UM Student Entrepreneurs Test Ideas at EPIC Pitch Competition

December 01, 2017

MISSOULA – The Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana and the UM College of Business will host the annual fall EPIC Pitch Competition at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, in the Gilkey Building at UM.

The event is open to the public. Tickets are free for students and cost $10 for the general public. Tickets are available at

Eight finalists, selected from an impressive pool of 17 entrants by business leaders from the Missoula community, will pitch their ideas to compete for four cash prizes totaling more than $3,000. This year’s finalists come from diverse programs including computational physics, computer science, anthropology, environmental studies, creative writing, journalism, geography and business administration. Three of the finalists also are participants in Blackstone LaunchPad’s Pursue Your Passion program.

The 2017 competition finalists are:

  • Kate Kolwicz: Hestia Homeworks
  • Michael Couso: Touch the Stars
  • Theresa Simons and Seth Simons: Shady Grove Orchards and Farm
  • Catie DeMets: Mirthful Farm
  • Jennifer Sheets: Storysquares App
  • Matthew Blois, Art Woods and Gerard Sapes: Big Biology Podcast
  • Craig Koller: Union Pay, Inc.
  • Elijah Duckels: Outdoor Gear Checklist

 The winner of the EPIC Pitch Competition also gains automatic entry into the larger statewide John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge, which will take place April 13 at UM.

Last year’s winner of the competition and the $1,500 prize was UM MBA student Clare Weiler, who pitched Bonsai Communities, a business that seeks to make homeownership more attainable and affordable by creating something akin to a condominium association with tiny homes.

Blackstone LaunchPad at UM is a center for entrepreneurship for students, alumni, faculty and staff. The organization offers free services to assist entrepreneurs in turning their ideas, skills, and passions into real world businesses and nonprofit organizations through individualized coaching and venture creation support.

Those who want to get involved with any of Blackstone LaunchPad at UM’s programs/events or who are curious about entering into the entrepreneurial world can email Jenny Lind, the Blackstone LaunchPad at UM MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA member, at


Contact: Paul Gladen, director, Blackstone LaunchPad at UM, 406-243-5723,