Innovators recognized in Minnesota Cup competition

Sam Darcy

Minnesota’s most innovative thinkers were honored Thursday night as the second annual Minnesota Cup was awarded at the McNamara Alumni Center.

The competition – split into student and professional divisions – began with more than 650 Minnesotans representing 40 counties and awarded $32,500.

University seniors and entrepreneurship majors Travis Boisvert and Ryan Broshar, and recent alumnus Joe Collins, took home the $5,000 student prize for their creation of the U-Guide.

Designed by the winners in their entrepreneurship class a year ago, the U-Guide is a “road map for college life,” Collins said. The guide includes maps and coupons for new students.

Broshar said they would use the prize money to expand the guide, which already is given to each incoming first-year student and is available at bookstores, to the University of St. Cloud and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“We remembered back to our freshman year and being from smaller communities, we all kind of got lost in the shuffle here,” Boisvert said. “This closes the gap between the ‘U,’ students and local businesses in an efficient way.”

In the professional division, Vast Enterprises of Eden Prairie won the grand prize of $25,000 in seed capital and business support, including an accountant and an attorney, from Wells Fargo.

Vast Enterprises presented an idea to combine recycled tires and plastics to make a 99 percent recyclable pavement for pool areas, patios, driveways and walkways.

Andy Vander Woude, team leader of Vast Enterprises, said the idea came after years of installing concrete in hot July weather and is now on the verge of distribution.

“We were confident in our idea coming in, but you never know if other people will think the way you do,” Vander Woude said. “It’s an honor to have it validated by some pretty smart people.”

Judges narrowed the field to three student and five professional finalists before announcing the winner Thursday night.

John Stavig, director of Entrepreneurial Studies at Carlson School of Management and event judge, said he and the other judges looked for innovation and commercial viability when scoring the contestants.

Competition co-founder and University alumnus Scott Litman used a national contest to jump-start his career. He said the competition allows him to give others the same opportunity.

“I wanted to pay it forward,” Litman said. “I wanted to provide something for students and the public at large.”

University President Bob Bruininks­­­ applauded the organizers for bringing ideas together.

“Nurturing and supporting ideas makes the Minnesota Cup so pivotal,” Bruininks said. “This is all part of deepening the relationship between the University and the community.”