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UM News
May 15, 2012


The University of Montana School of Business Administration and the Montana Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs (MADE) recently announced the winners of the 23rd Annual John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition, held May 10 in UM’s Gallagher Business Building.

The top award went to UM business school MBA candidate and Montana native Charles Bateman for his business plan for Never Miss. His company provides an online tool to manage special-permit hunting applications for big-game hunters in North America. The subscription service guarantees hunters “never miss” an application deadline and provides options for financing to enable clients to increase the number of applications they submit, increasing their odds of drawing a tag.

During the 14-hour competition, an event designed to encourage Montana students to develop their business ideas and learn about entrepreneurship from business experts, 15 student teams competed in the semifinal round and four teams moved onto the final round to present their business plans to a panel of 26 judges and an audience of close to 250.

Student entrepreneurs competed in two divisions: high-growth businesses with the potential to attract public or private equity investments, and lifestyle businesses intended to provide entrepreneurs with autonomy, viable incomes and the opportunity to pursue what they love.

Support from several sponsors and private donors funded the $28,000 prize purse and the students’ competition expenses. 

The award, division, prize amount, school, student names, hometowns, business plan names and descriptions are listed below.

  • First place – High-growth Business: $7,000, UM, Charles Bateman, Great Falls, Never Miss. Never Miss is an automated online special permit application agent and fee financier for big-game hunters.
  • Second place – High-growth Business: $3,500, UM, Jon Marchi, Easton, Md.; and Jake Pelczar, Billings, Kinetic Tech. Kinetic Tech designs, manufactures and wholesales tactical assault headlamps to be used by military and paramilitary forces.
  • Third place – High-growth Business:  $1,500, UM; Ben Sokoloski, Missoula; Brint Wahlberg, Missoula; Suzanna Simmons, Missoula; Fresh Finds Market and Deli; Fresh Finds offers organic and natural foods provided by local and regional food vendors to the Missoula community.
  • First place – Lifestyle Business: $3,500, UM, Zack Boughton, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Annie Roberts, Kodiak, Alaska, Montana Wild. Montana Wild is a high-definition television series featuring young outdoor enthusiasts who hunt and fish across Montana.
  • Second place – Lifestyle Business: $1,500, UM, Paul Stock, Eagle River, Alaska; Next Level Athletics. Next Level Athletics provides customized athletic training to young athletes who want to compete at the collegiate and professional levels.
  • First place – Undergraduate Business Plan Award: $1,000, UM, Alyssa Komac, Helena, Montana Dog Food Company. Montana Dog Food Company manufactures and markets natural and nutritious dog food free of chemicals and additives.
  • First place – Elevator Pitch (90-second team presentation): $500; UM, Ben Sokoloski, Missoula; Brint Wahlberg, Missoula; Suzanna Simmons, Missoula; Fresh Finds Market and Deli.

The following special awards were given to teams or individuals based on specific criteria:

  • Overall Winner of Brandon Speth Passion, Poise and Charisma Award: $500, UM, Manuel Garcia Rodriguez, Cordoba, Spain, Cordoba Olive Oil. Cordoba Olive Oil produces and exports olive oil from Spain for distribution in the U.S.
  • Overall Winner of People’s Choice Award: $500, UM, Ben Sokoloski, Missoula; Brint Wahlberg, Missoula; Suzanna Simmons, Missoula; Fresh Finds Market and Deli.
  • Overall Winner of Environmental and Social Responsibility Award: $500, UM, Micah Scudder, Missoula; Rachel Anderson, Missoula; Tradewood International. Tradewood International exports Montana wood products to Asian markets.

Presented for the first time in 2009, the Environmental and Social Responsibility Award recognizes the team with a potential venture that judges identify as one that most embodies the concept of the “triple bottom line”: the importance of economic profit, as well as social and environmental benefits.

The People’s Choice Award is given to the team that receives the highest score from the audience during the final round of the competition. Audience members select the winning team based on presentations and executive summaries provided by each team.

In April, faculty from higher education institutions across Montana nominated 29 student teams to be considered for the competition. The judges and coaches who serve before and during the event are venture capitalists, angel investors, bankers, successful entrepreneurs and corporate executives who donate their time and expertise to the competition. 

MADE was founded by successful entrepreneurs with the goal to bring their experience to students and the classroom. In addition to the John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition held each spring at UM, MADE conducts an educational seminar series and honors influential entrepreneurs who demonstrate a commitment to Montana with the Pioneer in Industry Award.

For more information about MADE go to

UM’s School of Business Administration is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, the most rigorous accrediting body for business-degree programs.

The school offers undergraduate programs in accounting, finance, international business, management, management information systems and marketing; graduate programs in management and accounting; and certificate programs in entrepreneurship and entertainment management. Experiential learning opportunities prepare students to address real-world business problems and deliver value to their employers in today’s global economy.

For more information, visit 


NOTE TO MEDIA: Photos of the students receiving the awards are available by calling Larae Hackney at 406-243-4830 or emailing



Western Montana, hometowns


Contact: Larae Hackney, special program coordinator, UM School of Business Administration, 406-243-4830,