outdoor-business track, first place went to Juan Endara for his invention of a camp stove. The Campstove is a lightweight, foldable stove that burns hotter than other stoves currently on the market. It fits easily in a backpack and is great for cooking.

The second-place winner was Chase Robinson for his company idea called C.A.R. Custom Fishing Rods. Robinson builds his own rods to satisfy the fishing needs of his customers, and he also repairs rods in less time than his larger competitors. He has brought art and craftsmanship into the fishing industry.

Third place went to Jeremy Burgin, who pitched his invention called Camp Cube. It is a multiuse outdoor product that has Bluetooth speakers, USB outlets, lights, and solar charging. It can be used while camping, out on the water, or working on a construction site. This entry also tied for the People’s Choice Award.

Track 2: All Business-related Ideas

The first-place winner of the All-Business track was Emily Tatum, the creator of Safe Locate. She pitched Safe Locate, a mobile app that could be used by emergency responders and bystanders in critical mass incidents, such as an active shooting. Tatum also tied for the People’s Choice award.

The second-place winner was Brett Lemmons, with his pitch for The “L” Bus Shuttle Company. This shuttle service could be purchased by local bars to transport students to and from campus, helping reduce the possibility of students driving under the influence.

Third place went to Michael Cobb with his idea called Michael’s Bridge. It is a program to support homeless students that may be in need of housing between semesters and during summer break.

The other students competing in the All-Business track were Lauren Mounce, who pitched Our Table, a farm tour app that would organize dinner events for local farmers, restaurants, and chefs to encourage agri-tourism; and Ryan Gillig, who pitched his idea for a product inventory app called Q&E Inventory for small-media production companies in our region.

The panel of judges consisted of local business professionals. In no particular order, the judges were Sandra Dennison, the Regional Director of the SBTDC; Pam Frey, a former executive at Wells Fargo and a board member for CSFE; Mariano Garrido-Lopez, an Assistant Professor for WCU College of Business; Arthur Salido, the Executive Director for Community and Economic Engagement and Innovation; and Noah Wilson, the Program Director for Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC and the President of Emergent Opportunities Inc. After the event, Frey commented that she was “very impressed with the students and the level of entrepreneurial ideas.”