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Grand Prize Winners Announced in 2024 PA Wilds $50,000 BIG IDEA Contest!

The 2024 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest, an initiative aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Potter, and Tioga Counties, has announced its grand prize winners. After rigorous evaluation, two outstanding contenders have emerged, each presenting groundbreaking solutions in diverse fields.

On June 13, 2024, the PA Wilds BIG IDEA Finale Pitch event was hosted by the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport. A total of six finalists presented their business concepts to a panel of judges, all competing for the $50,000 cash prize and the opportunity to win an additional $2,500 in a People’s Choice Award sponsored by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship.

Two Finalists shared the $50,000 Cash Prize!

 Katie Caputo, founder of Roambler (Duboistown, PA) was a co-first prize winner, taking home $25,000 to support her BIG IDEA! Roambler revolutionizes experiential tourism in Pennsylvania by seamlessly connecting adventure seekers with local guides and hosts. Operating as a marketplace platform, Roambler bridges the gap between service providers and consumers in the peer-to-peer web-based economy, streamlining transactions, managing payments, and offering essential communication tools. With a scalable platform, Roambler aims to become the go-to destination for unforgettable guided experiences, making it easier than ever for adventurers to explore the Keystone State. Learn more about Roambler.

Katie Caputo and the team at Roambler also took home the PA Wilds $2,500 People’s Choice Award!

Katie Caputo, Founder of Roambler, taking home the co-grand prize of $25,000

Tim Emerick, founder of Otzzy (Renovo, PA) was the other co-first prize winner, taking home $25,000 for his BIG IDEA! This family-run business has developed an interactive tap-to-play interface app, revolutionizing personalized keepsake gifts. Otzzy’s innovative platform allows users to seamlessly embed cherished videos or heartfelt messages into a range of physical products, bridging the gap between the digital and physical realms. Learn more about Otzyy

Tim Emerick, Founder of Ottzy taking home the co-grand prize of $25,000

A big congratulations to everyone who participated and to all the finalists for their incredible ideas. Other finalists included:

Brite-Liter, founded by Benjamin Kranz (Hughesville, PA): Brite-Liter introduces a revolutionary tool to enhance literacy retention without the use of blue-light emitting screens. Their high-light projector stimulates cognitive responses, increasing engagement and retention, thus offering a valuable resource for parents and educators alike.

Good Things Growing, founded by Joshua Zucal (Emporium, PA): Good Things Growing focuses on biochar production, presenting a dynamic solution for soil remediation and holistic health enhancement. Their innovative approach harnesses the potential of biochar to sequester carbon, improve soil quality, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Thompson Farms, founded by Rob Thompson (Coudersport, PA): Thompson Farms proposes a sustainable solution with its wool pellet production, addressing the need for locally sourced, organic soil amendments. Their innovative process promises multiple regenerative byproducts, providing essential nutrients while revitalizing rural economies.

Woodland Biomass Innovations, founded by Luca Pandolf (Wellsboro, PA): This team aims to transform biomass into sustainable liquid fuels, starting with a facility in Tioga County that would convert woody biomass into 87-octane gasoline that works with existing cars and infrastructure. Their project, currently in the engineering phase, holds promise for reducing carbon emissions while promoting economic development in the region.

Each finalist brings a unique vision and commitment to innovation, reflecting the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of the region. As they prepare to compete for up to $50,000 in prize money and additional support, the PA Wilds Big Idea Contest celebrates their creativity and dedication to making a positive impact.

John Sider, VP Of Business Development at Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, commented on the BIG IDEA finalists, “The creativity and dedication demonstrated by all the finalists in this year’s PA Wilds Big Idea Contest have been truly inspiring. Each of these entrepreneurs has brought forward innovative solutions that not only address real-world challenges but also highlight the incredible talent and potential within our community. We are proud to support their journey and look forward to seeing their ideas come to life and make a significant impact in our region.”

The 2024 PA Wilds Big Idea Contest is a partnership between PA WILDS Center for Entrepreneurship, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, with funding support provided by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship
Big Idea Contest Ben Franklin Technology Partners