John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge

John Ruffatto Startup Challenge

Montana has no shortage of aspiring entrepreneurs - including students. The annual John Ruffatto Business Startup Challenge (JRBSC) hosted by University of Montana’s School of Business Administration (SoBA) and the Blackstone LaunchPad at University of Montana (BLP-UM) received 29 applications from student teams across the state to compete for the over $50,000 in prize money.

A panel of judges selected  16 teams to compete on April 13th, 2017 at the University of Montana. The teams will pitch their business to a panel of around 50 judges in hopes of receiving a portion of the prize money all of which is generously contributed by businesses, organizations, and individuals who are committed to the future of entrepreneurship in Montana. In its 28th year, this year’s competitors encompass a wide array of ventures from tiny home communities to cricket farms for edible protein. Finalists are coming from multiple institutions (University of Montana, Montana Tech, Montana State University, and Carroll College) and are pursuing a range of majors including Business, Psychology, Journalism, Chemistry, and Natural Resource Conservation.

Paul Gladen, Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana, and a member of the competition’s organizing team says, “We are extremely excited to see a significant increase of statewide interest in this year’s competition. This reflects the growth of entrepreneurship in Montana and the increasing awareness by students that entrepreneurship is a viable career path.”

Les Craig, Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State University (BLP-MSU) agrees, “I couldn’t be more excited about the tremendous talent and diversity of teams selected as finalists in this year’s JRBSC. This competition continues to get better every year. It serves as a significant motivator for students’ across the state to pursue their passions”

Of these diverse competitors, four finalists are selected during the day to compete for the top four prizes at the evening’s public event including the $15,000 first place cash prize. The public event and reception begins at 4:30 p.m. at the UM University Center Theater. Notable previous JRBSC winners include Chilton Skis, Five-on-Black, and Big Sky Brewing.


List of 2017 Competitors:

  1. Crepe Cuisine

We are a mobile food truck selling traditional French crepes with a local, Montanan twist to Missoulians looking for a unique and delicious food option.

  1. MatchMade

MatchMade is a project workforce SaaS designed to help leaders build teams through a suitability algorithm based on team member background, skill, preference, and project type.

  1. Cowboy Cricket Farms LLC

The first edible insect farm in Montana, providing a better protein for a better future.

  1. Clark Fork Charcuterie

Retail and wholesaler producer of locally cured and specialty meats, targeting customers seeking artisanally crafted products which can be hard to find.

  1. FeatureMe, LLC

For that impossible to shop for friend or family member FeatureMe offers the most unique and genuinely touching personalized gift — a story.

  1. Farmented

Farmented is dedicated to reducing waste in the form of grade "B" and excess vegetables on small local farms by creating a new, innovative line of fermented goods for out health and earth conscious target market.

  1. Ryffit, Inc.

Ryffits allows musicians to create custom music books of sheet music by popular artists which are then printed and mailed to their doorstep.

  1. StrappedIn

StrappedIn is a social platform that connects local, amateur athletes to local companies through sponsorships in exchange for marketing.

  1. TOMIS

Digital Marketing Assistant for Tour Operators

  1. Darktwin Studios

Game studio focused on decision based storytelling.

  1. Miriam's Inspired Skin Care

Nutrition for skin by natural, local Miriam's Inspired Skin Care.

  1. Bonsai Communities

Tiny Homes Under the Big Sky : A Sustainable Affordable Housing Solution for Missoula.

  1. Pedenza

Pedenza designs top of the line, handmade, floating wine bottle holders from only the finest hardwoods.

  1. Sirberus

A breaching device that saves seconds can save lives.

  1. Tran·sci·lator

An online science communication platform with a fact-checking component and a simple education model that explains trending science in a clear, concise manner that doesn’t require a PhD to understand.

  1. Healthy Eats

Inspired recipe generation tailored to you whether cooking at home or out shopping.