UM’s EPIC Pitch Competition Awards Over $3,000 in Cash and Prizes

November 16, 2018

Christopher Shook, dean of the University of Montana College of Business Administration, presents a $1,500 check to EPIC Pitch Competition winners Richard Mittens, Jordynn Paz and Dominique Nault.MISSOULA – Cultivated by Native Montana, a business plan developed by the American Indian Business Leaders club at the University of Montana, captured the top $1,500 prize during the recent EPIC Pitch Competition at UM.

Cultivated by Native Montana, or CBNM, is a sustainable, vertical garden business that uses aquaponics to grow fresh crops for the community of Busby, which is located on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. CBNM’s mission is to provide a sustainable source of locally grown, fresh, nutritional foods for the people of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, and it creates a framework for other reservations to follow suit.

The Idea for CBNM came from recent UM graduate Courtney Little Axe, and she was represented in the competition by Jordynn Paz, Dominique Nault and Richard Mittens.

With the win, CBNM gains automatic entry into the larger annual statewide John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge taking place at UM on April 13, 2019.

Blackstone LaunchPad at UM and the UM College of Business hosted the EPIC Pitch Competition on campus in the Gilkey Building. Eight UM students pitched their business ideas with the hope of winning a portion of $3,000 in prize money.

The award for Most Exciting Startup Idea went to Patrick Berens, who has a master’s in business analytics at UM. Patrick pitched his idea for Serapis Systems, an online insurance broker offering personalized analysis of all eligible private health insurance policies. Berens was awarded $500.

Most Compelling Live Presentation went to Mary Weikum and Patrick Wartrick, who presented their idea for Bits & Brews – a haven for like-minded gamers that offers rentable gaming booths and hosts competitive video, card and board gaming tournaments, creating a gaming venue with an atmosphere that’s perfect for hosting parties and events. They were awarded $500.

The Autumn Athena Award, presented to the most dynamic female competitor, one who embodies leadership, drive, passion and accomplishment, was awarded to Jordynn Paz. She was awarded $500.

Additional students pitching their ideas were Alexa Coyle and Mariah May with The Waiter App, Kassi Strong with Peak Retreats, Colton Kreamer with Lazy K Innovations, Austin Hawks with Disc Golf Ringer, and Cody Guy with Lean In Performance.

This year’s EPIC Pitch competition was made possible by the generous contributions of lead sponsors First Security Bank.

Blackstone LaunchPad at UM is a center for entrepreneurship for students, alumni, faculty, and staff at the University of Montana. 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.

UM’s College of Business has helped launch the careers of Montana’s leaders and innovators since 1918.


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