The University of Montana School of Business Administration, along with the Montana Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs and the Blackstone LaunchPad at UM, have announced the winners of the 27th annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge.

Montana State University's Shae Stein and mechanical engineering student Seth Carlstrom, placed second place with their shower chair. The Second Nature shower chair helps improve the bathing experience of dementia patients and their caregivers through a unique set of product features aimed at alleviating the stress felt by both parties. $7,500 prize.

During the 13-hour statewide competition, held May 5 at UM’s Harold and Priscilla Gilkey Building and Gallagher Business Building, 16 student teams competed in three rounds of judging and presentations, leading up to the evening’s final round, when four finalists presented their business plans to a panel of 55 judges and an audience of more than 200.

Support from more than 50 sponsors and private donors funded the more than $50,000 prize purse and the students’ competition expenses.

·         First place: Bloom Content – Bloom Content is a cloud-hosted web platform that connects undergraduate content-producers with local businesses looking to stand out online. Bloom gives local businesses a convenient, affordable option for generating custom video, photo and graphic content.Falen, $15,000 prize.

·         Second place: Second Nature – Montana State University graphic design student Shae Stein and MSU mechanical engineering student Seth Carlstrom. The Second Nature shower chair helps improve the bathing experience of dementia patients and their caregivers through a unique set of product features aimed at alleviating the stress felt by both parties. $7,500 prize.
 
·         Third place: Chilton Skis – UM forestry school graduate student George Gaines and UM accounting student Marguerite Thordarson. Chilton Skis is a Missoula-based manufacturer creating an all-mountain ski from salvaged and sustainably harvested wood, combined with modern composite materials. $5,000 prize.

·         Fourth place: Birds of Feather – UM marketing and management student Matthew Gillespie, UM marketing student Alexis Schreder and UM finance student Colton Carter. Birds of a Feather Co. sources down feathers from legally hunted migratory birds across the U.S. Its mission is to provide a sustainable product through ethical sourcing methods to help companies create the top-quality gear consumers use every day. $2,500 prize.