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Casper Student Wins $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at UW

April 22, 2015

It started with an Instagram photograph of Tabitha Briscoe’s friend lying in the dirt. She had been “turtled” -- flat on her back, could not get up -- while carrying her crash pad on a bouldering expedition.

“It was so funny because the crash pad was so large and bulky; my friend couldn't get up off of the ground,” Briscoe says. “Crash pads are one of the key pieces of equipment needed while bouldering. They shouldn't be so huge and inconvenient.”

That gave her an idea on how to develop a crash pad that could easily be folded up and conveniently carried by a rock climbing enthusiast. The plan has turned into a $12,500 windfall for the University of Wyoming accounting sophomore.

Briscoe’s company, Cruxx Climbing, was the overall business plan winner during last week’s annual John P. Ellbogen $30K Entrepreneurship Competition at the UW College of Business. The competition encourages students to act on their talents, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading businesses. The $30K competition awards cash prizes to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submit their business plans for new ventures that show significant business potential.

As a bouldering (rock climbing up to 10 feet without equipment) enthusiast, Briscoe says the activity requires the use of crash pads as safety gear to prevent injuries from falls. Crash pad designs currently are big and bulky (4 by 4 feet, 5 inches thick), and they are transported on the climber’s back to the climb site, making them inconvenient and cumbersome.

Through research, designs, creativity and old-fashioned hard work, Briscoe came up with a crash pad using a unique material that will be thin and light, and transported and carried easily. Her business plan was selected first place from among five student projects. She also will receive in-kind business services (consulting) and free rent in the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC).

The WTBC is a business development program that focuses on high-growth-oriented companies with an emphasis on technology. The WTBC runs a 30,000-square-foot, technology-oriented business incubator and data center within its facility at UW.

Second place in the competition was won by Laurel Winkenwerder, an energy MBA program student from Seattle who created Spigot, a news aggregation and analysis platform designed specifically for use in the financial industry.

Third place went to Carrie Verburg. The senior accounting major from Moorcroft presented VeeBee Farm, a business with her father that produces and processes raw local honey.

The “Most Creative Business Plan” award went to Ken McConnel. The business administration major from Laramie presented Catering Calculator, a tool restaurants, hotels and caterers can use to reduce the volume of leftover food.

Wyoming Skills Academy was awarded “Best Presentation” by Aaron Tyser. The senior psychology major and former UW basketball walk-on from Buffalo offered specialized skills training to Wyoming basketball players in grades K-12.

Briscoe started climbing at 15 when she, her brother and a friend started climbing their Texas high school gymnasium’s wall. The family later moved to Colorado, where Briscoe was bitten by the “bouldering bug.” Her family then moved to Casper, where she graduated from Natrona County High School.

For her business plan, Briscoe worked with mentor Corey Billington, a UW Department of Management and Marketing visiting professor. They addressed the market size, competition, marketing strategies and financial projections for the next few years. She then had to come up with a name for her own company.

“I made a list of all the climbing terms and lingo that I could think of and chose from there,” Briscoe says.

It was between Static Climbing -- a style of climbing that is strong, slow and controlled -- and Cruxx Climbing -- crux meaning the most difficult part of a route or problem.

“In the end, I chose Cruxx because I liked the alliteration within the name,” Briscoe says.

She wants the company to be more than crash pads. The company is marketing its own brand of climbing accessories such as beanies, T-shirts and her favorite product, hand-made, upcycled chalk bags, which are made from discarded clothing and fabric scraps. Cruxx Climbing also is developing a range of technical products that will make climbing safer and more convenient.

“We are in the process of getting a proper inventory of everything and posting them to our website,” Briscoe says. “As far as other gear, after the launch of the crash pad, Cruxx will focus on trying to improve upon as many other gear deficiencies in the market. I strongly believe that there always is room for improvement.”

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