Three earn top spots for innovative business ideas

Appalachian State University Freshman Jackson Barbee earned the top spot and $1,000 at the 2017 Big Idea Pitch Competition for his Boulder Bag, a purpose built bag to support the unique needs of rock climbers. 

The event, held November 10 on the campus of Appalachian State University, was hosted by the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship (TICFE) in the Walker College of Business.

“The Big Idea Pitch competition is a big hit here on campus because it highlights the creativity of our students,” said TICFE Director Erich Schlenker. “We appreciate the support of all our sponsors, mentors and judges. I want to give a special shout out to Bobby Martin – entrepreneur, author, and Appalachian Mountaineer for his annual support for the event.”

Ten innovative students, pre-selected from a larger pool of applicants, pitched their best business ideas for a chance to win prize money and boasting rights.

Barbee, a business management major from Cary, North Carolina, developed the Boulder Bag for boulderers and gym climbers. His innovative design eliminates common problems found in using a normal backpack, such as damage to electronics due to chalk dust, which Barbee says is an unavoidable part of the sport. He showed off his well-worn and tested prototype that has gotten rave reviews from climbers. Barbee is working with Dale Tweedy, recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni award and mentor to Barbee, to find a contract manufacturer and bring the bag to market.

Barbee also earned the audience choice award for his dynamic presentation.

View the online photo album.

Narayana Walters earned $500 and second place for his idea, an online game designed for the visually impaired.

"I'm developing an RPG (role-playing game) for blind gamers," said Walters. "It is entirely audio based and will be playable with only a keyboard and headphones."

Walters' goal is to make a unique, fun game that is accessible for blind gamers while also offering a unique gaming experience for all.

Walters, a senior computer science major from Sandy Ridge, North Carolina, has years of experience making games, having previously released a full-length game on Steam and created 15 prototypes and demos.

Chandler Greer, a senior marketing major and student athlete from Knoxville, Tennessee, earned third place and $250 for his idea, a mobile barbershop app. 

Greer's app is ideal for users with a busy schedule who don't have the time to go to a barbershop; instead the app is used to request a barbershop service come to them.

"Convenience and time efficiency are certainties in most aspects of today’s society," said Greer. "Why not extend these requirements into the world of barbershops?" 

The pitch competition was sponsored by the Hockey Stick Principles authored by Bobby Martin '92, with support from BooneShine and Appalachian Mountain Brewery.

“It was great to hear business ideas from my fellow students across campus and it was the perfect end to an inspiring day,” said senior management majorm and aspiring entrepreneur Conner Ring. “I look forward to the pitch competition each year.”

About the Center for Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a crucial tool for economic development, especially in Western North Carolina, where many traditional industries have declined in recent years. The future economic development of Western North Carolina is critically related to the region's ability to grow from within. As a reflection, student interest in entrepreneurship is growing at Appalachian, and the Walker College of Business is committed to fostering students' entrepreneurial energy and ambition. With support from the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial-minded students create and launch businesses through an accelerator program in Peacock Hall and receive hands-on advice and experience through co-curricular and outreach programs. Learn more.

Pictured from left are Bobby Martin, Narayana Walters, Jackson Barbee, Chandler Greer and Erich Schlenker
Published: Nov 20, 2017 10:20am